Yoyo riding high through her career in golf - PGA of Australia

Yoyo riding high through her career in golf

“I had never picked up a golf club – I didn’t even know who Tiger Woods was.”

Up until the age of sixteen, Qianyao (Yoyo) Han had never considered golf. Born into a family of high performing athletes, she instead had her heart set on becoming a champion track and field athlete.

“I was selected by a state coach to go and train full time for hurdles and triple-jump at a camp in the South of China,” she recalls. “At the age of thirteen, I was taken away from my parents, living with other kids where we trained with great intensity.

“We were not allowed to leave.”

Perhaps as a consequence of the rigorous regime, which saw the group train before and after school every day, Yoyo’s body broke down. A serious lower back injury left her incapable of walking, let alone hurdling, so there was a decision to be made.

“The way it worked was that if I didn’t go and compete and win a medal at the state-sponsored games, then either me – or my coach – would have to pay a fee for all the training,” Yoyo remembers. “I was not of any use to them injured, so we had to find a solution.”

Remarkably, it was golf – a sport Yoyo had never considered – that proved her calling.

A state-sponsored and somewhat experimental golf program designed for talented athletes was set to operate out of Mission Hills, and Yoyo’s athletics coach nominated her for selection.

“I was told to pack my clothes for one week and wait at the gate the next day,” she says. “I didn’t even know where I was going, I didn’t know what golf was. I just decided to go with the flow, hoping to get picked and fortunately I did.”

Yoyo quickly proved herself amongst the group and was selected as one of ten to come to Australia to continue to develop her career in golf.

Inspired to work on her game like never before, Yoyo was also reinvigorated by the opportunity she experienced in her new home.

“I started to realise a new sense of freedom,” she explains. “Out on the golf course I could show my emotions – whether I was angry, happy or sad, I was allowed to show it.

“Since moving here, my mindset has changed drastically.”

Although she wanted to turn professional at this stage, the persistent effects of her injury, along with her relative inexperience, made that very difficult.

So, determined to keep her Visa and stay in the country, Yoyo enrolled in the Membership Pathway Program to become a PGA Professional. A journey that fostered her burgeoning love for the game, it also gave her the chance to learn a lot about herself as she set about creating a career in golf.

“It (The Membership Pathway Program) took me five years to complete,” she remembers. “I couldn’t speak English very well at that time, but I had such great support that made it possible for me.

“I was so determined and would practice before and after studying every day – no matter the weather or the conditions, I was trying as hard as I could.”

Her efforts duly rewarded, Yoyo became a fully qualified PGA Professional in 2017. A proud day, it was the culmination of an extraordinary journey and a testament to her unwavering persistence.

“The day I graduated, it was a big relief,” she smiles. “Knowing I could actually start my dream of being a golf coach, I am very proud.”

After working at the Sandhurst Club for a period of time both as a coach and in the shop, Yoyo has found her niche as one of the most in-demand coaches at the thriving Yarra Bend Golf complex just outside Melbourne’s CBD.

Although she often finds herself coaching for 12 – 14 hours a day, Yoyo is happy, knowing that she is making a tangible difference every day.

“I love talking to people, all sorts of different people,” she explains. “Coaching people of all different levels is rewarding, and seeing them progress – often in the space of an hour is great.

“I love that moment when they hit a perfect shot, turn around and have that excited look in their eyes.”

Ultimately, Yoyo’s assessment of where she started in sport, to the relationship she now has with golf, is a heart-warming one.

“Previously, everything I was doing was all about ‘win, compete, survive,’” she says. “Now I realise that golf is quite enjoyable.

“I enjoy it so much more now.”

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