China’s Xi Yu Lin is set to defend her maiden Ladies European Tour title in the Sanya Ladies Open at Yalong Bay Golf Club in tropical Hainan, China, starting on Friday.
The 19-year-old from Guangzhou gave a dominant performance in hot and windy conditions 12 months ago to earn a commanding five stroke victory and has an excellent record in the tournament: she finished ninth in the inaugural event as a 14-year-old amateur and has never finished outside the top-10.
She arrives in fantastic form, coming off a tie for fifth at the Blue Bay LPGA, her best finish in two years on the LPGA Tour. Prior to that, she tied for sixth at the Fubon LPGA Taiwan Championship, shared 28th at the KEM HanaBank Championship and tied for seventh in Malaysia.
“This is my fifth week in a row but I feel pretty fresh because I had two days off,” Lin said on Wednesday. “Throughout the Asian swing my game has been pretty good. Last week I played well but I also found some problems with my putting but I tried to fix it the last two days so I’m feeling pretty confident. It’s close to my home, so that’s one of the reasons I feel comfortable, but in Evian I already felt pretty good, because it was my first time making the cut there. My game was getting much better and after that I worked with my coach for a couple of days and fixed my short game, so everything is going well.”
Lin, a third year member of the LET, says that she will not set a target, although when asked to present the prize to the winner on Sunday, she replied that it would be difficult to hand herself the trophy.
“I’m trying not to think about being the defending champion because that really gives me pressure. I’ll just try to play the course how I played it the last couple of years and I’ll remind myself of the strategy on every hole and focus on every shot. So far this year I’m pretty satisfied with all my scoring and performances so I won’t give myself any more pressure, just enjoy it,” she said.
After winning last year’s Sanya Ladies Open, Lin called her mother her ‘lucky star,’ but this year she has gone one step further and had the symbol printed on the back of her hand.
“I’m trying to put stickers on for a couple of months and if nothing goes wrong maybe I’ll get a tattoo for my 20th birthday, next year in February,” she added.
Lin is one of 123 competitors from 28 different countries teeing up at Yalong Bay Golf Club, which has held 15 professional tournaments over the past 15 years. It is hard to believe that the defending champion is still a teenager as she prepares to play in the event for the sixth consecutive year.