RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – After 18 holes with Angel Yin on Tuesday, LPGA legend Donna Caponi was searching for words.
“She’s awesome,” Caponi said, incredulous head shake included.
The 14-year-old Yin shot 5-under 67 on Tuesday at Mission Hills’ Arnold Palmer course and earned the final spot in the Kraft Nabisco Championship field, courtesy of the Southern California Junior Golf Association’s Legacy Junior Challenge. Thirty area juniors were granted a spot in the qualifier, and divided into 10 threesomes. Each group was accompanied by a former Kraft Nabisco champion, and the two best balls were scored from each group to make up a team component. Yin’s round played a big role in Caponi Team victory, which meant Caponi received $10,000 to donate to the charity of her choice, the Susan G. Komen Foundation.
Caponi, who won the Kraft in 1980, spent the day reading greens for her players, and talking them around the golf course. She got them to focus on the trouble, and then avoid finding it.
“They learned a lot,” she said, and that includes life lessons.
Caponi, who grew up in Los Angeles and now lives off the 11th green of Mission Hills’ Dinah Shore Tournament Course, tried to lend perspective. When she encountered a player who was mulling over the idea of turning pro immediately after high school, she said, “Let’s talk about this.”
That doesn’t include Yin, who has made just one decision about college so far: Choose one in California.
Despite being 14, Yin has done the LPGA major drill before. She played last year’s U.S. Women’s Open, where she turned heads with her length off the tee. Yin was busting it a consistent 270 yards at Blackwolf Run in Kohler, Wis., last July. She shot rounds of 78-87 to miss the cut, but took away valuable lessons.
“Just stay calm mostly – because when I got on the first tee (at the Women’s Open) I was really excited – and then just play safe and not go for it all the time,” Yin said. “Play smart.”
Yin’s 67 at Mission Hills – which was four shots better than runners-up Megan Kim, Esther Lee and Robynn Ree – included seven birdies and two bogeys. Caponi stressed the importance of bump-and-run shots, which was Yin’s biggest takeaway from her time with the LPGA legend.
As shocking as Yin’s driving average was to the field last summer, it gets better. Yin has since put on 10 more yards, which is good news for a venue that has traditionally favored long hitters.