William and Mary's Liu shooting to qualify for Kingsmill as amateur

Contact Reporterkholtzman@vagazette.com

WILLIAMSBURG — It was only in the last year that Alessandra Liu's parents raised the subject to their daughter about her playing golf professionally.

But going pro was never part of the plan for the William and Mary senior, who will graduate Sunday with a degree in kinesiology before competing Monday in the LPGA qualifier for the Kingsmill Championship.

Liu morphed into one of the best golfers in William and Mary history and recently capped her college career by being named Colonial Athletic Association Player of the Year. That honor was a first for the William and Mary men's or women's program, as was Liu making the NCAA regionals. At the time she was selected for regionals, she was ranked 62nd nationally.

"Becoming this good was not expected," Liu said. "It just kind of happened …

"I want to play golf the rest of my life, but I guess not as a career. I want to be doing other things as well. Kind of like here (as a student) – I wasn't solely playing golf. I think I need that balance in life."

Still, Liu wants to see where golf can take her as an amateur and following Kingsmill, will compete to qualify for the U.S Women's Open and the U.S. Women's Amateur. Last year in a Pittsburgh qualifier for the Open, she lost in a playoff for the second alternate spot.

Liu plans to head home to Cynwyd, Penn., near Philadelphia, in June or July to start applying for jobs.

Last summer, the Phi Beta Kappa member volunteered at a farmer's market as well as Philadelphia-based Food Trust, a nonprofit that focuses on improving food access and nutrition education.

"I'm very passionate about nutrition and sustainable agriculture, and hunger," Liu said. "Ideally, I would want to work in that field."

Her post-college plans seem typical although her time in Williamsburg has been anything but. When she reflects on her career, it is hard to process her ascent to one of William and Mary's best ever golfers.

Liu finished her senior season with a 72.14 scoring average, nearly three strokes better than the school record she set last season. She had 20 rounds of par or better this season, more than the next two women on the school's career charts combined. That includes a program-record 65 (-7) at Pinehurst No. 1 in North Carolina, one of the top performances in college golf this season.

"I don't know if she improved skill-wise this year," William and Mary coach Ed Teer said. "I think she improved by confidence. I think she attacked courses more. She wasn't afraid to make birdies. She wasn't afraid to win."

Teer said Liu's consistency is the most remarkable thing about her game and that she rarely makes major mistakes.

Liu isn't exceptionally long on her drives, hits a lot of hybrids and fancies her short game. She is accustomed to nailing the fairway and is wary of coming too close to the thick rough on the River Course Monday, where her father, Grant, will serve as caddy.

"I really like the River Course," Liu said. "I like Pete Dye designs. It's one of my favorite courses playing in college, at all. We've traveled to a lot of different courses and I think River is one of my favorite. It's hilly, but I like hilly."

Liu earned one of only two amateur exemptions for the qualifier and must finish in the top-two in an ultra-competitive field of 62 to make the tournament.

William and Mary plays its home matches on the Plantation Course in the fall and the River in spring. The yardage for the Kingsmill Championship will be greater and the pin placement more challenging, though Liu has played the course on LPGA standards before and will get another practice round in Sunday.

"I really want to have fun Monday," Liu said. "And I know I can play well. I know I can do it. I just can't let the yardage get in my head because it is going to be a bit longer than what I'm used to and I can't let what the other players are doing get in my head …

"It will definitely be really different from what I'm used to. It will be a really cool experience, no matter what."

Holtzman can be reached by phone at 757-298-5830.

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