By: Donna Spencer (Canadian Press)
Michelle Liu signed what could be the first of many autographs Friday after the 12-year-old golfer finished as the top Canadian in the national women’s amateur championship.
Liu earned an exemption into the LPGA Tour’s CP Women’s Open next month in Aurora, Ont., and intends to take advantage of it.
“Probably, yeah, I’m pretty sure,” the Vancouver pre-teen told The Canadian Press from Red Deer Golf and Country Club.
Liu, pronounced LEE-oo, will be the youngest golfer to play in the 47-year history of Canada’s women’s golf championship.
She’ll be 12 years, nine months and six days old when she tees it up in the first round Aug. 22 at Magna Golf Club.
“It feels like I’m onto another level in my golf game,” Liu said. “I really hope I get paired with someone who is like a really good golfer, so I can learn something from them at the Canadian Women’s Open.”
LPGA star Brooke Henderson of Smiths Falls, Ont., holds the record as the youngest to play in the Canadian Open after she qualified as a 14-year-old in 2012 in Vancouver.
Henderson is also the tournament’s defending champion having won it last year in Regina.
“I really look up to Brooke Henderson,” Liu said. “She’s Canadian and she’s such a great golfer.
“It also means a lot to me to play in a professional tournament, especially one that’s local to me on a national basis I guess. I think the Canadian Women’s Open is a benchmark for me because it’s professional.
“It’s not only a professional tournament, but also like a big tournament where lots of well-known players will be playing.”
Liu finished the 72-hole national amateur in a tie for 12th at 1 over par. She carded a 2-over 74 in Friday’s final round.
Among Canadians, her total was one shot better than Brigitte Thibault of Rosemere, Que.
“A lot of my friends are surprised and really supportive too and there was this other girl who came and asked me to sign her little flyer thing,” Liu said.
Brianna Navarrosa of San Diego, Calif., went 10-under to win the amateur, shooting 68 in the final round. She also earned an exemption to compete at the 2019 CP Women’s Open.
Liu bogeyed three of her first four holes, but composed herself to shoot 1-under the rest of the round.
“It didn’t start off that well, but I think I managed to keep my score low,” she said. “I just told myself if I can keep my score at three over, that’s still a good score for today.
“I just tried to make pars. Sometimes the ball would go in and I’d make a birdie. I just tried to keep it at three-over and then on the back nine there were some par-fives.
“I was able to hit it close enough that I could chip and putt and birdie both of those par-fives.”
Liu’s parents Jenny and Jian don’t golf, but their daughter took up the sport at age six.
Her older sister Lucy was interested in the sport, so the sisters attended a summer golf camp.
Liu, who turns 13 in November, will start Grade 8 after the CP Women’s Open.
She won’t be the youngest to ever play in a national championship on the LPGA Tour.
American Lucy Li qualified for the U.S. Women’s Open as an 11-year-old in 2014.
Li, still an amateur, went 4 under to tie for fifth in Red Deer.
Liu is scheduled to play in the 2009 Canadian Junior Girls Championship in Lethbridge, Alta.