|Liu Wenbo [China News Service]|
Teenage prodigy dreams of gold after mom had to settle for silver
Golf can be a lucrative career for those that manage to reach the sport's top echelons, but it's Olympic glory not the LPGA's riches that tops teenage prodigy Liu Wenbo's list of ambitions.
At the 2016 Rio Games, Feng Shanshan pocketed China's first Olympic medal in the sport－a bronze－and now a new generation of golfers are being inspired to follow Feng onto the podium.
However, Liu's Olympic ambition burns brighter than most because of her family upbringing. Liu's mother, Cui Yongmei, was a star player on the great Chinese volleyball teams that competed at the 1988 Seoul and 1996 Atlanta Games, while her father, Liu Feng, is a former professional handball player.
"My mom participated in two Olympic Games and she came back with a silver and a bronze, so I dream one day I can win an Olympic gold and achieve what my mom did not. It would complete both our dreams," Liu told China Daily on Thursday at Orient Xiamen Golf & Country Club, where she is competing at the Macalline Women's China Open.
"Although I might not be able to play at the Tokyo Olympics next year, I'm still young and I will have many chances to fulfill that dream.
"For me, winning an Olympic gold is the most important goal of my professional career. Of course, I want to win as many championships as I can. But if I had to choose one, my dream has always been the Olympic gold."
Liu, who is a member of China's reserve Olympic squad, is already accustomed to doing her country proud, winning an individual silver and a team bronze at the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia.
Cui is proud of her daughter's lofty ambitions, but also realizes they will not be easily achieved.
"Because of her living environment with us, she has always thought highly of Olympic gold," said Cui. "We did not win gold because our generation faced a very strong Cuban team, but our country has a strong tradition in women's volleyball. Golf, however, is still in its infancy in China, and it's not easy to win.
"The journey of being a professional golfer is also very different from being a volleyball player. In volleyball, the coach, team leader and supporting teams take care of everything, but many golfers must make those arrangement all by themselves."
Liu turned professional in September 2018 and admits that adapting to the pro ranks has been tough. A tie for second at last year's Buick LPGA Shanghai has been a rare highlight of the youngster's fledgling career, but, typical of her fighting spirit, the hard slog is making her even more determined.
"My mentality has changed since I turned pro," said Liu. "Playing golf has become a serious career for me, and I take the results of each tournament very seriously. So I feel a lot more pressure. I overthink sometimes, which has affected my performances this year.
"I need to improve both my skills and mentality, and I think to have a more stable mentality is more important for me now. During the first half of this season, I always thought too much about my ranking points and other issues, but I feel like I've been better in the second half."
Liu has now set her sights on joining the Symetra Tour in the United States－a possible pathway to the LPGA Tour.
It's a plan that has got mom's seal of approval.
"Golf is not my profession so I cannot give her too many suggestions on how to play the sport," said Cui. "Also, it's very hard to coach your own daughter. She always just considers you as her mom instead of a coach.
"But I think the experience in the US will be very valuable for her growth. Since she turned pro, her mentality has changed, wanting to win too much. She is facing difficulties now and the pro career is much tougher than she expected, but I believe she will make it through."
(Source: China Daily)
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