Julie Yang looks at this week’s LPGA Q-School adventure as a win-win situation. Finish in the top 80 to advance to the final stage, and she’s one step closer to her dream. Go bust, and she’s back in Stillwater, Okla., for the weekend, soaking up college life.
When Yang, 18, was recruited by Oklahoma State, she asked coaches if they minded her signing up for Q-School while still enrolled at OSU.
“I told them very straightforward that my No. 1 priority is my golf,” Yang said. “They completely understood that.”
And so Yang, now in her second semester at Oklahoma State, signed up for LPGA Q-School and tied for fourth in the first stage.
The second stage features 195 LPGA hopefuls and will be played Oct. 8-11 at Plantation Golf and Country Club in Venice, Fla. Yang missed the Cowgirls’ victory Monday at the inaugural Schooner Fall Classic in Norman, Okla. OSU beat host Oklahoma by six shots even without Yang in the lineup. Yang, who is seventh in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, tied for second in the first two events of the fall season.
Yang’s journey to Stillwater was a global effort. Born in Seoul, South Korea, Yang moved to Thailand at age 4. At 9, three years into her golf career, she moved to Arizona. By 14, the trilingual Yang moved with her family to Europe, to further broaden her horizons. Yang enrolled in a boarding school in Edinburgh, Scotland, and developed her wind game.
The brainy Yang skipped one year of high school and enrolled at OSU last January at age 17. Not surprisingly, OSU coach Courtney Jones said the sophomore has the team’s highest GPA.
“She’s really bright and talented in so many different ways,” Jones said.
Yang’s junior/amateur resume includes 75 victories worldwide, notably the World Junior Golf Masters in 2004 and ’05 and the ’07 U.S. Kids World Championship. While in the U.K., she won the 2010 English Women’s Open Stroke Play Championship, ’10 Welsh Ladies Open Stroke Play, ’10 Danish International Ladies Amateur and was medalist at the ’10 Girls’ British Open Am. In 2011, she spent the summer playing in the U.S., becoming the youngest winner of the Women’s Trans National Amateur Championship. She has played on the Korean LPGA, Ladies European Tour and LPGA.
“Julie is going through all this to gain experience,” Jones said. “I just want to see her do well in everything that she does.”
Jones said that Alan Bratton, the former women’s coach and current OSU men’s coach, considered Yang’s short game to the best he had seen at the women’s college level.
“She’s just got a special touch,” Jones said. “She does things that you don’t see many people do.”
Yang thinks her golf game is ready for the LPGA, but she isn’t quite sure if the rest of her is ready. Regardless, she’ll compete for a card as long as she can. Yang opened second stage with a 1-over 73.
“If I make it all the way, I will play on the LPGA,” she said.
Top finishers at the final stage must turn professional at the conclusion of the final round to accept their card (number of cards TBD). Stage III will be held Dec. 4-8 at LPGA International in Daytona Beach, Fla.
“I believe in myself and my abilities and my potential,” Yang said. “I just need time. I wanted to experience something different. College is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
At 18, Yang already has a lifetime’s worth of those.