It took a while, but Lilia Vu finally won her first major at the 2023 Chevron Championship, beating Angel Yin in a playoff. Lilia was a highly rated amateur golfer when she turned professional in January 2019. However, she struggled to make an impact as a pro and almost left the sport. Lilia’s family encouraged her to keep playing, and in late April 2023, her refusal to give up paid off.
Lilia’s mother fled from Vietnam in a leaking and overloaded boat
Lilia Vu was born on 14th October 1997 to Kieu Thuy and Douglas Vu in Fountain Valley, California. She grew up alongside her brother, Andre Vu, also a golfer.
Kieu Thuy, Lilia’s mother, was born in war-torn Vietnam. Her father, Dinh Du, wanted a life of peace for his family. Therefore, he set about building a boat in secret that would ferry his loved ones to the United States.
“My dad said that we needed to get out of Vietnam to get a better life,” Kieu told GolfDigest. “We chose America, and luckily, we did it. My dad, he’s my hero.”
One day in 1982, Du revealed it was time to leave. As Kieu and her siblings ran through the forest to the boat, word leaked that some people were fleeing the country. The desperate situation in Vietnam motivated some residents to follow Du and his company. Du accepted all comers.
A vessel built to carry a maximum of 54 people left with 82 occupants. “He [Du] took them all,” Kieu said. Two days into the voyage, the overloaded boat sprang a leak. Du shot off a flare, hoping a passing vessel would rescue the doomed boat.
Luckily, the USS Brewton, an American vessel, saw the flare and rescued everyone on board. Du settled in California, thousands of miles away from his war-torn homeland. “My grandpa is the reason why I’m here,” Lilia said.
As Lilia considered quitting golf, Du was hospitalized due to heart complications. The last conversation Lilia had with Du encouraged her to keep playing. “The last thing he told me was to play my best,” Lilia said. “He’s in the hospital, thinking of me and my tournament.”
Lilia’s desire to honor her grandfather kept her composed during a tough Chevron championship. She stated: “Even today, I was getting really upset on the course. I just had to remind myself, like, grandpa is with you, and he’d be really disappointed if you were getting upset like this and that you didn’t get your act together.”
Lilia’s father was her golf coach from age 6 to her college debut
Lilia started playing golf aged 6, with her father, Douglas, coaching her. Douglas coached Lilia until she headed to UCLA for college.
He attends many tournaments, serving as Lilia’s advisor and motivator. Lilia credited Douglas for spurring her to victory at the Honda LPGA Thailand. Douglas reminded Lilia that one good round could lead to success, Lilia said.
Lilia’s father offered her similar advice at the Chevron championship. “I said keep your focus on the game,” Douglas said. “If you have [a] mid-60s [round], you may win.”
Lilia said Douglas and Kieu’s presence at golf tournaments motivates her to do well. “It means the world,” Lilia described winning in front of her parents. “I honestly want them everywhere whenever I play.”