When Vancouver’s Michelle Liu qualified for the CP Women’s Open last week, most of her friends hadn’t even heard of the 47-year-old tournament.
That’s because Michelle’s friends, like her, are heading into Grade 8.
“But they saw a couple YouTube clips and were like, ‘Oh, wow, Michelle, you’re so awesome!’ ” Liu told Postmedia. “My golfing friends though, I think it really surprised them, too.”
In fact, it surprised everyone when the 12-year-old golfer earned a spot in our national open by finishing as top Canadian at the Canadian Women’s Amateur Championship in Red Deer, Alberta. Liu finished tied for 12th, posting a four-round one-over par total at the 6,492-yard course.
“I didn’t expect to play that well, especially because the yardage was so long there,” Liu said.
Entering the final round at one-under par after shooting 72-70-73 over the first three days, Liu got off to a rocky start on Friday when she bogeyed three of the first four holes. Instead of getting down on herself, the young golfer steadied the ship and finished strong, making three birdies over her final five holes to shoot 74. Her one-over total was a stroke better than Quebec’s Brigitte Thibault, who is a member of the Fresno State golf team, and has Liu heading to Magna Golf Club north of Toronto for the LPGA’s CP Women’s Open in three weeks.
“I’m looking forward to playing the golf course there,” she said. “And I’m also looking forward to playing with some really well-known golfers, like Brooke Henderson, so I can hopefully learn something about why they are so good.”
At 12 years old, Liu will be the youngest to play in the tournament. In 2012, Henderson played in our national open as a 14-year-old.
Liu’s parents Jenny and Jian aren’t golfers but her older sister Lucy was interested in the sport so Michelle tagged along to a golf summer camp at a local course.
“I was five I think,” she said. “I think it took me a while. I played for one-and-a-half years before I started competitive golf.”
Liu says the strength of her game is her accuracy off the tee, and that she can drive the ball about 230 yards depending on the weather and course conditions. In case long-suffering weekend golfers don’t feel bad enough yet, her lowest 18-hole score is eight-under par at Rancho Bernardo Inn golf course in California.
Does the pre-teen phenom have any tips for golfers who have been playing the game without much improvement for decades? She does, and unfortunately it’s probably what you’ve been avoiding for years.
“I’d say that putting is the most game-changing part of golf that can really push your score lower, so spend more time practising putting.”
The Vancouver native plays other sports at school but prefers the slower pace and social aspect of golf.
“I think golf gives you time to think about everything,” she said. “I think it’s also great that you get to talk to your competitors over a round of golf and you can learn things. In sports like basketball you don’t really talk to the other team.”
As for this surprise opportunity to play against the best players in the world in an LPGA tournament, Liu hasn’t set any goals other than to leave Magna thinking that she played the best she could.
“I think it’s a new level for me and really puts into perspective how great I can be in the future,” she said.