GOLD CANYON, ARIZONA – There’s a first time for everything. As an 18-year-old rookie making her first start as an LPGA Tour Member, Epson Tour graduate Xiaowen Yin came into the clubhouse after Friday's round tied for second place at the LPGA Drive On Championship. Yin shot 4-under on Thursday, following it up with a 67 on day two for a 36-hole total of 9-under par.
Yin will tell you that it should’ve been a 66, though. “I give myself like 99 (out of 100) today, except for that last hole,” she said.
Coming up the ninth fairway, the rookie from the People’s Republic of China was at 10-under after drilling a seven-foot putt on the par-5, 7th for her second eagle on the back nine. Looking to close out her day with sole possession of second place, Yin two-putted the final hole for a bogey. She was admittedly nervous on the last, but Yin is having the time of her life on the golf course right now in the position she’s sitting. “It's amazing. I never thought that I could play that well. Like for me, my goal is to make the cut this week,” Yin said.
“But, yeah, I had an awesome two rounds.”
As shocking as it is to see a rookie so high up on the board right away, Yin is no stranger to top-10 finishes in her career. On the Epson Tour, Yin finished in the top-10 seven times, including two wins at the FireKeepers Casino Hotel Championship and French Lick Charity Classic. The Epson Tour graduate finished second in the Race for the Card and earned the Gaelle Truet Rookie of the Year honors on the Epson Tour last season.
Her excellence on the Epson Tour last season helped Yin earn her LPGA Tour card, even giving her a boost of belief coming into 2023. “It gives me a lot of confidence that my hard work pays off,” Yin said.
The countless hours that go into mastering skills on the golf course is well documented, but Yin had help from one of her good friends and second-year LPGA Tour player Ruoning Yin in the arena of life on tour. They would play together in the People’s Republic of China in the offseason and Xiaowen would ask her more experienced friend “how it feels or how is the LPGA. We talked a lot.”
Yin is playing in a class of her own among the first-year players so far this week. Of the 24 rookies competing in this week's championship, Yin is one of only a handful of rookies projected to make the cut and is three strokes ahead of the next. Hae Ran Ryu, of Korea, is the closest to chasing down Yin at 7-under after rounds of 70 and 67.
Representing your class, especially in a position to win going into the weekend, can get the heart rate up a couple of notches. Even so, Yin’s only focus is on playing within herself and taking it one shot at a time.
“No pressure, just play my golf,” she said. “I hope I keep playing good the last two days.”