ROGERS, ARK | Exactly one year ago, Lilia Vu was on the opposite side of Arkansas, where she tied for second at the Murphy USA El Dorado Shoot Out on the Epson Tour. Saturday, she shot six-under par for the second day in a row to put herself firmly in contention for her first LPGA Tour win at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship presented by P&G. Quite a turnaround for the 24-year-old.
Vu’s progress came with a shift in her mindset. Now, she actively looks for ways to see the game more positively and makes having fun at work a priority.
“I'm trying to think of everything in a positive way,” Vu said. “I feel like everything happens for a reason in my life, so I’m trying to stay positive.”
The UCLA-alum’s professional career has taken many twists and turns after her standout performance as an amateur. Vu was the No. 1 amateur in the world before her rookie season on the LPGA Tour in 2019, but she made the cut in only one of the nine events she played that year and found herself on the Epson Tour.
“I feel like it was never a matter of my game or skills that were lacking,” Vu said of her struggles. “I just wasn't looking at golf in a healthy and positive way. Every shot was life or death. I figured it out last year, I'm just going to go out there and have fun. I know how good I am. I'm going to try my best, and whatever happens, happens. Taking that mindset into this year has helped me.”
Vu has even found a way to turn the minor back discomfort she’s felt in recent weeks into an asset. The injury has lowered her expectations and allowed her to be more forgiving when she makes a mistake. She has felt less frustrated and freer while playing.
“(The injury) helps me have lower expectations,” she said. “I'm just trying to manage (my back), have fun out here, play my game and not be too hard on myself, because I can get really hard on myself. That's when I get frustrated and that can spill into my golf game on the course. (My back is) definitely helping me stay more patient.”
Clearly, Vu’s change in mentality has been great for her game. In 2022, Vu has been in the top 10 six times -- including a 17-under par, third-place finish at the AmazingCre Portland Classic.
By the end of Saturday’s morning wave at the Pinnacle Country Club, Vu sat squarely atop the leaderboard at 12-under par, two strokes ahead of the morning’s second-place finishers. While she is happy with her performance, she’s sticking to her game plan and not putting any extra pressure on herself.
“I feel like you kind of get carried away when you're in the final group and you're thinking about too much,” Vu said. “I play my best golf when I'm not worried about myself and just trying to have fun.”
Vu has just two goals going into Championship Sunday: to have more fun making birdies, and to eagle the par-5 18th. Given her performance on Saturday -- four birdies and an eagle on 7 that gave her sole possession of the lead at the time -- those new goals seem well within reach.