After walking on to the women’s golf team at Illinois, Siyun Liu finished the season as its No. 1 player. It was then that she decided she wanted to go to a team that could give her even more growth. Since transferring to Wake Forest, she finished runner up at the ACC Championship as a junior, had six top-10 finishes her junior year and finished in the top-25 in six of the seven events she played as a senior.
We spoke with Siyun shortly after the announcement that the rest of the NCAA golf season was cancelled, touching on her favorite things, how she spends her time outside of golf and how she feels about the season ending prematurely. Here’s what she had to say.
What is your favorite movie?
I’m a big fan of all Minion movies but I guess my favorite was Despicable Me 3
When you don’t know what music to listen to, who is your go-to artist?
I have a couple bands in mind actually – Of Monsters and Men and Mighty Oaks.
What is your favorite T.V. show right now?
It’s more a documentary than a TV show – BBC’s Seven Worlds One Planet is my absolute favorite right now.
If you were stranded on a desert island, what three things would you bring and why?
I am not the person one would want to be with on a desert island that’s for sure. My best guess is below:
● A knife -- to protect myself and to prepare food (possibly chop wood as well?)
● A magnifying glass -- to create fire so I can stay warm and cook food
● Something that I can use as a distillation kit (can be a pot with a lid and a small container to collect distilled water) to extract drinkable water from ocean water
Who is your favorite golfer and why?
Jordan Spieth because:
● He is entertaining to watch: I enjoy watching his reactions to his shots and how he communicates with them (my convos with my shots on course are kind of inspired by him)
● He is down to earth: he is always nice and sincere to people, and he always gives back to the community (with his family foundation, etc.)
How do you spend your free time outside of golf?
Reading. I’m a big fan of biographies and I recently picked up on a lot of feminist readings :)
Who is your biggest role model and why?
Related to the question above, my current role model is Melinda Gates. I admire the work she has done to empower women around the world. A lot of philanthropists have the money, but not a lot of them are willing to put the time and effort to personally connect with those they are trying to help. Melinda Gates, on the other hand, personally connected with the women deprived of power, and, as a result, was able to understand why there is a significant imbalance of power between genders (females are generally less powerful than males, just some areas more so than others) and provide effective support for these women. In her own words, “help women lift each other up.”
Growing up in China, I have witnessed the effect power inequivalence has on women in general: women’s voices are left unheard and survival in a world designed for (and by) men is incredibly hard. I am fortunate enough to be born and raised in Shanghai, where the power imbalance is less significant compared to the more rural parts of the country. But I have already witnessed the stigma placed on females, from the moment we start interacting with our communities. Girls have to carry the burden of so many more domestic responsibilities than boys; girls are expected to help prepare for meals while the boys are free to play; girls are expected to be more reserved and quiet while boys are free to express their minds; girls are supposed to stay inside (and do chores oftentimes) while the boys are encouraged to play sports. I cannot even begin to imagine what life is like for all the women in the far-stretched corners of China. So, I aspire to be like Melinda Gates when I have the ability one day, to give my fellow women their voices back, and to help them craft their future.
What is one thing that no one knows about you?
My life dream is to own a restaurant that serves wagyu beef.
It is heartbreaking to hear that your senior golf season has been cut short. Can you tell me your initial thoughts when you first heard the news? What feelings or emotions did you go through?
Everything happened so fast that I was not able to process it at first. Within an hour, I found out that the tournament we were playing at was canceled, that the ACC decided to suspend play, and finally, that the season was over. It was hard to wrap my head around the whirlwind of events. I remember pinching myself to wake up from this horrendous dream, but too bad this was the reality. I think I was too shocked to react for quite a bit and then I just started balling non-stop when I called my parents and the reality started to sink in. We are the best team in the country and on track to win a national championship title, and it is just devastating to see such an abrupt end to our season. I was especially shaken because my biggest goal coming into my last year at Wake was to help the team win the national title.
