By Kent Gray
Muni He was asked a grand total of three questions during a joint media conference with eventual champion Shanshan Feng on the eve of last year’s Omega Dubai Ladies Classic. Just 17 at the time and playing on a sponsors exemption teed up by Feng, it was very much the shy amateur apprentice being taught the ropes by a seasoned press room pro, no doubt in anticipation of the trainer wheels coming off soon enough.
He dutifully thanked all the right people for the invite and gave the only answer she really could when asked if the Rio Olympic Games bonze medallist sitting next to her was a role model. “Oh, 100 percent”.
Then came the inevitable question. When will you turn pro?
“That’s my ultimate goal in the future, but as of right now, I don’t really know exactly when, because I will be attending USC [University of Southern California] in the spring…and I really don’t know when I’ll feel like I’m prepared enough to be able to go to Q-School and then maybe like
Fast-forward 12 months and we have a definitive answer. The U.S.-based Chinese star, now 18, relinquished her amateur status overnight and will tee it up in her first round as a professional at 12.15am on Wednesday. He is grouped with Indian Aditi Ashok, already a three-time LET champion, and England’s Gemma Clews in a “teen sensation” threesome sure to attract the galleries.
With more than 100,000 followers on Instagram, He already has ample followers and new media fame likely to attract more sponsors exemptions, and financial, support as she begins her new career.
She also has serious game, highlighted as early as 2015 when she qualified for, and made the cut at, the 2015 U.S. Open in “probably the best week of my life”. She also finished a highly creditable T-30 as an amateur invite to the 2016 Reignwood LPGA Classic. He’s first goal as a pro will to be to survive the cut this week – she shot 76-76 last December to finish +8 – but regardless of her rookie bow, expect plenty of press conferences to come from the communications major.