EVANS, GA – Siyun Liu spotted him about 100 yards away. As she walked through the airport terminal, her father was wearing a tournament polo shirt she bought him – and he was obviously waving. Embarrassing. Like any parent who wants to see their child.
“I saw it and I was just like, Oh my Gahhhhhd!Liu said blushing. “Typical parenting stuff, right?”
Except that this reunion was anything but ordinary.
Prior to this week’s Augusta National Women’s Amateur, Liu had not seen her father, Weiqing, for nearly 15 months, since the world was shut down due to COVID-19. In January 2020, father and daughter teamed up to have a lively race at the PGA Tour China Q-School, where Liu, then a senior at Wake Forest, was attempting to become the first woman to qualify for a sanctioned tour. round. (She later withdrew, hurt.) When they said goodbye that week, they planned to meet again in mid-February, at a college tournament in California. They didn’t know China was about to lock down.
And so for a year, Weiqing (nicknamed William) and his wife were practically confined to their home in Shanghai. Retired after working as a real estate investor, William, 55, was left only to collect groceries left outside the front door, waiting half an hour to pass in case the virus lingered on the bags.
Back in the United States, Siyun (nicknamed Swing) saw her short-term plans disrupted. She intended to complete her final season as the leader of the top ranked Demon Deacons and then try to navigate the LPGA Q-School, but both options were quickly ruled out.
Augusta National Women’s Amateur: open field scores | Full coverage
“It was definitely a mental breakdown for a while,” she said, “because you’re trying to prepare for so many different options and then life threw that at me.”
The NCAA has extended a lifeline for senior graduates, offering another year of eligibility. (The ACC would later cancel the fall portion of the 2020-2021 season.) With her career plans scrapped, Liu enrolled in a one-year master’s program studying business analysis. Instead of a summer filled with amateur tournaments and professional planning, she balanced early morning workouts and beach sessions with a hellish workload of 10 half-semester classes. It turned into a blessing: at least it occupied his mind.
After all, COVID isolation happens in different ways. Children couldn’t play with their friends. Grandparents could not visit their families. And an international college athlete like Liu – at 21, an adult but not yet independent – couldn’t return home because she feared she would be stuck there, far from her dreams, 7,500 miles away.
With the 12 hour time difference, they still video chatted every day for at least 10 or 15 minutes. “Seeing them face to face on screen on FaceTime, the emotional connection is still there,” she said, “but the physical part is a bit difficult. The biggest part is when I am sick and no one is there to take care of me. It’s when it’s like, Ahhhh, this is so bad!“
With a busy schedule and prohibitive travel restrictions, Liu has been through this entire super-season in Wake not knowing when she will see her parents next time. The separation was particularly difficult for William, who introduced Swing to golf at the age of 2, seeing it as a built-in excuse to spend time with family.
“I thought that as she got older she would have time to be with me,” he says. “If she comes to dinner, maybe it’s two o’clock and she’s going to leave.” But if we can play golf, then we have four or five hours together.
“It didn’t turn out as he expected,” Swing said with a laugh. William doesn’t play much golf anymore, but four or five times a year he will record the 3 hour trip to watch Swing play a tournament. “That way he’s still there,” Swing said. “All of the family time is still working.”
Ranked 56e around the world, Liu had qualified for the second annual Augusta National Women’s Amateur, but with the travel ban still in place and the family’s exemption request stuck in legal limbo, she couldn’t not counting on his father for the caddy like they had done. expected in 2020. Wake coach Kim Lewellen had agreed to carry the bag … until Augusta National intervened, helping to pass the travel waiver at the last minute. William was informed on March 18 that he had been authorized to travel. He went to the hospital for testing and tested negative about 24 hours before he left.
“It was really tight,” Swing said.
But it arrived last week in Greensboro, North Carolina, after previous stops in Seoul, South Korea and Detroit. The marathon trip did not dampen his enthusiasm – hence his delusional reaction at the airport.
“According to my dad, I didn’t seem as excited as I felt,” Swing said. “But I’m so excited. I couldn’t even fall asleep!
Due to quarantine rules, Swing dropped off his father at a Best Western near campus, where he slept out of jet lag and worked out with exercise bands and bounced off the walls. Cleared after three days, he stayed the next few nights at Swing’s apartment, crashing onto the sofa or taking the master bedroom if his daughter’s studies prevented him from sleeping too late. He spent the time cooking and cleaning the attic.
“She also has her own life,” he says.
They are not all together as a family, at least not yet, as Swing’s mother has remained in China. William booked a return ticket for August, as the return home would require a strict 21-day quarantine in which each entering passenger is tested for virus and antibodies upon arrival and then taken to a designated hotel, where he is. also responsible for selection. in the three week tab (about $ 1,500). “Yeah,” he said, shaking his head, “it’s not American 40s.”
And so, after more than a year apart, the father and daughter will spend at least the next four months together. They have a lot to catch up with, so many important moments to experience: the NCAAs. US Women’s Open Qualifiers. Q-School. And, of course, Swing’s first appearance here at the Augusta National Women’s Amateur, which kicks off Wednesday at Champions Retreat.
“It’s such a special place,” said William, proudly wearing his shopping cart bib. “And it’s really special that Augusta can make this trip possible so that I can be with my daughter.”
The objectives are quite well defined for the 82 competitors by invitation. They all want to be in the top 30 to compete in the third and final round on Saturday at Augusta National. Liu could even follow in the footsteps of the first champion, Jennifer Kupcho, her former Wake Forest teammate.
But that’s not what she thinks this week, with her father by her side.
“I never really thought about winning the tournament,” Swing said, “because it’s about to become a dream come true. Without this tournament, I didn’t know when I was going to see my family again. I just want to take advantage of the time that we can finally be together.