Winning a national championship, I believe, will be able to prove my point that Wake women’s golf is THE best team in the country, period. To have that opportunity taken away from me broke my heart. However, it also pushed me to think from a more futuristic perspective (because the future is now): indeed, winning a national championship is quite a statement about what we’re made of, but as is winning titles on the LPGA tour. Junior golfers and parents choose programs based on their visions of the future and how compatible the programs are with their visions. My best guess is that the three pillars of their selection are: 1) will this team set me (my child) up well for professional golf after graduation? 2) academically, will this institution broaden my horizon and open up new possibilities for my future beyond golf? 3) can I see the team as my second family and will my experience here build my character?
There is no ambiguity in the answers to the second and third questions because one, Wake is a top-notch academic school, and two, there is no one on the planet who is better than Coach Lewellen at making her players feel at home and establishing tight bonds. We, as current college golfers and future professionals, need to help the junior golfers answer the first question. My former teammate Jen Kupcho is excelling on the LPGA; if I can follow suit, I think we can send a powerful message to junior golfers that Wake Forest is the best place to prepare someone for whatever journey he/she chooses to embark on.
What is your greatest memory of the past 3 years spent as a Demon Deacon?
Winning the Darius Rucker couple weeks ago! Although I was unaware of it at the time, it is a great way to cap off my college golf career. Draining a 55-footer on my 17th hole with a big crowd cheering for me was also surreal :)
Another one is my hole out on my last hole of stroke play at national championship last year :)
You’ve had a very impressive career during your time at Wake Forest, with 3 top-5 finishes this season. Looking back on your time as a Demon Deacon, can you describe what it was like and what it taught you both on and off the golf course?
Being on the team here is like having a family away from home. We all spend so much time together and we practically talk about everything. I really appreciate how we are always able to have open and frank conversations and because of that, the amount of trust we have in each other is just amazing. Our trust for each other gives us a sense of safety during tournaments, knowing that my teammates will have my back even if I am struggling.
My time at Wake definitely taught me how to be a better team player in general. Since our groups are all together during tournament rounds, my teammates are able to see all my reactions to my shots. That being said, if I can exhibit more positive reactions, maybe my teammates watching me play will be more motivated since they know that I am playing well. On the flip side, I learned to hide my negativity when I am not performing well because again, my teammates will see what’s going on and the negative vibe can, in turn, affect their performance as well. In short, the biggest thing I learned is the importance of always staying positive, because the positivity will radiate and become reciprocal.
The same idea applies to any environment with a group or organization. The positivity (or negativity) I show will affect the people around me, and their action will in turn further give my day a positive/negative spin.
You started playing golf at Illinois. How did you choose to transfer to Wake Forest?
Wake is a perfect combination of excellent academics and top-notch golf. Academically, I really appreciate the small classrooms so the professors are very accessible, and it is easier to learn interactively. Along the same lines, the professors are more than happy to build personal relationships with students: I remember heading into my professors’ offices with questions from the class and leaving the office learning things completely unrelated to class. Golf wise, first off, the on-campus facility at Wake is simply amazing. To have a driving range where I can literally hit from anywhere within 5-minute walk from my classrooms is massive on multiple levels. 1) It saves a ton of traveling time, as a result, we can devote more time to productive practice and schoolwork. 2) With bent and Bermuda greens on-site, we are able to prepare for different types of courses. 3) The range allows us to practice shots from all the different lies.
Do you have any encouraging words to share to other fellow seniors who are no longer going to be able to finish their final seasons as a collegiate athlete?
This is not the end; this is just a (somewhat surprising) beginning to a more exciting chapter of our lives. Bigger and better things await.
Do you have any advice to share with aspiring female golfers who are just starting to play the game?
Golf is so much more than just a sport. It gives you a sense of belonging, it builds character, and it might break your heart sometimes; it is an epitome of life. A lot of times, I would ask myself, “Why am I doing this sport? Why is golf so hard?” But the solution is just to keep your head up and keep working hard. The amount of joy you get when you can see visible improvements is immeasurable.
What are some tips you can share with junior golfers who are getting ready to play college golf next year?
Time management is key! College is full of exciting things and it can be overwhelming, that’s why good time management skills can help you make the most out of your college experience.
What are your plans for after graduation?
Originally, I was going to turn pro right after graduation, but with the extra year of eligibility now, I am looking into the possibility of staying an extra year and pursuing a master’s degree at Wake. But everything is still up in the air right now.