CHARLESTON, S.C. – In between securing her spot Saturday in the final match at the U.S. Women’s Amateur and giving her post-round interview, Yueer “Cindy” Feng left the Country Club of Charleston in search of a Chinese buffet. Feng can’t exactly remember the name of the restaurant – Ocean China something – but she did advise to eat the duck and steer clear of the fried things.
Feng finds Chinese food on the road when she can. Perhaps it’s part of a new comfort level for life on the road that she referenced earlier this week. Feng has found her rhythm, which is what has contributed to her recent good play.
The 17-year-old will face Alabama sophomore Emma Talley in the 36-hole final Sunday. It will be her first trip to the final in a U.S. Golf Association championship, and comes two weeks after falling in the quarterfinals at the U.S. Girls’ Junior. Feng also advanced to the final match at the North & South Championship earlier this summer, losing to Ally McDonald, a Mississippi State junior.
“I did learn that short game is very important and in the end, it is about who makes the putt,” she said. So far this week, that player has been Feng.
Feng has expressed no feelings toward college this week, but her past two matches should have put it on the radar. Feng defeated two members of the national championship-winning USC team, including NCAA individual champion Annie Park. Feng defeated Park in 14 holes and took down teammate Doris Chen on Saturday in 16.
Given more holes, however, Chen might even have been able to turn the match in her favor. She began to get comfortable on the greens after the turn and matched birdies with Feng at No. 16. It was too little, too late for the four-time USGA semifinalist.
“I think the record sounds pretty good but I’m definitely not satisfied with my results,” she said of her week in Charleston. Soon it’s back to the grind at USC.
Crowds likely will swell larger for Sunday’s final than they have all week. Feng doesn’t mind that – only minds, actually, if she has to pick her way through them. She remembers watching the 2005 Masters as a kid, and getting frustrated by the amount of people in Tiger Woods’ gallery. That’s one tournament to which she says she’ll never go back.
That Masters trip, at such a young age, fits into Feng’s all-golf existence. She and her family moved from Shen-Zhen, China, when she was 9 years old so that Feng could play golf in the U.S. She remembers it as a “rash” decision, but doesn’t remember too many details. Feng says her parents, who speak mostly Mandarin, tell her that they moved because she wanted to.
Feng isn’t buying it.
“I’m 9, I said I wanted to come and you guys came?” Feng questions.
Feng had played very few events in the U.S. before that move – mostly U.S. Kids’ Golf championships and the Callaway Junior World Championship, events designed for very young players. She remembers first playing as a 6- or 7-year-old. Feng’s mom, Jin Lu, has watched quietly from the shade of a sun umbrella in Charleston. Dad Delin has caddied.
Feng hasn’t been back to China since the initial move, and has vague memories of her childhood home. She remembers lots of people, tall skyscrapers and expensive houses.
“I always wanted to go back,” she said.
Feng keeps her given first name (Yueer) attached to tournament entries because it’s a way to preserve her heritage. She imagines her Mandarin still is at an elementary level, even though she frequently has to translate for her parents.
“I sometimes translate things literally,” she said.
Feng works with Sean Foley – who works with Tiger Woods, of course, but also Annie Park – and has a shot at a maiden USGA title.
“Going into tomorrow, (there are) no expectations – I have to win this or I have to do this or that,” she said. “Just one shot at a time, play my best. Just whatever happens happens.”
Feng says she’s had good days and bad days here, like any player, but the fact remains that only one player has taken Feng the full 18 holes. With twice that many scheduled for Sunday, Feng will have to take extra care to find her rhythm.