In Women’s Golf, Virus Upends the Typical Paths to a Pro Career


Siyun Liu of China, ranked No. 21, played as one of the higher ranked international players in the field. A senior at No. 1-ranked Wake Forest, she faced a sudden decision to stay in the United States or go home to China when her college season ended abruptly in March. Without a conference or N.C.A.A. championship to play for, Liu decided to stay in the United States, playing Woodmont with her college coach, Kim Lewellen, caddying.

Liu, who had been invited to the canceled Augusta National Women’s Amateur, is one of three international players on the Wake Forest team who stayed in the United States. Her teammate Vanessa Knecht of Switzerland played in the U.S. Women’s Amateur, where Lewellen has operated as a coach and filled a parental role. She regularly picked up groceries and toiletries for Knecht, who has no car in North Carolina. She made meals, helped players move in and decorate their apartments, and provided guidance. “Siyun now won’t see her family for well over a year,” Lewellen said.

As with Ruffels entering the Jacksonville Amateur, the disrupted schedule forced the Wake Forest team into a mix of homebound routines and makeshift schedules to stay sharp and find competitive reps before this summer stretch. Emilia Migliaccio, at No. 4 the highest ranked player at the U.S. Women’s Amateur, had not picked up a weight in four months and only did body weight workouts at home before the event.

Rachel Kuehn, the player who entered the tournament in perhaps the best form after a successful summer, found TikTok notoriety for indoor chipping videos. Lauren Walsh, who flew home in March at the start of the pandemic and did not come back this summer for the Women’s Amateur, set up a temporary practice facility in her garden in Ireland.

The PGA Tour and other professional men’s tours went on hiatus and then resumed with guaranteed opportunities to play and earn income. The U.S. Women’s Amateur was full of players discovering if there is still a path to a pro career; the evaporation of playing opportunities for women has had a drastic impact on the process, to the point where it is believed that players in the lower pro and amateur levels may abandon any pursuit of a golf career.

Liu and others are living in that decision. “She’s getting her master’s, and she’s very good in business analytics,” Lewellen said. “And if things don’t open up for her to be able to play at a professional level, I could see her veering off and going that direction.”



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