Free spirit Yin helps keep U.S. Solheim team loose

By Randall MellAugust 15, 2017, 8:27 pm

WEST DES MOINES, Iowa - U.S. Solheim Cup captain Juli Inkster loved the playful bravado.

Long before Angel Yin played her way onto the media’s radar as a Solheim Cup hopeful this summer, she was on Inkster’s radar.

The LPGA rookie wouldn’t let Inkster walk past her at a tour event without letting her know she was ready to play for her.

Every time she passed me, she would say, `I’m going to make your team.’ I loved that about her,” said Inkster, who made Yin one of her two captain’s picks. “She’s confident, but not cocky.”

Tour insiders have been waiting for this giant talent to make a mark as a pro on a big stage, and Des Moines Golf and Country Club looks like that stage.

Yin is a long-hitting Californian, the first-generation American daughter of Chinese immigrants, a raw but determined talent with fun-loving charm that is as big as her swing.

Yin is the only true LPGA rookie on the American team preparing to meet Europe in Iowa this week, the second-youngest American to play in the biennial international team event. She will be 18 years, 10 months and 15 days old when the competition begins on Friday. That’s four months older than Lexi Thompson was when she made her Solheim Cup debut four years ago.

“My team just loves her, loves her,” Inkster said.

They love the bold way Yin plays the game.

“She’s fearless,” American veteran Stacy Lewis said. “She has the length of Ariya Jutanugarn but hits it higher and straighter.”

There is something else they love, too. They love the quirky, carefree spirit Yin brings to the team room. She’s quickly fitting in as America’s version of Charley Hull, the teen who charmed and entertained the Euros with her artless ways as a rookie in Colorado four years ago. 


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Beth Allen isn’t on the American team, but she saw Yin’s charms before Yin joined the LPGA this year. They played the Ladies European Tour last year.

“I’m from California, and I could tell right away Angel was a California girl,” said Allen, the first American to win the LET’s Order of Merit. “It’s the way she talks, and that Californian free spirit. She marches to the beat of her own drum. She’s just a lot of fun.”

You can see it Yin’s social media posts, even in her Twitter handle. She’s @angelyinlol.

“The name Angel Yin was taken, and some friends who said I really needed to be on social media liked the idea of adding LOL on the end of my name,” Yin told GolfChannel.com “It grew on me.”

For those oblivious to all things social media, LOL is short for “laugh out loud.”

From Yin’s mischievous grin on her profile picture, to her pink-eared ski cap, you quickly see the LOL in Yin’s social media persona.

She posted a GIF of the Riverdale TV show character Jughead, ranting on how he’s different.

“I’m a weirdo. I don’t fit in. I don’t want to fit in,” Jughead rants.

“Exactly!” Yin commented in her retweet.

Yin once regaled her followers with how she suffered a bout of dehydration because she slept for 17 straight hours. And how she once got her hair caught in an elevator door.

On her 18th birthday last fall, Yin posted comically that it was something to mourn, because she was officially designated an adult, with the wonder of childhood behind her.

“Probably one of the saddest days of my life,” she wrote on Instagram. “No longer a kid anymore. From here on out, it’s just responsibility to discipline to being mature. Can’t believe this day came so fast, but on the bright side, I’m legal now and I can party almost everywhere in Europe.”

Germany’s Olivia Cowan and Iceland’s Olafia Kristinsdottir met Yin as fellow LET rookies last year.

“We call ourselves The Three Musketeers,” Cowan said. “We are besties, always together.”

With Yin entertaining the trio with her unique take on things.

“When Angel gets going, she doesn’t stop talking,” Cowan said. “She is very lively, the most fun person I know. We can talk about the stupidest things, and we can talk about it for hours.”

The funny thing about Yin is that she considers herself shy. At least, she can be in new environments. Making her start on the LPGA this year, she was cautious, socially.

“I’m just a rookie, and there are a lot of big shots on tour I’m afraid to talk to,” Yin said. “People might see me with friends and think, `She’s not shy at all,’ but in reality I’m a really shy person. It’s hard for me to come out of my shell sometimes, but once the wall’s knocked down . . .”

It’s @angelyinlol.

“I really don’t think she’s afraid of anything,” Kristinsdottir said.

