Lilia Vu Returns to the LPGA Tour Mentally Stronger

Lilia Vu returned to the LPGA Tour this year a two-year trip to the Epson Tour where she rebuilt confidence in her game and worked on herself as a balanced human being. Although she was No.1 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking for 31 weeks in 2018 and 2019, once Vu turned professional, she said she missed all but one cut and struggled to feel like she belonged in the league.

"I didn't have any friends. I didn't know anyone. I put a lot of pressure on myself to perform well. I wasn't in a good state of mind to be playing competitive golf. But everything happens for a reason, right? I hit rock bottom to learn how to play out here again," Vu said.

The UCLA alum won the 2016 Pac-12 Conference Freshman of the Year. She was also awarded 2018 the WGCA Player of the Year and Pac-12 Conference Golfer of the Year, and Honda Award finalist in 2018. Vu finished her collegiate career as a three-time WGCA First Team All-American and All-Pac 12 performer and earned the top spot on UCLA's all-time career victory list with eight individual titles.

"I finally felt like I was good when I started playing golf at UCLA—seeing how good the girls were around me made me feel like a good golfer. I didn't think I was a standout in my junior golf career until I went to college," Lilia said.

Vu began playing golf at the age of seven, but it wasn't until she went to UCLA that she found a true passion for the game.

"My dad took my brother to the golf course. They were kind of just hitting on the range. I would sit there and watch them. And then, one day, I was trying to be funny, and I started imitating my brother's swing, and they put a golf club in my hand, and I hit the ball. Ever since I just kept golfing," she said.

The college star began competing against kids from all over the world in the Callaway Junior World Golf tournaments in San Diego.

"They would come to San Diego and represent their country and play in this huge tournament. At that age, that was the biggest tournament ever for that age group. I would play with people from Thailand or Mexico, and it was so foreign to me and cool to meet those people. And everybody walks with their (country's) flag during the ceremony."

As an Asian American, Lilia is very proud of her family's background and the sacrifices her grandpa made to immigrate to the U.S. after the Vietnam War in 1982.

"My grandpa would go away for a month at a time, and (my mom and her siblings) didn't really know where he was going. And during that time, he was building a boat by himself on the side. They wouldn't see him, and then he'd come back home and then go again. When he decided that it was a good time to go, he gathered basically the whole village and put them on the boat to escape Vietnam," Vu said.

Lilia said she wouldn't be here today if her grandpa hadn't gotten them out, and he almost didn't make it.

"They added too many people, and then the boat almost became a sinking hole. My grandpa shot his flare into the sky, hoping that someone would see him, and then luckily, an American ship was coming by and picked everybody up. This was perfect timing because the boat was sinking, and they made their way over to America after that," she said.

Vu said the Asian American representation on the LPGA stage is amazing, and she grew up idolizing Michelle Wie West.

"She was basically the first Asian American in golf that I would watch when I was younger. I just watched her on the weekends all the time on the LPGA. Now you look around, and there's a whole bunch of Asian Americans on LPGA now, so it's really cool. And I think it's only going to get better," Lilia said.

Now that Vu is back competing for the 2022 season, she adds another Asian American face out on the field.

Lilia read two influential books – “Extraordinary Golf: The Art of the Possible” by Fred Shoemaker and “The Slight Edge: Turning Simple Disciplines into Massive Success and Happiness” – which helped her transition once again into the professional realm.

"Basically 1% better every day is the motto of (‘The Slight Edge’). And so I'll do little things every day to get better at golf, say a putting drill that I'll do every day," she said. "Then, for ‘Extraordinary Golf,’ I took the mental side of that book. It says your next golf shot could be the best golf shot you ever hit in your life. And it puts you in a more allowing position for good shots to come to you instead of pressuring yourself to hit a good shot," Vu said.

Although Lilia had a rough transition from college to the professional ranks, she still recommends all young girls to take the college track despite changes to the Q-Series participant rules, which will now require all participants to turn pro before teeing off in Q School.

"In college, you mature as a person, and you learn how to deal with other people around you. And then you also get to compete at the collegiate level, and you learn how to win at that level. That helps you get to the highest level, which is LPGA. I think in order to stay long-term out here, you have to learn how to win at every level because of the pressures of going from amateur and then skipping college to the LPGA. You have no backup," she said.

Vu is now in a better headspace after taking her extended break from the golf world and her biggest goals this season are to have fun, enjoy the travel, and have a good time on the golf course while perfecting her game.

"I think all parts of my golf game could be improved, I mean, it's trending towards that goal, but I want to get better at everything,” she said. “Mentally stronger, just learning new things every day."