Women’s PGA champ Yin hopes to see national flag raised at Asian Games
Aiming higher
Published: Jul 03, 2023 08:37 PM
Yin Ruoning of China poses with the trophy after winning the Women's PGA Championship on June 25, 2023 in Springfield, New Jersey, the US. Photo: VCG

Yin Ruoning of China poses with the trophy after winning the Women's PGA Championship on June 25, 2023 in Springfield, New Jersey, the US. Photo: VCG

On June 25, Yin Ruoning wrote herself into China's sports history as she clinched the Women's Professional Golf Association (PGA) Championship in New Jersey, the US, making her the second woman from the Chinese mainland to win a major golf title after Feng Shanshan.

During a recent exclusive interview with the Global Times, Yin reflected on her golf career, shared stories about her success and encouraged more Chinese young athletes to strive for glory in international competitions.

Yin had not yet started playing golf when Feng won the Women's PGA Championship in 2012 to become the first Chinese player to win a major.

Feng retired from her professional career in August 2022, leaving with a major, 10 LPGA (Ladies Professional Golf Association) Tour victories and a former world No.1 ranking under her belt. She is currently the coach of the Chinese women's national golf team.

For 20-year-old Yin, who sealed her first LPGA Tour win in April, Feng has always been the benchmark she is chasing.

"Feng is a senior golfer that I hold in high regard. I have been looking to follow in her footsteps and I'm trying to match her achievements," Yin told the Global Times.

Golf is a highly professional sport. As a Chinese golfer, Yin says her greatest wish is to play for China in the Asian Games and Olympic Games. When talking about her expectations for the upcoming Asian Games, Yin said that she and her teammates have only one goal in the competition, which is to see "China's national flag raised" and hear "the national anthem played."

Fearless play

In a nervy finale at Baltsurol, New Jersey, Yin came from behind to make a birdie putt from about three meters on the final hole to outlast Japan's Yuka Saso by one stroke, taking her place in Chinese sports history.

Reflecting on the last-ditch comeback, she said she is grateful to her parents for her mental strength. 

"My father has kept me company since I took up golf and he helped me develop mental toughness. He often told me that 'you can do more than you think you can.' My mom offers me psychological support and both of them believe in me," said Yin.

She recalled that she hit the rookie wall - a decline in performance - early in 2022 and suffered wrist injury. However, her parents placed faith in her and helped her overcome the biggest challenge so far in her career. 

"I think constant efforts help my progress in technique, mentality and strategy. I'm playing smarter than before. The most important thing is to stay patient and believe in myself," said the avid basketball fan and longtime Stephen Curry admirer.

Chinese golfer Yin Ruoning hits from the 17th fairway during the final round of the Women's PGA Championship on June 25, 2023 in Springfield, New Jersey, the US. Photo: VCG

Chinese golfer Yin Ruoning hits from the 17th fairway during the final round of the Women's PGA Championship on June 25, 2023 in Springfield, New Jersey, the US. Photo: VCG

While Feng is her benchmark, Yin also attributed her success to another compatriot, Lin Xiyu, who, beyond ­being friends, is her landlord. Lin rented the house she used to reside in to Yin.

"Now that she has won the title," Lin said jokingly, "I need to raise her rent. It is way too low for her now."

Lin still remembers how the teenager impressed her when they first met in a domestic tournament. 

"She [Yin] wasn't even 18 years old, and she came up and asked me what would be the proper way to get in the LPGA," Lin said. "At that time I was like, 'Wow, I like this kid; she really wants something."

"She helped me a lot and gave me advice during my first year in the LPGA," said Yin, who is surely eyeing new heights after her first major title.

Fertile ground

Yin took up golf when she was 11 and emerged as an impressive teenager in a series of youth tournaments and amateur championships hosted by the China Golf Association (CGA). She was part of the Chinese women's golf team that won a bronze medal at the 2018 Jakarta Asian Games before turning professional in 2020.

Yin played three tours in the China LGPA after turning professional, ­winning all three, which not only helped her achieve two Guinness World Records titles, but also allowed her to rank in the world's top 300 for the first time. Later, she sealed her LPGA Tour membership through qualifying. 

Her legend made a historic jump in 2020 when she participated in the qualification examination for the China Ladies Professional Golf Association (CLPGA) and became a member as the first champion. 

Li Hong, general manager of CLPGA, still remembers Yin's maiden showing in the CLPGA as she believed Yin had the potential to win the championship. At the third stop, Li thought it "was impossible [for Yin] to win again," but she still made a comeback at two shots behind with only three holes left.  

Established in 2008, the China LPGA Tour is the only women's professional golf tour permitted and sanctioned by the CGA. In 2013, its continuous growth was recognized when the tour was invited to join the Rolex Women's World Golf Rankings system. 

It's not just Feng and Yin, a number of top-tier players such as Park Sung-hyun and Kim Hyo-joo of South Korea have also joined the tour and made history there. 

Yin told the Global Times that Chinese training and platforms like the CLPGA Tour have offered young players chances for higher career goals and high level games.

With high interest and enthusiasm toward golf, CLPGA will host the Singapore Ladies Masters, the first event outside the Chinese mainland. The event will see 132 players battle for a $100,000 prize purse in a 54-hole strokeplay competition from Thursday to Saturday. The Trust Golf Singapore Ladies Masters is the fourth leg of the 2023 CLPGA season after stops in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangdong. 

Yin said a fertile ground for golf development in China has offered young players more opportunities to hone their skills and paved the way for more players, including her, to establish themselves in international competitions.

"Golf has been growing more popular in China and many young Chinese players are receiving systematic training. We have a lot of domestic competitions for them to gain experience, both at the junior and senior level. It's good for the overall development of golf in China," said Yin, now No.5 in the Women's World Golf Rankings.