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The Student News Site of Sunny Hills High School

The Accolade

The Student News Site of Sunny Hills High School

The Accolade

GAME BALL: Senior golfer wins 4th straight Freeway League MVP title; graduates early to play for Illinois in spring semester

Image used with permission from Yurang Li
Senior Yurang Li swings a golf wedge earlier this summer in the Girls Junior Americas Cup at Nk’Mip Canyon Desert Golf Course in British Columbia, Canada. Li has committed to play for the University of Illinois women’s golf team.

Girls golf became an official Freeway League sport in the 2015-2016 school year.

Since then, rival Troy High School’s athletes had won a majority of the league MVPs in this sport.

But that all changed four years ago when then freshman Yurang Li joined the Sunny Hills girls golf team and became the first Lady Lancer to earn the title.

And then she won it as a sophomore.

And again as a junior.

And for a record, fourth straight year as a senior.

Such an accomplishment was something that Li said she didn’t consider as a goal until after her sophomore year.

“After winning it twice, I remember having the thought that it would be really cool if I could win this like all four years,” said Li, who helped the Lady Lancers finish out this season in a tie for first place with Troy in the Freeway League.

After that, she placed third in individuals in the SoCal CIF regionals and ended tied for 16th at CIF state playoffs.

Besides this season’s accomplishments, Li was instrumental in helping Sunny Hills win the CIF Division 3 title in 2021, was named to the all-county team, placed third at CIF state playoffs and was declared The Orange County Register‘s Athlete of the Week twice.

Earlier in the fall semester, she committed to the University of Illinois, majoring in business and hoping to minor in kinesiology; for the fall semester of the 2023-2024 school year, she opted to enroll in the Fullerton Joint Union High School District’s [FJUHSD] online program, which she completed and will graduate high school after the fall semester ends so she can join the Fighting Illini’s women’s golf team in the spring.

“They offer all of the resources, facilities, coaches and teammates that will help me achieve success golf-wise and academically,” Li said about why she ended up choosing to play for a Big 10 school. “The goal is still to continue developing my golf game but to the next level. They don’t really do MVP titles in college, but the goal is to reach as high as I can.”

One of the team’s co-captains, junior Angelina Jeong, said she expects to see her former teammate continue to excel at the collegiate level.

“I am so excited for Yurang to play college golf, especially after seeing her accomplishments here, but at the same time, I’m a bit sad because I am going to miss having her on the team next season,” Jeong said. “I know she is going to lead her college team to so many wins, just like she did for our team for the last four years.” 

Senior Yurang Li swings her 7-iron in the Girls Junior Americas Cup at Nk’Mip Canyon Desert Golf Course in British Columbia, Canada, earlier this summer. (Image used with permission from Yurang Li)


Li said her biggest critic is herself. 

In the final round of league championships Wednesday, Oct. 18, the girls golf team co-captain was on the top of the leaderboard, leading by 20 strokes, when she finished her last hole.

“After I finished, I was actually very upset and frustrated with myself because I felt like I didn’t play well,” Li said. “I missed a lot of really good opportunities during that round.”

Co-captain senior Katrice Yee said even though her teammate can be hard on herself, she knows that it’s part of Li’s mentality that gives her that edge over others.

“I was really happy for her because I know that she works really hard, and from everyone I can think of I know, she deserves to win those awards,” Yee said. 

The Lady Lancers head coach Scott Enrico said Li is a self-motivated player who doesn’t need much of his help as a coach.  

“I know that she puts in the time on the range and on the practice greens,” Enrico said. “I wish more players had her work ethic.”

Li attributed her growth as a golfer to her personal coach, John Lepak, a former touring professional golfer who offers private lessons to Los Angeles and Orange County players.  

“She would stay extra and practice always after lessons,” said Lepak, who started working with Li six years ago in 2017 to improve her distance control and to help her hit more different golf shots that allow her to manipulate the ball. “As far as work ethic, no one beats Yurang.”

That’s why Li’s personal golf coach hasn’t been surprised by all of the athlete’s successes.

“I feel great that she’s playing to the next level at the University of Illinois, and she’s going to be a wonderful fit,” Lepak said. “She will instantly help that program, and I wouldn’t be surprised if she picks up some early wins because she’s just that kind of player; that next level will not scare her one bit.”


As an only child in the family, Li said she was 5 years old when she started playing golf. Thinking golf would be a good outlet for her to grow, her father — who plays golf recreationally — enrolled her in group lessons at the Arcadia Par 3 Course, which was near where she lived at the time.

However, it wasn’t her initial interest, and she never thought it would be a full-time activity for her growing up. Without any incentives, her parents forced her to go to practice every day, she said.

“I never liked golf growing up,” Li said. “I just remember hating it.”

After learning to control and hit the ball accurately by the time she was around 13 years old, she said she started considering golf as a serious hobby.

“I could plan out the shots I wanted to hit beforehand, and being able to execute the way I imagined is a pretty rewarding feeling,” Li said.    

Despite this, she said she had moments when she wanted to quit golf but didn’t.

“I knew deep down that I could still play better even though things may not seem like it at the moment,” the co-captain said. “That gave me motivation to return.”

Through golf, Li said she was able to learn several life lessons.  

“It taught me to control my emotions, to always just try my best to remain calm and assess the situation in a way that would benefit me the most,” she said.


Another life lesson Li faced ended up being on the academic front instead of on the greens.

After not getting admitted into the Troy Tech program as an incoming freshman, she said she wanted to find a campus in the FJUHSD that would not only offer rigorous honors classes, but also a competitive girls golf program. 

“I thought it would be fun to build up the Sunny Hills girls golf program and beat Troy because they have a reputation for being good at golf, and we were able to beat them twice,” Li said.

When she was about to start her senior year this fall, she said she opted to enroll in the FJUHSD’s La Sierra High School online learning program. She also wanted to graduate well ahead of her peers after just one semester. 

That meant Li would miss out on such Lancer events as Senior Sunrise, homecoming and the stag dance.

“I don’t really miss the high school vibe; I think I am better off without it because I never really felt a genuine connection with the people,” the senior said. “Plus, I prefer alone time.”

Senior Yurang Li tees off during the Girls Junior Professional Golfers’ Association Championship at the Hot Springs Country Club in Arkansas on Thursday, Aug. 3. (Image used with permission from Yurang Li)

Because she’s graduating a semester early, Li will also miss out on senior Grad Nite, the paper toss and several other social activities.

“I guess it sucks that I am missing these events, but at the same time, I don’t really care,” she said. “I’m more excited about going to college if anything.”

Even though the Freeway League next season will be made up of different teams because of CIF releaguing, Li doesn’t expect her record four-straight league MVPs to last forever. 

“I think that anything is possible, and records are created to be broken, and it really depends on what kind of golfers we attract into the Freeway League in the future,” the senior said. “I’m glad I was able to make an impact on our school.”

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