It’s humbling going from the big dog on campus to the fresh face in a new world. That is the reality Ruixin Liu, the 2018 Epson Tour Player of the Year, faced this year on the LPGA Tour.
“It’s two different levels. As of now, I’m kind of starting like a freshman in college,” Liu told LPGA.com after finishing T20 at the Indy Women in Tech Championship.
Liu turned pro at age 18 in 2017, developing her game for two years on the Epson Tour before earning her LPGA Tour card. Liu opened her second year in 2018 battling a hernia issue, recovering as the year progressed. The native of the People’s Republic of China then erupted toward the end of the year, carding top-three finishes in her final four starts, including two victories, to lead the Volvik Race to the Card.
That strong finish, plus a fresh bill of health, gave Liu belief that her play could translate on the LPGA Tour.
But her first season hasn’t turn out that way. Liu opened the 2019 season missing the first 11 of 12 cuts. “It’s been a struggle,” she said. “I think the transformation (to the LPGA Tour) has been a little bit hard to adjust to.”
To compound the rough start, an unknown health issue flared up in Hawaii back in April. She was well within position to make the cut through the opening round at the LOTTE Championship. On Friday, her focus changed from golf to her heart feeling like it would burst out of her chest. It clocked in at 140 beats per minute. On-course paramedics put Liu on oxygen to slow her heart down.
She persevered to finish her round but had no answers as to what caused the problem. Liu made her next two starts at the HUGEL-AIR PREMIA LA Open and the LPGA MEDIHEAL Championship without incident but still no answers. She returned to Florida for bloodwork in early May.
After extensive testing Liu learned that she had allergies. Unfortunately, what she was allergic to surrounds her profession. Liu’s doctors identified allergies to 13 kinds of weeds, grasses and trees, all common on golf courses.
“I have to be careful what I eat and I need to take medication every time I go out and play, no matter where I am,” Liu explained.
Amid the frustration of the season, Liu picked the brain of her mentor Annika Sorenstam. Sorenstam has been a teacher to her for many years, as Liu spent her youth at the ANNIKA Academy. Sorenstam reminded her pupil to keep the big picture in mind during her rookie year on the LPGA Tour.
“She tells me I need to go step by step. If the first year doesn’t go so well, it’s just part of the learning process. Just be patient,” said Liu of Sorenstam’s sage advice.
A big difference for the 20-year old was learning how the LPGA Tour sets up golf courses. She developed increased confidence in her approach as the year progressed, thanks to lessons she’s learned from watching her fellow professionals.
“Everybody’s playing their own game and really patiently,” said Liu. “Before, if I started off making a bogey, I would rush and get kind of lost a little bit. I see everybody out here being really patient. When they have chance, they go for it.”
Liu applied those lessons last week where she polished off her final round at Brickyard Crossings with an aggressive wedge from the fairway, setting up a tap-in birdie that closed her week on a high note.
Liu is playing her final domestic LPGA event in Dallas this week and is then headed home to China to play in the Buick LPGA Shanghai, using an exemption from the CLPGA. As a sponsor invitee, any money she earns in Shanghai will not count toward her official 2019 earnings.
Heading into this week’s Volunteers of America Classic, Liu has earned $68,450, putting her 121st on the Official Money List. Once play is finished on Sunday, players ranked No. 101-150 (and any ties for 150th) on the Official Money List will head to Q-Series, a two-week, eight-round tournament to be held Oct. 23-26 on Pinehurst No. 6 and Oct. 30 to Nov. 2 on Pinehurst No. 9, both in Pinehurst, N.C.
Liu is keeping her experience in perspective. She knows what she must do in Dallas to prevent a visit to Q-Series. As she said with a sparkle of confidence in her eyes, “I have to play really, really good next week. Otherwise, I will see you in North Carolina.”