Skip navigation
Sign up to follow your favorites on all your devices.
Sign up

In memory of late grandfather, Lilia Vu wins LPGA’s highest honor: Player of the Year

NAPLES, Fla. – Lilia Vu finished shy of achieving the one goal she set for the week, winning the CME Group Tour Championship, but she did come away with something she’s had her sights on for much longer – Player of the Year.

“I think [it’s the] highest award for me to ever achieve,” Vu said on Sunday afternoon. “My goal throughout my entire life was to get Player of the Year.”

It’s the one award she’s wanted to win more than any other in her career, so much so, when asked earlier this week to share what it meant to her, she steered clear of an answer because she knew it would bring her to tears.

Sunday, the tears that Vu had been fighting off began to well up in her eyes as she spoke about earning the LPGA Tour’s top honor. She invoked her late grandfather, Dinh Du, who built a boat and fled Vietnam to provide a better life for his family, and who has served as an inspiration this season.

“He went away a month at a time to go build this boat, right? He was just quietly hard working. I think I’m kind of the same way,” Vu said about her grandfather. “I’m not very vocal with what I do. I kind of just write my goals and put it away. I don’t openly say all the stuff. I wait until I achieve them. I think I have that same hard-working passion my grandpa does.”

Vu came into the season with no expectations and small goals, the first being to win one tournament. Her relaxed mindset quickly yielded results with a breakthrough victory at the Honda LPGA Thailand in her first start of the season in February.

“I think that just really helped me trust myself more. I know I feel like when I was at that tournament on the last day shooting really low, I wasn’t thinking about winning,” Vu said. “Last year I played golf with a lot of worry. I just was worried about everything. When you’re worried about making the cut, you tend to miss the cut, but if you try to win the tournament, you will be fine and won’t miss the cut.”

Two months later she outlasted Angel Yin in a playoff to win her first major title at The Chevron Championship. Vu won her third title at the AIG Women’s Open, where she became the first American since Juli Inkster in 1999 to win two majors in a season. The 26-year-old racked up her fourth win of the year at The Annika, the week before the Tour Championship, which gave her the edge in the Player of the Year points standings. Vu is the first American to earn the season’s top honor since Stacy Lewis in 2014.

Vu came into the finale with a 27-point lead over Celine Boutier in the Player of the Year race, but the outcome hinged on how the two performed during the Tour Championship. Boutier, who also won four times this year, including a major, needed to win again to have a shot at overtaking Vu. But the Frenchwoman tied for 16th. Vu, meanwhile, went 66-65 over the weekend to finish fourth. Vu secured not only the Player of the Year award for the first time in her career, but also the money title with more than $3.5 million in official earnings.

Sunday, Vu came off the 18th green and upon learning she’d been named Player of the Year she immediately began talking about her grandfather, what he meant to the week, and to her season. She didn’t know exactly what he would say to her about her incredible year, all she could think about was the last thing he told her: “Try your best.” Vu will end her season recognized as the best in the women’s game as not only the Player of the Year but as No. 1 in the world.

“I always think about him. He’s always next to me,” Vu said about her grandfather. “I think he would be really proud.”