Amateur Yin tops pros in Round 1 of Kraft Nabisco Championship
Last year, 14-year-old Angel Yin found herself toward the top of the leaderboard on Day 1 of the Kraft Nabisco Championship, having earned her way into the LPGA major two days earlier after winning the KNC Champions Junior Challenge. But a hot start quickly faded as the middle-schooler peeked up at the leaderboard when making the turn. "It sort of derailed me," remembers Yin. "I think I went bogey, bogey right after that."
What a difference a year makes.
Today, Yin blazed Mission Hills CC's Dinah Shore Tournament Course for a 4-under par 68, resisting the urge to take a peek up at any leaderboard until the final hole, when she saw herself in the No. 2 position. This time, it didn't phase her.
"It's so hard not to look up, but at least this time when I did, I was able to keep the emotions down," said Yin. "I moved on from it right away and didn't let it phase me."
At just 15 years old, Yin of Arcadia, Calif. is certainly able to play with the pros. On average, she hits the ball 270 yards off the tee, something she says she learned when she first started golfing nine years ago.
"My coach just told me, get up there and hit the ball as hard as you can," said Yin.
It's working. Despite being just a freshman at Arcadia High School, Yin has already appeared in two Kraft Nabisco Championships, last week's Kia Classic and was the youngest amateur in the 2012 U.S. Women's Open field. And oh by the way, she's already won the California Women's Amateur Championship twice, in 2010 and 2012, becoming the second-youngest winner in the event's 44-year history.
But the growth from last year to this year at the Kraft Nabisco has been phenomenal, though many didn't think there was much room to top 2013 after a T55 finish for the 14 year old. In addition to not letting success on the leaderboard phase her, Yin was also able to move on from tough holes, backing up her only two bogeys of the day with birdies on the next hole both times.
"When I made bogeys, I just didn't really notice I was making bogeys," said Yin. "My coach has really taught me to stay positive, so I think that helps me a lot."
Both bogeys for Yin came in her first four holes of the day. Then, she caught fire, playing the final 14 holes of her round in 5-under.
"I think it was my approach shots and putting that really helped me today," said Yin. "I was staying calm and making my strokes. I was staying in my tempo."
Off the course, staying calm is a whole other task for the high school freshman, who is teeing it up with a number of her idols. Thursday, she was paired with Katherine Kirk, someone she used to watch on TV every week.
"It was a really huge honor to play with her," said Yin. "I saw her yesterday when I was eating lunch and she said hi to me but I got too nervous to say hi back so I looked away."
So who would make her the most nervous this week?
"Michelle Wie for sure," said Yin. "If she sat next to me and said hi I'd probably run. I've watched her ever since I started playing."
Yin, who finished Thursday tied for fourth place, will tee off for Round 2 of the Kraft Nabisco Championship at 1:38 p.m. Friday.
2014 KNC Champions Junior Challenge winner also impresses
Lilia Vu, who qualified Monday by way of the KNC Champions Junior Challenge, also put together an impressive round Thursday, finishing the day in the top 30 after a round of 1-over-par 73. Vu didn't find out until Monday evening that she would be playing in her first LPGA major championship, but managed to squeeze in a practice round Tuesday.
"I was so nervous on the first tee," said Vu, pictured right with her caddie and mother. "Honestly, the nerves didn't go away until the back nine."
She didn't seem nervous, though, and the Fountain Valley, Calif. resident pushed the nerves aside and managed a nice par on her first hole of the day. After a bogey on No. 2, Vu was the picture of consistency, parring 14 of her next 16 holes, mixing in a birdie and a bogey to remain at +1.
"I just tried to play my game, not think too much about the surroundings," said Vu, a high school junior who has already verbally committed to play her college golf at UCLA. "Tried to tell myself it was just me and the course."
Vu will be back at it Friday morning with an 8:46 a.m. tee time, as she looks to be the second-straight Junior Challenge winner to make the cut at the Kraft Nabisco Championship.