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Amateur Michelle Xing, 15, wins PGA Women’s Championship of Canada, breaking a tournament age record

Michelle Xing, 15, is the 2024 PGA Women's Championship of Canada champion. (Photo: Courtesy PGA of Canada)

By Lorne Rubenstein. Read more on ScoreGolf.

The PGA Women’s Championship of Canada is big. Only the CKPC Women’s Open is more significant when it comes to the women’s game in this country, with the Canadian Women’s Amateur right there too.

Michelle Xing won the 54-hole championship Friday at TPC Toronto’s Heathlands course, shooting 70-64-70 for a 9-under par total of 204. The apparel company ORORO sponsored the tournament. Xing will turn 16 July 24th. She’s the youngest winner in the tournament’s history, breaking the record previously held by Brooke Henderson.

“I was trailing by two after 14 holes,” Xing, who lives in Richmond Hill, Ont., said over the phone while on her way to a dinner that she was sure to enjoy.

But four holes later, she had turned things around and won by two shots over fellow Team Canada member Katie Cranston, also an amateur. Josee Doyon finished three shots behind Xing. She was low pro and took the $15,000 first prize. Xing and Cranston earned exemptions into the CKPC next month in Calgary.

Xing had what she called a “tough” lip out for birdie on 14, and was getting a bit discouraged being unable to make up any ground on Doyon, the player she’d fallen two shots behind and with whom she was playing. The putts hadn’t been dropping, she said.

But, she added, her sister Sarah, who was caddying for her, kept her calm. Sarah is 12. “She played a big part in helping me,” Michelle said.

Michelle parred 15, and then came a significant moment on the par-3 16th.

“I hit a bad tee ball and then I didn’t hit a great chip. I had to chip again, and that also wasn’t very good. But I made a good save from nine feet for bogey,” Xing said.

Now she was a shot behind Doyon as they played the par-4 17th. Doyon hit a poor tee shot, took an unplayable lie penalty, and ended up double-bogeying the hole against Xing’s par. Xing was up by a shot playing the par-4 18th. She had a putt of some 25 feet for birdie. Doyon was outside her and missed her birdie putt. Xing had two putts for the win. She holed her birdie putt to win by two.

The Xing sisters — Sarah 12, and Michelle, 15 — had a memorable week at TPC Toronto at Osprey Valley. (Photo: Courtesy PGA of Canada)

Xing is an honorary junior member at Maple Downs Golf and Country Club. Lauren Zaretsky, an honorary member there as well, won the 2021 Canadian Women’s Amateur. I’m also an honorary member, so there’s that extra dollop of pride that I feel. Norm Mogil, the 1962 Canadian Junior champion, has long been a club member. He often sees Xing on the short game area.

There’s something appealing in picturing an 80-year-old former national junior champion practising in the same short game area as a 15-year-old soon-to-be national PGA champion. Two golfers trying to improve their short games, separated by 65 years and a common interest.

“I’m really grateful to have a chance to play and practise at Maple Downs,” Xing said of the honorary junior membership.

Xing started golf when she was eight-and-a-half years old. She works with swing coach Dong Hee Lee. He works out of the Cardinal Golf Club in King, Ont., during the season and has his own instructional facility during the off-season.

“We mostly work on maintenance,” she said, and that’s understandable when one examines her fluid, elegant swing. “It’s just small tweaks, maybe like a slight grip change which will affect my ball flight.”

Mike Moniz, the pro at Maple Downs, spoke with Xing during the interview process for her honorary status. He’s been following her progress. She’s won multiple tournaments this season.

“You can immediately notice she is committed to golf,” Moniz wrote in an e-mail. “It shows through the amount of time she dedicates to practice her short game. Michelle is very soft-spoken and seems like the type of person who remains level-headed through a round of golf.”

It took that kind of steadiness to cope with being a couple of shots down with those four holes to play, especially when things didn’t appear to be going her way.

“Yes, I was two down with four holes to go, but four holes are still four holes.” She wasn’t out of time.

Now she has quite a tournament schedule in front of her. She’ll play the U.S. Junior Girls at El Caballero Country Club in Tarzana, Calif., which starts July 15. She’ll play the following week’s CKPC Women’s Open at the Earl Grey Golf Club in Calgary. Then comes the Canadian Women’s Amateur at Royal Colwood Golf Club in Victoria, starting July 30th.

“Golf is a very difficult game,” Xing answered when I asked her to elaborate on her love of it. “Every course plays so different, and then there’s the mental side of things.”

And, finally, speaking of her performance at TPC Toronto.

“It’s been such a fun week,” she said.

And a week of superior, winning play.

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