China's Feng, Liu turn pro after 1 college season
Hours after Duke won its sixth NCAA women's title, freshman Yu Liu announced her plans to turn professional. The news created a strange mixture of emotions for longtime coach Dan Brooks, a familiar high coupled with such a surprising blow.
Liu, who finished the season No. 11 in the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings, is the first player in Brooks’ 30-year career at Duke to go pro after one season. Liu competed as a professional in last week’s Beijing Challenge on the China LPGA, shooting 70-73-71.
But Brooks wasn’t alone.
Meanwhile over at the Vanderbilt camp, head coach Greg Allen was hearing a similar speech from Simin Feng after the year-end banquet Friday night in Tulsa where the the NCAA championships were held.
Allen confirmed to Golfweek that Feng, who is also Chinese but has a home base with her parents at Isleworth in Windermere, Fla., left the Commodores after one season. Feng, ranked 12th by Golfweek, won twice as a freshman, including the SEC Championship, and led the team with a 71.74 stroke average. She played a key role in helping Vanderbilt return to the winner’s circle.
Feng and Liu were a powerful one-two punch from China, rising stars in a wave of talent that’s only beginning to materialize.
This week Liu will try and defend her title at the Srixon XXIO Ladies Open, which she won last year as an amateur.
"My plan is to try to qualify for the U.S. LPGA tour at the end of the year,” Liu told the People’s Daily Online. “I’m ready for a pro career, and the time is good.”
Brooks, who is visiting family in Oregon, has learned how to take bumps like this in stride.
Still, losing a promising player such as Liu, who won the Darius Rucker Intercollegiate and finished the season with a 72.36 scoring average, leaves a sizable hole in next season’s roster. Three of the five players from this year’s winning NCAA squad won’t be back next year, with Laetitia Beck and Alejandra Cangrejo having graduated.
To reload, Brooks has Ireland’s talented Maguire twins – Leona and Lisa – reporting to Durham in the fall along with Gurbani Singh of New Delhi.
“We’ve recruited well for next year,” said Brooks.