Yani Tseng, 15, of Chinese Taipei, defeated defending champion Michelle Wie, 14, of Honolulu, Hawaii, 1 up, to win the 2004 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship at Golden Horseshoe Golf Club’s Green Course in Williamsburg, Va. With her victory, Tseng became the second player from Chinese Taipei to win the WAPL, joining Candie Kung (2001). Tseng, who now resides in Orlando, Fla., spent 103 weeks between 2011 and 2013 as the world’s No. 1 player. She also became the youngest golfer – male or female – to win five major championships, the first coming at the 2008 McDonald’s LPGA Championship when she was 19. Tseng, now 25, owns 15 LPGA Tour victories.
What did winning the WAPL mean to you?
That is one of my best memories as an amateur and I feel that it gave me lots of confidence for the future. After that tournament, I thought, I can really play! I can even win a tournament in the United States. I didn’t really know how big golf was here. I lived in [Chinese Taipei] and came here every summer and played in USGA events and tried to qualify for the U.S. Women’s Open. When I won the WAPL, it was an amazing journey. There were so many spectators and so many people came out and supported an amateur tournament. I never saw that big of a tournament in my life, and especially playing with Michelle Wie. That is one of my best memories, too. I played a great round – really, 36 holes – with her and I had lots of fun. It’s a very cool memory.
You were 15 years old and Michelle was the defending champion trying to win her second WAPL. What is your most vivid memory from that championship week?
I think every match was very important for me. The one with Michelle was one of the best. It was so dark at the end. I said to myself, just finish these couple of holes; don’t stay here too long so you don’t have to come back. That year, I learned so much, and playing with Michelle, I learned, too. The crowds and all the spectators were bigger than I expected. I knew they were not following me, but I didn’t care. At first, only my friends were following me, but it was still very cool. I ner evsaw that many people in my life. I was really excited and a little nervous [about the gallery]. I really love for people to come out and watch us.
In the championship match, Wie took a 2-up lead after the morning 18, but you came back in the afternoon and eventually squared the match going into the par-5 36th hole. You both hit your second shots into greenside bunkers and both of you had birdie putts. Do you remember your 12-foot birdie putt to win the championship?
Of course. It was a little uphill and the putt was inside right. Before that, I [blasted] out of a bunker, but I wasn’t thinking too much. I thought if I didn’t make it, we would just go play off. I wasn’t thinking, I have to make this. I just played one shot at a time. Before this tournament, I wasn’t expecting to even be in the finals. I mean, Michelle had more pressure than me.
When you won that WAPL, you became the second-youngest player behind Michelle Wie to win the championship, and you also became the second player from Chinese Taipei, behind Candie Kung, to win. How cool was that?
It was an honor to be another player to win [from Chinese Taipei]. And she [Candie Kung] is from my hometown. Now, we are on the [LPGA] Tour and are good friends and she takes care of the young players. We hang out together a lot. I like to be with people from my hometown when I’m on the [LPGA] Tour. It’s kind of lonely sometimes. But after that win, we talked about that, too. She was very excited for me.
Do you still stay in touch with anyone you met at the WAPL?
Yes, of course. I played with Inbee [Park] that year and beat Inbee. After that, someone from her family told me I was putting really well. Now we are both on the LPGA Tour. It’s kind of fun to see people I hung out with as amateurs and now everybody has turned pro. Now, it is very different. Inside the ropes, we all compete, but outside the ropes, we are all good friends.
Your golf career is full of milestones. Where does the WAPL title fit into your accomplishments?
This tournament gave me a start for everything. When I was 13, I went to the U.S. [Women’s] Open and I watched and said, I want to play this tournament. The next year, I came back and tried to qualify. After that, I came back [to the United States] every summer and played USGA events because I knew they were the biggest tournaments I could win as an amateur. You can learn from the other players and the USGA staff. They are just incredible and they really took care of me. Even now as a pro, I still know so many of the USGA staff and they remember me and have that memory when they followed me [at the WAPL]. I think that was one of my best amateur years to learn.
This is the last year for the WAPL. How do you feel about that?
I am going to miss the tournament a lot. I always try to watch the [U.S. Women’s] Amateur, too, but this is a great tournament. I heard there is going to be a new tournament (U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball), so I am pretty excited for it. There is great history in this tournament, and now we are going to have a different format, but I think people will still enjoy it.
Lisa D. Mickey is a Florida-based freelance writer whose work has previously appeared on USGA websites.