Vietnam Native and USGA Rookie Ly Makes Round of 32 November 14, 2017 | Houston, Texas By Lisa D. Mickey

Truc (Kelly) Ly, a native of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, is a fan of 2017 U.S. Women's Open champion Sung Hyun Park. (USGA/Darren Carroll)

Golf is still an emerging sport in Vietnam, but Truc (Kelly) Ly was proud to be the only player from her country in this week’s 31st U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship.

Truc (pronounced true) was defeated, 7 and 6, in Tuesday’s Round of 32 by 2015 Women’s Mid-Amateur champion Lauren Greenlief, but it was nonetheless a milestone for Ly, who was competing in her first USGA championship.

“Today, I didn’t give her a competitive match, but I’m really proud of myself just for getting through stroke play and qualifying for match play,” said Ly, 26, who was born in Ho Chi Minh City and now lives in Newport Coast, Calif.

“I’ve played in match play with a teammate, but this was the first time by myself, and I was really nervous,” she said.

Top athletes in Vietnam often gravitate to competitive badminton, a popular high-energy racket sport that can pack stadiums in Southeast Asia. Ly was influenced by her father, who took up golf and encouraged his sports-loving daughter to give it a try.

“I took lessons and after only three days, I really loved it,” she said. “Now I play five days a week.”

But according to Ly, golf is still a sport that “not everyone can play” in her homeland.

It’s growing really fast right now, but it’s an expensive sport,” said Ly, who is a shareholder in her father’s company, which produces animal and poultry feed in Vietnam and Cambodia.

“A lot of older women are now playing golf, but they’re starting to have more tournaments for amateurs and juniors,” she added.

Ly moved to California at age 15 for high school. She wasn’t ready to play college golf, but she continued working on her game – even spending a year at the IMG Academy. The California climate allowed her to play golf year-round, so she and her father stayed in the United States while her mother remained in Vietnam.

She later enrolled at Chapman University in Orange, Calif., where she earned a degree in international business in 2015.

Two years ago, the Korean LPGA (KLPGA) brought a tournament to Vietnam and invited five top Vietnamese female amateurs, including Ly, to compete in the event.

“There aren’t that many of us who play golf really well, but I got to play in that tournament,” she said. “To get to see the real professionals, it opens your eyes.”

The highlight of the KLPGA event was meeting Sung Hyun Park, of Korea, whom Ly says she “idolizes because of her good swing.”

When the LPGA Tour held events in California this year, Ly followed Park on the course for three days at both the Kia Classic and the ANA Inspiration tournaments.

When Park won this year’s U.S. Women’s Open Championship at Trump Bedminster Golf Club in New Jersey for her first major, Ly was glued to her television in California.

“I was so happy that she won,” said Ly, who also follows American LPGA star Lexi Thompson.

Ly pays close attention to several American players with Vietnamese heritage. LPGA player Briana Do of California is currently No. 441 in the Rolex World Rankings, while Lilia Kha-Tu Vu of Fountain Valley, Calif., is No. 2 in the Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking.

Vu reached the semifinals of the 2017 U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship before losing, 3 and 2, to Albane Valenzuela of Switzerland.

The emergence of Vietnamese-American players on the global stage was pioneered by Leta Lindley, who won one event and posted 33 top-10 finishes in an LPGA Tour career that ran from 1995 to 2012.

Ly hopes to turn professional in the future, and she plans to continue working toward that goal with teacher Bill McKinney at Shady Canyon Golf Club in Irvine, Calif.

“I learned a lot here this week and this will make me a better player,” said Ly. “But there are so many great players out there and I still have a lot to learn and a lot of practicing to do.”

Ly plans to try to qualify for more USGA championships in 2018, including the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur, with the ultimate goal of someday winning a USGA event.

“Maybe next year,” she said with a smile.

Lisa D. Mickey is a Florida-based freelance writer who frequently contributes to USGA websites.

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