She only spent two semesters at the University of Southern California and is only 18 years old, but Muni He (Chengdu, China) has learned to market herself on and off the golf course, which includes an impressive Instagram following of greater than 114,000 fans.
“I have always loved golf and wished to become a professional, so I thought maybe I should just go for it,” said He.
After missing the cut at the 2017 LPGA Final Qualifying Tournament, He opted to forego her final three years of collegiate eligibility. She made her professional debut on December 6 at the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters, the last event on the 2017 Ladies European Tour (LET) schedule.
It was the same tournament He played in the year prior as an amateur and missed the cut. This time around, she finished tied for 28th at 5-under par.
“I was very nervous when I walked onto the first tee on the first day. My very first shot in a tournament after turning pro,” He said. “My hands were shaking and then after several holes I started to feel relaxed, just enjoying the game.”
Now it’s on to the Symetra Tour. This season, she enters with the goal of earning a LPGA Tour card for 2019, but will also take advantage of LPGA sponsor exemptions when they arise.
Another facet for He as she pursues LPGA membership is her recent signing with IMG. He has proved she can promote herself across social media, but where she will ultimately attract the attention of corporate sponsors is by fulfilling her goal of earning a LPGA card and then taking it to the next level once there.
Other golfers represented by IMG include He’s idol and the current No. 1 player in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings, Shanshan Feng, as well as Paula Creamer, Lydia Ko and Michelle Wie.
“I’m very excited about signing with IMG,” said He. “They are the biggest sports agency and have a very experienced team.”
Prior to turning pro, He had several prominent experiences on the big stage. She was one of four amateurs who made the cut in the 2015 U.S. Women’s Open, and played the Blue Bay LPGA tournament in China that same year.
From there, He’s USC statistics demonstrate her preparedness for the jump to the Symetra Tour. He tied for first at the Minnesota Invitational, as she fired collegiate career-lows of 5-under par (67) in the second round and 10-under par overall. In her short time at USC, He posted three total top-10 finishes.
“She knows how to handle the pressure and is very capable of competing as a professional,” said USC women’s golf head coach Andrea Gaston. “Muni is a very conscientious person and wants to be well prepared for every tournament in which she competes. She has a tremendous following and her popularity will likely bring incredible interest to the Symetra Tour.”
Perhaps the greatest highlight for He as a Trojan, however, occurred at the 2017 East Lake Cup. Trailing Stanford University’s Andrea Lee by two through eight holes, He caught fire. She squared the match on No. 11 at East Lake Golf Club, part of a stretch that saw her go 5-under par in four holes and jump to 3-up. The two then halved Nos. 15 and 16, enough for He to win 3&2.
He’s battle evened the overall match play championship with the Cardinal and would propel the Trojans to victory.
“The most difficult part about leaving school is leaving my team,” said He, who plans to finish her degree at a later time. “I fell in love with USC when I was a freshman in high school, so going to USC was always a dream of mine. It’s bittersweet.”
Entering 2018, TaylorMade M2 clubs fill He’s bag. Her comfort with them provides positive vibes and the hope she continues to improve her game.
“Playing golf is now a job of mine and I’m looking forward to the professional tour life,” He said. “I’m going to meet new people, make new friends and play a lot of great golf courses. It’s going to be a year of growth and I’m beyond excited for the season to begin.”