With one of the first swings of her life, China’s Ruoning Yin nearly ended her major-championship-winning career before it could begin.
Ahead of this week’s US Women’s Open, the newly minted KPMG Women’s PGA champion recalled the time her father took her and her mum to the driving range for the first time. It was 2006, and Ruoning was just 4, standing beside her father while he was showing her mom how to swing a club. In the moment, dad warned Ruoning to wait her turn, but the impatient youth had other ideas.
“He goes, ‘Don’t swing,'” Yin said. “I did one swing anyway, and I just hit his head and he got I think four stitches. It wasn’t very fun.”
The crisp contact kept her from the game until she turned 10½. Instead, Yin swam, ran and played basketball. It took Yin’s mum offering to take her to a movie if she signed up for a summer camp in China to give golf a second chance.
Three months later, the competitive bug returned. Ruoning’s dad took her to her first tournament, a 27-hole affair where Yin posted a 103-46 to finish in third place. After the event, she and her dad were preparing to leave until a tournament staffer told Yin she won a trophy, setting her on a path that led to the success she’s had in the first half of 2023.
After winning her first LPGA title in April at the DIO Implant L.A. Open, Yin claimed win No. 2 two weeks ago with a birdie on the 72nd hole at Baltusrol Golf Club.
“I think that trophy motivated me to chasing my dream,” Yin said.
Upon arriving at Pebble Beach, the 20-year-old Yin noting this isn’t her first time visiting the Monterey Peninsula. As a youth beginning in 2015, Yin participated in annual golf camps in the United States, including a trip to Pebble Beach eight years ago. Yin recalled hitting a 3-wood short on the famed par-3 seventh from how windy it was.
While practicing basketball twice as much as her golf at the time, Yin realized her 5-foot-2 frame wouldn’t quite lead her to turn pro on the hardwood. Acknowledging her love of competition led to a focus on golf.
Yin’s sudden surge is encapsulated by the calmness she tries to emulate from her NBA idol, Stephen Curry. Yin put that into practice at Baltusrol on the final hole, having heard a roar up by the green that was Yuka Saso making a birdie to grab the clubhouse lead. Undeterred, Yin concentrated on what she could control rather than what failure might lurk.
“I know, OK, maybe I’ve got a chance to make a birdie and close the game,” Yin explained. “Yeah, it happened.”
Armed with a mentality forged through the major fire, Yin is already planning on making a legendary career for herself. That, she explained, includes winning five majors. That’s rare company on the LPGA as only 16 players in tour history have reached that mark.
Yin also eyes surpassing her inspiration, Shanshan Feng’s 10 tour wins to become the all-time winningest LPGA player from China. Yin shows no exhaustion from the major victory as she’s maintained the same workout and practice routine this week. Drawing inspiration from other legends, Yin watched highlights of Tiger Woods dominant 15-stroke victory at Pebble Beach during the 2000 US Open.
It’s another mountain for Yin to climb in order to etch her name alongside legends of golf this week. Yet Yin’s presence displays self-belief in her ability and mentality to hold up under the duress of Pebble Beach.
“For me to be a major champion is pretty exciting, but that’s the past,” Yin said. “I’m looking forward for the next one.”