It wasn’t long ago that Lilia Vu considered life outside of golf, as during her rookie season on the LPGA, when she made just one cut in nine starts and took home a whopping $3,830 in prize money.
But the year 2023 has been transformative for the former UCLA star, a year that has seen the potential she exuded during an amateur career that included World Amateur Team Championship, Curtis Cup and Palmer Cup titles bubbling to the surface.
Vu kicked things off with a win in her second start of the season at the Honda LPGA Thailand, then cashed in at the year’s first major, the Chevron Championship in Houston, winning a playoff and taking home a check for $765,000. She didn’t stop there, added 2023 AIG Women’s Open at Walton Heath Golf Club near London, which also brought another huge payday.
Vu returns to action this week at the CPKC Women’s Open in Vancouver, Canada, and with a pair of major titles under her belt, she revealed a small glimpse of the spoils a successful year has brought her.
For example, after conquering the second major, Vu is now in the market for… a cat.
That’s right, according to a deal she made with her father after winning the Chevron, Vu is now looking to add a feline companion to her team.
“I still feel like me. I feel like nothing has really changed. The only thing is my dad tried to bribe me. He basically said if I won another major we can get a cat, so it I’ve been looking,” explained Vu. “(It was) a deal before the major, so I’ve been looking at cats, kittens.”
Vu, who made just one cut during his rookie campaign and then spent the next two seasons working on the Epson Tour, became the first American to win two majors in one season since 1999 and has since risen to No. 1 in the world rankings .
“I definitely think it’s different. I think I can look at golf in a different way now and just have fun and know that my game is good enough to be out here and just keep doing what I’m doing,” Vu said. “I don’t know if I’ll ever feel like I deserve (to be No. 1), but I know I’ve put in a lot of work and I found that my game works best when I’m fun and just doing my thing and not thinking too much about it. Just playing one stroke at a time and knowing I can win.”
After last week’s ISPS Handa World Invitation drew a weak field, this week’s event at Shaughnessy Golf & Country Club features 14 of the 16 winners on the LPGA this season, including Canadian hero Brooke Henderson, who captured the event in 2018. Vu will be the couple. with Henderson and Nelly Korda on the first two days with the trio leaving at 13:21 local time Thursday.
Still, the tough competition won’t do much to scare Vu, especially since she’s still playing from a house money perspective. Sponsors are starting to line up behind her now, but that wasn’t the case at the start of the season.
“I won my first two events without any kind of sponsorship. There are many options now, but I have my team that can handle it for me. It’s definitely been really cool and nice to see,” she said. “It is still a learning process. I have never been in this position. I really think if I keep everything the same it will be okay. I have a great team and they are there to help at any time.”