Yin nearly made the American team via the U.S. Solheim Cup world rankings list. She tied for eighth at the Marathon Classic and tied for 11th at the Ricoh Women’s British Open in her last two starts. With two more birdies coming home at Kingsbarns, Yin wouldn’t have required a captain’s pick. She would have qualified with the effort.

It didn’t take LET pros long last year to see what LPGA pros are seeing this year.

Yin was second on the LET in driving distance last year, trailing only Joanna Klatten, who also led the LPGA in driving. She finished 11th on the LET Order of Merit.

Yin is seventh in the LPGA ranks in driving this season, averaging 272 yards per drive.

“The way she compresses the ball, it’s not like anyone else,” Allen said.

Yin joined the LET as a 17-year-old. She didn’t think it was right to petition the LPGA for a waiver of its rule requiring members be 18 years old, and while USC was offering her a scholarship, she believed she was ready to turn pro.

Yin’s swing coach, Bob Lasken, knew the LET and what it offered. His sister, now Kim McNary, played the LET before joining the LPGA. He offered it up as an option, and Angel’s mother was intrigued.

Michelle Yin has never played a hole of golf in her life, but she learned the game watching her daughter, listening to her coaches, watching every LPGA and PGA Tour event she could find on TV. She also read through Tiger Woods’ instructional book, “How I Play Golf.

When Angel joined the LET, Michelle picked up her bag as caddie.

“We couldn’t afford to pay a caddie,” Michelle said.

Michelle got Angel into the game almost by accident back in Arcadia, Calif.

When Angel was 6, one of Michelle’s friends approached them. The friend had a son who wanted to learn to play golf. The friend asked if Michelle would sign up Angel to join her boy in a month-long junior program at Arcadia Par 3 Golf Course. Angel didn’t have any clubs, but she borrowed a used club from the pro shop.

“My friend’s son didn’t like playing, and he quit,” Michelle said. “Angel didn’t want to quit. She loved it, and she wanted me to buy her some golf clubs.

“She told me, `Mom, don’t worry, you don’t have to come watch over me. You can just drop me off and pick me up. It will be OK.’”

So that’s what Michelle did.

But it wasn’t long until the coaches at Arcadia Par 3 were calling Michelle to tell her Angel was a promising talent, and she needed private lessons. It wasn’t long after that before a coach was calling to say Angel really ought to be competing in tournaments.

“The coach directed me to a web site, and I registered Angel for a tournament,” Michelle said. “Two years after Angel started in the game, she won the Callaway Junior Worlds in San Diego.”

Angel was 8 when she made that breakthrough.

That’s when Michelle said she started getting more involved in her daughter’s game.

“From the beginning, I just followed Angel’s lead, but she picked up everything so fast,” Michelle said. “I decided I needed to get serious and learn everything I could to support her.”

Michelle was a business woman in the import/export business back in China. She moved to the United States from her Beijing home 20 years ago. Angel was born a year later. Michelle became a U.S. citizen about 10 years ago, but Angel’s father remains in China.

“I wouldn’t be where I am now without my mother,” Angel said.

Yin has been a big deal in Southern California for a while now. At 13, she qualified for the U.S. Women’s Open at Blackwolf Run. At 14, she won a junior qualifier to get into the ANA Inspiration and made the cut. At 15, she Monday qualified to get into the LPGA’s Kia Classic, At 16, she won the AJGA’s Annika Invitational, finished runner up in the U.S. Girls’ Junior and played on the U.S. Junior Solheim Cup team.

Lasken first heard about Yin when she was 10.

That’s when Lasken’s sister, Kim, the LPGA pro, teed it up in a U.S. Women’s Open qualifier at Industry Hills. She was paired with Yin.

“Kim called me after saying, `Oh my God, this 10-year-old girl was outdriving me by 30 yards,’” Lasken said. “Angel was a legend at 10.”

Yin’s first private instructor was Greg Castleman, with Lasken taking over about six years ago.

“Angel has that attitude of a champion,” said Lasken, who teaches out of Arroyo Trabuco Golf Club in Mission Viejo. “You always hear Angel saying `I can do this.’ You never hear her saying, `I can’t.’

“The bigger the stakes, the better she plays. It’s like she has this attitude, `Bring it on.’”

It’s why Inkster believed Yin was ready for this week’s big stage.

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Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.

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Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.


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Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.

@tommyfleetwood_1

A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.