Because I'm happy

The smiley face stitched on Amy Yang’s visor comes with its own inspiring story

November 19, 2023

The smiley face on Amy Yang's visor is more than just a fashion statement.

Michael Reaves

A bright blue blazar is among the spoils of victory at the CME Group Tour Championship, as if a $2 million prize money payout wasn’t enough of a reward for winning the LPGA’s season finale. Amy Yang wore the jacket proudly after closing out a three-shot victory at Tiburon Golf Club on Sunday. Still, it wasn’t the most striking part of Yang's clothing. That was reserved the plain white visor that the South Korean was wearing, adorned only with a smiley face that Yang had hand-stitched on her visor.

The story behind the smiley face says a lot about the 34-year-old LPGA veteran and the journey she has been on during her 16 years competing on tour. Yang played the 2023 season without a sponsor for her hat. But a blank cap or visor didn’t feel right to Yang, deciding instead to have her headwear serve as inspiration.

Truth is, you have to go back to 2021 to put the smiley face in proper context. Two years ago, Yang picked up rock climbing as a hobby, only to injure her left elbow after overexerting herself. Yang ended up being diagnosed with a tennis elbow, and, while a common injury, it significantly impacted Yang's golf game. It took the last two seasons for Yang to recover fully, and left her in doubt about her future.

"I thought my career will be done very soon, so that wasn't very nice," Yang said.

In looking to find the form that had won her five LPGA titles during her career, Yang decided to play the 2023 season without a sponsor, worried that trying to fulfill commitments might put undue pressure on herself. The choice to limit external expectations comes from the lessons Yang learned from other times she had contemplated retiring from the game, even when she wasn't injured.

Earlier in Yang's career, she felt burned out from placing too high expectations on herself, playing in too many events and not finding an outlet outside of golf. She contemplated what a life away from the game would look like but found a better life balance instead, trying to spend time with friends and do fun things away from the course.

"I think that made me run longer," Yang explained.

Needless to say, overcoming her injuries and finding balance has Yang playing some of the best golf of her career. A week prior to her Tour Championship win, Yang shot a nine-under 61 in the LPGA's penultimate tournament of the year, the Annika driven by Gainbridge.

Yang's recipe for on-course success is now encapsulated by the little smile in the center of her plain hat. Surrounded by her team of coaches, caddie Jan Meierling and close friends on tour, she is embracing the things that make her happy on her way to victory.

"They're like family out on tour and, you know, I do my best," Yang said. "They're just all sweet friends. I'm so grateful to see them on the 18th, and I'm sure down the road I'll do the same for them, too."