Golf Superstar Lucy Li Is 11 Years Old, And Competing At The U.S. Women's Open
She likes ice cream, sequins and reading, but not Harry Potter. She wears braces, pigtails and fun patriotic outfits. And at just 11 years old, she's already playing golf with the best of them. On Thursday, 11-year-old golfer Lucy Li made her U.S. Women's Open debut, ending the first-round with a solid eight-over-par 78 finish. The sixth-grader from California is the youngest player in the history of women's golf to qualify for the tournament. And by all accounts, the wunderkind golfer is holding herself together pretty well.
“It was a lot of fun,” Li told reporters after Thursday's game at a press conference. She added that her next plan was to "eat more ice cream." (A strawberry ice-cream bar, in case you were wondering. Good call there, Lucy.)
Although Li is not expected to win the tournament — though crazier things have happened — she garnered most of the media attention at Thursday's round at Pinehurst No. 2. Reporters, spectators and even her fellow competitors were charmed by her funky patriotic ensemble, which included a red-and-white striped top complete with sequins.
But it's not just her colorful golfing outfits that have captured everyone's attention. Li has been acknowledged for her poise and maturity as she makes her away around the 18-hole course. "She looks 11. She doesn't talk 11. And she doesn't hit the ball like she's 11," fellow competitor Catherine O'Donnell told the San Francisco Chronicle.
Li made history in May when she qualified for the storied tournament at an event at Half Moon Bay Golf Club near her California home. Although she is the youngest golf to ever qualify, she is technically not the youngest to ever compete — that belongs to Beverley Klass, who was just 10 when she played in the 1967 U.S. Women's Cup without having to qualify.
Still, Li does get to claim some bragging rights. And despite struggling early on in the first round, she recovered enough to break 80 — an admirable feat that she was ecstatic about.
“I’m happy I broke 80,” Li told reporters. “Because I got two doubles and a triple, and that can really ruin a score.”
It's not hard to get wrapped up in the frenzy when a young sports superstar comes along. Just eight years ago, it was Michelle Wie who claimed the title of Budding Golf Superstar. Wie dominated the amateur circuit for years, becoming the youngest player to ever qualify for the United States Golf Associations amateur championship at the tender age of 10. She was also the youngest player in history to win the U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links Championship.
Wie turned pro at age 16, and soon endured several tough outings at the U.S. Women's Open before tying for 3rd in 2006; so far, that's her highest finish at the event. Although Wie was a huge force when she entered the pro scene in high school, her star started to wane.
Now 24 years old, Wie is currently tied for first place with Stacey Lewis after her second round at the 2014 Women's Open. It remains unseen if Wie will hold onto that first place ranking — Lewis, who held the lead after the first-round Thursday, is currently playing her second round.
The U.S. Women's Open is one of the five major golf tournaments. Established in 1946, the championship is open to both pro and amateur women golfers. There's also no qualifying age limit, so only time will tell if Lucy Li can maintain her significant position in golf history.