ORLANDO, Fla. – Angel Yin wasn’t feeling 100 percent on Saturday. She hid the pain well.
Yin carded an eagle, six birdies and one bogey en route to a third-round, 7-under 65 to match the low round of the week at the Gainbridge LPGA at Lake Nona Golf and Country Club. It’s her lowest round on tour since July 2019.
“To shoot 7 under, it just feels really good because I wasn't able to do that in a while,” Yin said. “Even though I knew where my game was, the pain was overshadowing everything.”
Yin, a lighthearted spirit, got serious when talking about the shoulder pain she’s battled over the last year.
When the LPGA returned last July from its self-imposed hiatus due to the coronavirus, Yin didn’t feel right. During the Marathon LPGA Classic, her second event back, the long-hitter started feeling pain in her left shoulder, and it shot down her arm at impact with the ball, especially when she would hit her driver.
Since joining the LPGA in 2017, Yin has ranked inside the top 4 in driving distance. In 2020, she dropped to 17th. She simply didn’t have the strength to hit the ball like she used to. Yin lost 10 yards off the tee.
“It was like electricity going down, so it would just weaken [the arm],” Yin told GolfChannel.com. “At the worst point, it was hard for me to open a water bottle. I couldn't drive with my left hand.”
The pain continued to increase at the AIG Women’s Open in August, where Yin finished T-59 at 13 over. She tried to mask her suffering with painkillers. She also sought treatment from a doctor in Orlando, Florida, who has helped ease her pain with the use of a TENS machine.
“Now, when I'm hitting it I still have a little bit of pain,” Yin said. “But to think about what I was doing last year with painkillers, I think it was a little bit crazy. I shouldn't have done that. It wasn't very smart. Kind of taught me a lot.”
In order to compensate for her pain, Yin changed her swing during the offseason. She spent two weeks at home in California making adjustments. She also changed her clubs. The changes were both a curse and a blessing as she learned to hit a cut for the first time. But some of the tweaks she made created further issues with her swing, which she had to sort out with her longtime coach, Bobby Lasken.
“I think this injury saved my career,” Yin said. “I noticed that my swing wasn't right. I was always a swinger and I became a hitter out of nowhere. I think that is what really causes harm on my left shoulder.”
Yin made all these changes to try and avoid surgery. On Saturday, she admitted to still feeling just 50 percent. But the 22-year-old is willing to make any adjustments necessary in order to avoid having to go under the knife.
“I’m a very anti-surgery person,” Yin said with a laugh. “You’re not opening me up. I am so scared about opening up, open surgery. No, no.”
Although she didn’t feel her best or have her best game, Yin sits just three shots back of the lead in her season debut.
“I already have distance, so I didn't need to go all out,” Yin said. “I definitely hit it further than last year, which was great.”