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Originally published Sunday, April 21, 2013 at 8:43 PM

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From China to Seattle, UW women's golfer Ying Luo has thrived

Luo has the third-best average for UW this year and a perfect 4.0 grade-point average after making an enormous transition from her hometown of Shenzhen.

Seattle Times staff

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Ying Luo's transition from China to the University of Washington women's golf team has been an A+.

Literally.

Luo's grade-point average after two quarters is 4.0. On the golf course, she moved right into the team's starting lineup and will be counted on again this week as the Huskies open play Monday in the Pac-12 championships in Valencia, Calif.

Ask coach Mary Lou Mulflur about Luo, and you will need a few minutes because the coach can't say enough about her.

"She's just an absolute joy," Mulflur said.

Luo said there are three other players from mainland China playing Division-I women's golf in the U.S., but that Duke freshman Yi Xiao is the only one who, like Luo, came to college here directly from China.

Mulflur marvels at how Luo "fell into our laps." Rather than Mulflur recruiting Luo, it was the other way around.

Luo wanted to come to the U.S. "because there is a better college system here in the United States, and the golf is better, too."

Luo, from Shenzhen in Southeast China near Hong Kong, knew some older students from her high school who attended UW, and she also knew Yifan Liu, who was on the UW men's team last year.

"I decided that Washington was the best fit for me, academically and for golf," Luo said.

Mulflur got a good report on Luo's game from Liu, and if Mulflur had any doubts, they ended the first time she saw Luo swing.

Mulflur was in China to see UW freshman Charlotte Thomas play, and Luo was playing in a tournament at the same complex.

"She has such a beautiful swing, and she handled herself well," Mulflur said. "I told her I didn't have any scholarship money, but that wasn't a problem."

Mulflur won't forget the day last summer when she picked up Luo from the airport — first because it was the afternoon the Mariners' Felix Hernandez threw a perfect game, and also because of Luo's reaction as they drove on the Alaskan Way Viaduct.

"She just beamed, and said, 'This is what I dreamed of,' " Mulflur said.

For Luo, coming here has been everything she expected. She said her biggest issue has been the language, although you wouldn't know it by speaking with her.

Luo said her parents were supportive of her leaving for college, and she was accustomed to being independent after traveling in other parts of the world for junior tournaments.

Luo has three top-12 finishes this season. Her 74.69 scoring average is third on the team among those who have played this spring, and is currently the 10th-best in school history.

She certainly would not have expected this when her dad first introduced her to the game as an 11-year-old.

"I thought it was boring for the first two years," she said.

That changed once she started winning tournaments.

Luo said she needs to continue to improve her short game, but she has been nothing short of perfect in class.

"I want to get into business school, and it's hard to get into, so I know I need to get good grades," she said.

Her dream is to one day run a professional tour event in Asia. She doesn't want to be a Tour player, however, saying, "I want golf to be fun," not a job.

A more immediate goal is the Pac-12 championship, and she and the team also have an eye on the NCAA championships next month. Washington was ranked No. 1 in the country after the fall season, but has slipped in the spring and is ranked No. 6 by Golfstat and No. 14 in the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings.

"I think the pressure of being No. 1 was hard," she said. "If you look at the very top teams in the country, they are more consistent. But when we are all playing well, we can beat any team. Our goal has been to be the best Washington team ever. The best finish (at the NCAA championships) for Washington is sixth, and we're trying to beat that."

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