Georgia’s Jenny Bae, Oregon’s Cynthia Lu back for more this spring
Both Jenny Bae and Cynthia Lu called it a good problem to have. Yet, they were still faced with a conundrum, nonetheless.
Bae, a senior at Georgia, and Lu, an Oregon junior, advanced to the LPGA’s Q-Series last November, but to compete, new rules stipulated that they turn professional and forfeit the remainder of their college eligibility.
So, the question was: Would they take the next step in pursuing their professional dreams? Or put that quest on hold for one more semester and chase an NCAA title with their teammates?
Bae, a two-time All-American honorable mention, was the scoring-average leader (72.59) for a team that reached the NCAA quarterfinals, and she is currently ranked third in the country individual per Golfstat. Lu was a second-time All-American last season, winning the Pac-12 medal before leading the Ducks to a national runner-up finish to Stanford at Grayhawk.
Both players have impressive credentials, and surely would have a shot at finding quick success as professionals.
But ultimately, neither decided that they couldn’t wait to join the play-for-pay ranks.
“Why wouldn’t she?” Georgia head coach Josh Brewer replied when asked why Bae should stay. Brewer said that Bae showed her dedication via a conversation with her coaches over the summer, and she promised that no matter what happened with Q-Series, she would return for the spring semester.
Brewer made it clear that Bae had the freedom to choose otherwise, but even after Bae got through second stage and she needed time to re-think her plans, she kept her word.
Bae’s decision came down to the realization that she wasn’t quite ready to compete against the pros. She noticed at the first two stages of Q-School that the pros overcome mistakes more quickly, and while her work ethic isn’t an issue, she also needed more time in school improving her shot game and lag putting.
Plus, it’s not like she would be left empty-handed should she give up playing in Q-Series; she and Lu will have Epson Tour status this year, and they’ll be able to compete as amateurs before turning pro in May.
Lu’s future was arguably more uncertain than Bae’s when she punched her ticket to Q-Series.
“How much more can I learn from college?” she would ask herself during the process.
But Oregon head coach Derek Radley stressed the importance of open and honest conversation, and that’s what Lu gave him, first letting him know her Q-School plans and later giving him the news that she would be remaining a Duck for at least one more semester.
“I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to play in LPGA Q-School, Stages I and II, because it highlighted certain areas of my game that still need work before I turn professional,” Lu said shortly after making the decision. “… I am so excited to play this upcoming spring season with my team.”
Lu said she’d seen some of her friends struggle initially after turning professional, so she wanted to make sure she was as prepared as possible before making the leap. Even through playing Q-School, Lu saw how different professional life was, and on the course, she discovered that her course management could benefit from a few more months in college – or more; she’s yet to decide whether she will come back for her senior year.
Radley likes to brag about Lu’s maturity. He often shares the story of how Lu, after winning the Pac-12 title, wrote thank-you notes to each member of the tournament and course staffs.
Brewer and the Bulldogs have nicknamed Bae, “The Market,” because she always keeps a variety of snacks in her golf bag, including chewy Nerds. Bae embraces the nickname; she loves her team more than anything. Lu would say the same about her teammates, and she was excited for the pre-spring season retreat.
Bae and Lu have tremendous talent, skills that would easily translate to the next level right now, but neither were ready to give up the opportunity of being on a team.
“We are always there for each other in the good times and the bad,” Bae said.
Bae wasted no time adding to the good times by finishing second and leading the Bulldogs to a spring-opening third-place finish at the Guadalajara Collegiate Invitational. (Lu and Oregon kick off their spring Sunday at the Therese Hession Regional Challenge.)
“Jenny continues to show that she’s not only one of the best players in the country, but she’s one of the best players in the world,” Brewer said. “Days like today are why she came back. She wants the opportunity to lead us to an amazing spring to wrap up her college career.”