‘I feel like I have the game to win,’ says big-hitting US teen golfer Angel Yin

Story highlights

Angel Yin one of longest drivers on tour

2017 was teenager's first full LPGA season

Women's game will get "longer and longer"

CNN —  

When Angel Yin first picked up a golf club aged six she’d never even heard of the sport.

That didn’t stop the young American immediately hitting the ball 150 yards and then making a pretty wise decision.

“I’m going to do this for the rest of my life,’ Yin told her mother Michelle Liu, dashing long-held hopes she’d learn the piano.

Thirteen years on, with a Solheim Cup win under her belt, how the fresh-faced teenager must be thankful.

“I don’t know why my mother listened to a six-year-old but that day she did,” Yin told CNN’s Living Golf. “I kind of knew ever since I was little that I was going to become a professional golfer.”

Precocious talent

Yin routinely hits the ball over 300 yards off the tee, sometimes booming drives towards the 350-yard mark, in what has been her first full year on the LPGA Tour.

Her vast potential and power has been evident from an early age.

In 2010, Yin won the first of two California State Women’s Amateur Championships a month after her 12th birthday – the same year she was youngest in the field at the US Women’s Amateur Championship.

At the 2013 Kraft Nabisco Championship, now known as the ANA Inspiration, she ranked second in entire field for driving distance aged 14.

Yin, who turned 19 in October, has averaged drives just over 272 yards in 2017 – only Lexi Thompson (273 yards), Joanna Klatten (278 yards) and Maude-Aimee Leblanc (279 yards) boast a higher average.

It has been a rapid ascent to the game’s top tier, but the girl from Monterey Park, California is just getting started.

“After I decided to turn pro I wasn’t nervous, I was just more pumped than anything!” she says.

“The LPGA is the best of the best in the world. I like competition, it makes you improve. Overall as a person I’ve grown – a lot. Learning from these girls, talking to them, traveling with them.”

Captain's pick Angel Yin says taking part in the 2017 Solheim Cup was "like a dream"

READ: Golf’s big hitter who’s also long on personality

With five top 10 finishes on the LPGA Tour already, Yin feels her game has got “less sloppy and more together” in the company of the very best, though acknowledges there’s no room for error.

“You can’t make mistakes out here,” she says. “You really can’t.

“My short game has been good but it’s still not tight enough. I should be better at it since I always hit it so long.”

Yin tells the story of playing a par five with a dogleg to the left in recent times where nobody else could carry the water.

“I got too excited and hooked it in the water that day, but still made birdie,” she recalls. “When I make a mistake, with my distance, I can make it up.”

‘Exhausting’ schedule

Yin calls the “weeks on the road” the toughest part of her step up to the pro ranks, noting she’s not stayed home for more than a fortnight all year.

“Every week’s a different hotel, a different place, the time change – it’s just exhausting!” she says. “You don’t get much sleep but you have to keep grinding.”

But with that intense schedule comes the opportunity to broaden horizons.

Yin has reveled in the LPGA’s move to host more events in Asia – the so-called “Asian Swing” included three tournaments in 2017 – and hopes to “take in more culture” going forward.

She feels women’s golf is going to get “longer and longer” and aims to be top 20 in the world next year, “playing on TV two times a week.”

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But don’t think Yin is the sort to sit back and think she’s made it.

“You kind of let a breath out, a little bit,” she says, looking back on her achievements. “But you have to get right back in. I’ve still got a lot of goals I haven’t reached.

“I feel like I have the game but I’m missing a lot of pieces – small pieces, not big pieces – to win.”