Yu-Sang Hou has an eagle eye on the women’s World Amateur Golf Rankings. The Arizona Wildcats sophomore keeps hitting the refresh button because she continues to dominate the competition.
Hou is currently the 44th-ranked amateur in the world, but she’s climbing the list quicker than most of her peers.
“I’m refreshing it every week,” Hou said. “I played really good ... so I was like ‘I might move up.’”
At the Northrop Grumman Regional Challenge, Hou picked up right where she left off in the fall, finishing in a tie for second. It was her second top-two finish in as many appearances.
Back in November, Hou paced her teammates en route to an Arizona victory at the Pac-12 Preview, where she also clinched a share atop the individual podium.
Hou’s impact at Arizona has been undeniable, but it almost never came to fruition.
“I actually wasn’t considering coming to college,” Hou said. “I was going to turn pro when I was 18.”
Hou’s path to the professional ranks changed, however, when she traveled to the United States in 2016 to compete in an international tournament in Georgia.
That’s where she was introduced to UA head coach Laura Ianello; from there, the relationship blossomed. Ianello and her staff soon identified Hou as a top international prospect, and were determined to land her.
“They just never stopped recruiting me,” Hou said.
Hou had never been to Arizona, but as soon as she took a visit to the desert, she was convinced that she had found her new home. Whether it was the program’s storied history, or the vibe she got from the players already on the team, Hou was excited to venture off outside of her hometown in Taipei, Taiwan.
“That’s why I decided to come to U of A,” she said. “It’s such a good school, perfect weather and a really great team.”
Initially, the transition to life in the United States was overwhelming. Hou arrived on campus in Spring 2018 and joined her teammates on the golf course almost immediately. Hou wasn’t completely confident in her ability to speak English.
“It was hard because at first I needed to translate it in my head and then speak it, so I was kind of slow,” she said.
Hou was resilient in her efforts though, and her talent on the course helped ease any difficulties off it.
Next thing she knew, Hou was contributing to a team primed for a run at a national title.
“It almost happened too quick,” she said. “It was my first semester. I had no idea what was going on here.”
Hou didn’t shy away from the opportunity. Instead she embraced the moment and tried to make her situation feel as normal as possible.
“I was just like ‘OK, try to focus, don’t be stressed,’” she said. “We never really thought we were going to win. We were just like we’re going to play shot to shot and do the best we can.”
When Hou’s teammate, Bianca Pagdanganan, nailed an eagle putt on the 18th hole in last year’s NCAA Tournament, sending the Wildcats into a playoff before clinching the title, the mood instantly changed.
“Bianca’s putt literally just saved our team,” Hou said. “Then our team vibe was like, ‘Come on! We can do this!’”
Hou has since placed an emphasis on playing smarter, and staying relaxed when things go awry.
“Right now, I’m working to become more consistent, and make myself more calm on the golf course,” she said. “You have so many shots in golf, so you can’t just be super angry at one shot because there’s more shots coming.”
Hou certainly has plenty of shots left in her career, but how many of those shots will be taken in an Arizona uniform? Hou’s primary goal has always been to turn pro.
Finishing in the top five in the collegiate individual rankings would make Hou’s decision to forgo her final two years of eligibility that much easier because it would guarantee her a chance to earn professional status, but there’s another variable carrying enormous weight in her decision.
Hou’s younger sister, Vivian, has signed to play at the UA next season.
“I only gave her two options — go pro or come to U of A,” Hou said.
Regardless of what the Hou sisters decide, they’ll have the chance to play alongside each other one more time at the Inaugural Augusta Women’s Challenge at Augusta National Golf Club in early April.
Competing among the 70 other top amateur players in the world, Hou is thrilled to share the field with her little sister. Even if Vivian got the call before she did.
“When she received the invitation, I was home and I was like ‘Oh no, where’s mine,’” Hou said. “I had almost given up hope of getting into that tournament.”
“It was the last few spots ... after I got a call, I was so excited, but I thought it was a prank.”
Hou can smile now about her extra-long wait. Everything she’s ever wanted is starting to fall into place.