LEWISTON, N.Y. | Lei “Angelina” Ye arrived at this week’s Women’s Porter Cup riding a bit of a streak.
“It’s been a pretty good year so far,” she said, not giving herself as much credit as she should.
Ye, a 17-year-old from China who attends the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., won one of the American Junior Golf Association’s premier tournaments, the Annika Invitational, in mid-January, defeating Lucy Li, who is now the ninth-ranked player in the women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking and in 2014, at age 11, became the youngest woman ever to qualify for the U.S. Women’s Open.
With that victory Ye earned a spot in March’s Florida’s Natural Charity Classic, the season-opening tournament on the Symetra Tour, the LPGA’s developmental circuit. In her first start in a professional event in the States, she finished T7.
Sandwiched in between those two events, she flew to Singapore to play in the first-ever Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific Championship, where she finished T20.
In late April, Ye and fellow IMG Academy student Yachun Chang partnered in the U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship at El Caballero Country Club in Tarzana, Calif. They advanced to the final before falling, 1 down, to Katrina Prendergast and Ellen Secor.
“It was a completely new experience,” Ye said. “I kind of had no idea where we stood (throughout the championship). You know, it’s four-ball. But it was pretty cool to get into the finals. We shot 8 under the first day, and we were both just kind of like wow, we can really win this thing.
“And it was really special because I could afford to mess up on some holes because you have a partner there to pick you up. It was like this hole, there’s water down the left, but I can go for it in two, where I wouldn’t normally. If it worked out, perfect, but if it didn’t, I know (Chang) had me. I think I hit five drivers off the deck that week.”
Two weeks later, she qualified for her first major championship, the U.S. Women’s Open, after shooting 71-64 at TPC Prestancia in Sarasota, Fla.
At Shoal Creek, Ye shot 75-74 and missed the cut by a stroke. Still, it was a respectable showing for a rising high school senior. And she took a lot away from the experience, staying around for the weekend to watch the professionals play and see how they managed the 6,696-yard layout in Alabama.
“Actually, (I was) kind of really disappointed I didn’t make the cut because I bogeyed my last hole, so that stung, but it was really a great experience for me.”
Ye, who took up golf at age 6, played her first professional event, the Buick Ladies Invitational on the China LPGA Tour, as a 12-year-old. She finished tied for second.
“I was so young, I didn’t have any pressure, I didn’t have anything to be afraid of,” Ye said. “I didn’t have anything to worry about so I just played, and it was really, really great. I was only 12, but I took a lot away from that tournament.”
Less than a year later, as a newly minted teenager, she played in her first LPGA event, the Blue Bay LPGA on China’s Hainan Island, finishing well down the leaderboard in a tournament marred by multiple rain delays, shortened to 54 holes and concluded on Monday.
While living in China as a child, Ye always knew she wanted to go to college in the United States, but she only knew of a few schools – Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Stanford.
In first grade she decided she wanted to attend Stanford, and she verbally committed to that institution last November. She’ll start in Palo Alto, Calif., in the fall of 2019.
“When I came to the States, I found out that Stanford also had the best women’s golf team in the country, and their academics are amazing too, so that was a no-brainer for me,” she said.
After the Women’s Porter Cup, where she shot a 1-under 71 in the first round at Niagara Falls Country Club on Wednesday, she plans to play several other amateur and junior tournaments. She will seek to qualify for the U.S. Girls’ Junior and the U.S. Women’s Amateur, and will embark on the summer with confidence.
“After I missed the cut (at Shoal Creek) I went and watched some of the pros play and between them and me, it’s only a couple shots difference, and sometimes it’s just managing a situation,” she said.
“There’s no doubt in my mind, I’m right there when it comes to my game, and I accept that going forward.”