DAYTONA BEACH – Long-hitting Ariya Jutanugarn might have some competition in 2017.
Saturday, Angel Yin bombed her way up the leaderboard in the fourth round of the LPGA Qualifying Tournament with a four-under par, 68 to sit solo fifth heading into the last round of final stage. Paired alongside the Ladies European Tour’s Order of Merit leader Beth Allen and Dottie Ardina, Yin outdrove her playing partners on every hole but one on the back nine of the Jones Course by 30 yards or more. Like Jutanugarn, Yin has found her distance to be both a blessing and a curse.
“Sometimes it’s an advantage. Sometimes it doesn’t help because when you miss it you miss it pretty far too,” Yin told LPGA.com after her round. “I played in India before this and I didn’t use my driver. There are rounds I don’t use my driver. I actually watched her and it inspired me to get a 2-iron too.”
These types of course management decisions are something Yin wouldn’t have considered earlier in her career, but the 18-year-old’s experience of playing in the ANA Inspiration twice as a junior helped her learn the value of planning and decision-making. She was able to fine-tune those skills over the past year as a member of the LET, where she recorded three top-10s in her rookie season.
“I feel like the LET has really helped me, helped me with my course management so I’m feeling good,” Yin said. “The courses that they play are much different. Actually, helped prepare me for this Q-school I think because Hills (Course) is really tight and I’m not used to playing these courses and in Europe this is all I play. So, I kinda get adjusted to the short courses and laying up and not using the driver for the whole round, that’s fine. Sometimes it just bothers me if I don’t use my driver the whole round, but now I’m kinda getting used to it.”
What the Los Angeles resident hasn’t gotten used to is the commute - flying 12 hours to compete in Europe. It was one of the main factors that drove to her compete this week in hopes of playing more in the States in 2017.
“I’ve been working so hard this year, just to prepare for this. LET is a huge deal but I’ve always wanted to play on the LPGA, ever since I started playing so this would be huge for me.”
Should Yin earn her card on Sunday, she would be making the transition to the LPGA with a close friend by her side. Iceland’s Olafia Kirstinsdottir sits in second heading into Sunday’s final round and the two friends have enjoyed having each other to lean on this week.
“It’s great because we push each other. If we both make it out on Tour it’ll be great, because we’ll have friend on Tour. I won't be alone like when I first started on LET. I didn’t know anyone and I met Olafia and she’s really nice,” said Yin. “I played with her yesterday, she played so well. It was amazing. Yeah, it inspired me today.”