Youngster already eyeing No 1 spot after sensational start to pro career

SHANGHAI-Yin Ruoning. Remember the name because the 17-year-old Chinese golfer has won three tournaments in a row since turning professional and she wants to become world No 1.

The Asian Golf Industry Federation called it “one of the most astonishingly successful starts to a professional golfing career”.

Yin completed her hat-trick of triumphs, which have all come on the China LPGA Tour, with a one-stroke victory earlier this month at the Orient Masters in Xiamen, Fujian province.

“The former China national amateur representative is believed to be the first player to post three straight wins to start a pro career,” said the Singapore-based federation.

For Yin, who turns 18 at the end of this month and playfully describes herself as “cute”, she hopes this is only the beginning.

She is now at 302 in the world rankings, having been 503rd earlier this year, and is aiming high.

“Yes, definitely,” the Shanghai-based rising star said unflinchingly in English, when asked if becoming the top women’s golfer on the planet is her ultimate ambition.

It has been a life-changing few months for Yin, who as an amateur won a bronze medal in the women’s team event with China at the 2018 Asian Games.

She won the China LPGA Tour Qualifying Tournament in January this year and turned professional in March, but by then the coronavirus pandemic had put all sports in China on hold.

The domestic golf circuit resumed last month and Yin picked up where she left off, racking up three wins in quick succession.

“That surprised me, I didn’t think that much that I could win, I did not even think about it,” said Yin, who was born in Kunming, Yunnan province.

Men’s and women’s golf is littered with prodigious talents who burst onto the scene as teenagers, only to disappear into obscurity.

In 2013, Yin’s compatriot Ye Wocheng created history by becoming the youngest golfer to qualify for a European Tour event, aged just 12. He has hardly been heard of in the higher echelons since.

Guan Tianlang famously made the cut in the 2013 US Masters as a 14-year-old. He has just finished college in the United States and now aims to qualify for the third-tier PGA Tour-Series China.

Putting Yin’s achievements into further context, New Zealand’s Lydia Ko became women’s world No 1 as a 17-year-old in 2015.

Now 23, Ko has struggled to hit the same heights in recent years, winning only won one event since she last held top spot in 2017.

However, China has a growing pedigree in golf. In 2018, Li Haotong became the first Chinese man to break into the world’s top 50. A year earlier, women’s star Feng Shanshan became the first Chinese to reach world No 1.

Relishing the pressure

Yin is nowhere near those heights yet but is beginning to make headlines, and with that comes greater expectations.

“I think there will be some pressure but it gives me a lot of motivation also,” said Yin, who plays basketball and video games in her downtime.

Yin’s interest in the sport stems from her father, a keen golfer, and she started playing when she was 10.

She practices six days a week and about five hours a day. Her swing coach is American former player Jim Johnson and she also has a fitness trainer.

Yin plans next year to compete in the US LPGA Tour qualifying school with the aim of earning a card for the elite circuit.

She models her attitude and game on Collin Morikawa, the 23-year-old American who won his first major at last month’s PGA Championship in San Francisco.

“I like the way he plays, he’s not a long driver but he’s very stable, and I like his passion for the game,” said Yin. “By the way,” she adds with a teenage giggle, “his smile is so sweet.”

Agence France-presse

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