Lei Ye is determined to show the strength of Chinese women’s golf and follow in the footsteps of the inspirational Shanshan Feng, when she tees it up at this year’s Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific (WAAP).
The 17-year-old Lei, known as ‘Angelina’ by her friends, will be the highest-ranked Chinese player (No.70 on the World Amateur Golf Ranking) when the second edition of the WAAP is played at The Royal Golf Club in Hokota, Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan, from April 25-28.
The other players representing China in the championship, where Thailand’s Atthaya Thitikul will be defending her title, are Cai Danlin, Siyun Liu, Jiayi Wang, Jiehong Pan and Xiaowen Yin.
During the inaugural WAAP at Singapore’s Sentosa Golf Club last year, Lei finished in tied 20th place, 13 shots behind the champion. Three of her teammates also made the cut, with Ji Yifan the next best at 33rd position.
Bank of experience
Lei, who won the Annika Invitational USA presented by Rolex and the Zhang Lianwei Cup (both junior tournaments) last year, will also be able to bank on the experience of playing two LPGA Tour events in her home country – Blue Bay LPGA (T65) and the Buick LPGA Shanghai (72). She also qualified for the 2018 US Women’s Open at Shoal Creek in Alabama and narrowly missed the cut by one shot after making a late double bogey on the par-5 17th in the second round.
“The WAAP boasts a very strong field and offers rich rewards for the champion,” said Lei.
“Rarely do the best amateurs from every Asian country congregate like this and I think it is an incredible opportunity for everyone to compete among the best. Also, the champion has the opportunity to compete in major championships and I am thankful to have a platform like this that provides a step to the next level.
“I hope I can put on a great show, get a couple of low rounds in there and be able to contend. I can’t control what the other players are doing and what scores they will shoot but I know if I play my best, keep things simple and not overthink it, my hard work will pay off.”
Improved putting key
Lei felt she has learned a lot in the past one year, especially after competing against the LPGA Tour professionals.
“The biggest takeaway from the LPGA events was putting. They are the most incredible putters. I think that is the greatest difference in my game and theirs at the moment. They are able to make many 15-20ft putts each round,” said Lei, who is committed this year to Stanford, which counts Tiger Woods among its alumni.
“I think my game, in terms of skill-level, has definitely gotten better from Singapore last year. One of my main goals this season is to eliminate doubles and reduce strategic mistakes. This is especially important because I made such mistakes several times last year.”
In the past few years, Chinese golf is making its mark on the world scene. Several professional players have won international titles on recognised Tours and 2012 Women’s PGA Championship winner Shanshan Feng became the world No.1 in women’s professional golf in 2017, the first professional player from the country to top the Rolex Women’s Ranking.
“Shanshan is an idol for all of us and we strive to be like her. We all hope there will be many more Chinese names that will join Shanshan on the LPGA leaderboards in the upcoming years and I am one of them,” added the Shanghai-based Lei.
“I played with Shanshan about a year ago in the National Games. I just loved how consistent and easygoing she is. I mean she does not let emotions cloud her judgement on the golf course. Even when she gets a bad break, she maintains a positive mindset.
The field at the Royal Golf Club comprises 15 players ranked inside the top 100 of the WAGR. The largest contingent is eight players from host nation Japan, while there will be players representing nations such as Bangladesh, Guam, Vietnam, and Cook Islands – countries where the women’s game is still in its infancy.
The champion will earn a spot in two of the five women’s majors – the AIG Women’s British Open and the Evian Championship. She will also receive an invite to the 2020 Augusta National Women’s Amateur.
The Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific championship has been developed by The R&A and Asia-Pacific Golf Confederation (APGC) to unearth emerging talent and provide a pathway for Asia’s elite women amateurs to emerge on the international stage.
The R&A launched the Women in Golf Charter last year and is committed to increasing the participation of women in the sport. The WAAP is one of several key championships conducted by the governing body and a significant initiative along with the APGC to drive the popularity of women’s golf in the region.
Kabaya Ohayo Group is the principal sponsor and along with Rolex is an Official Scoring Partner of the championship. IMG assists with championship staging and TV broadcasting.