The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

11-year-old Lucy Li brings pigtails and giggles to the US Women's Open

  • Print

PINEHURST, N.C. - With pigtails and plenty of giggles, Lucy Li just wants to have fun like any 11-year-old girl.

Except that she's playing the biggest event in women's golf.

Li, a sixth-grader from the Bay Area who doesn't appear to be the least bit overwhelmed by the attention around her, became the youngest qualifier in U.S. Women's Open history when she shot 68 at Half Moon Bay last month to win her sectional by seven shots.

She celebrated by having dinner at her favourite restaurant and watching "The Amazing Spiderman 2."

Now it's time for the amazing Lucy Li show.

"She looks so darn cute," said Michelle Wie, who didn't make it to her first Women's Open until she was 13. "I was like, 'I don't think I looked that cute when I was 11.' But she just looks so excited, so wide-eyed. ... And I'm just really so excited for her to be out. It's a memory that will last her a lifetime. What other 11-year-old can say that they played in the U.S. Open at Pinehurst? And she got to see the men play, too."

Life is moving at warp speed for little Lucy Li.

She only became serious about golf four years ago when she set up shop in Miami to work with Jim McLean. Just two months ago, the precocious 11-year-old with a mouth full of braces won her age division in the inaugural Drive, Chip and Putt Championship at Augusta National. And now she's at Pinehurst No. 2, ready to take on the course where Martin Kaymer won the U.S. Open on Sunday.

"It's awesome, right?" she said. "I mean, Pinehurst and Augusta National in like two months. I mean, that's just amazing. It's mind-blowing for me. It's been awesome, because it's been ... I mean, the food is great and it's been a lot of fun. I've made a lot of friends."

There's something about U.S. Women's Open in the North Carolina sandhills that attracts all the kids.

Morgan Pressel qualified when she was 12 and had just turned 13 when the Women's Open was down the street at Pine Needles in 2001 (Li wasn't even born then). Lexi Thompson qualified and played at 12 when it returned to Pine Needles in 2007.

Too young? Both went on to win major championships.

"Look, if you're good enough, you're old enough — or young enough, whichever way you look at it," Laura Davies said. "If you can play the golf and you can qualify, then have a go. What's the worst that can happen? She shoots a million this week and everyone says, 'Wasn't it great she was here?' So I don't think anything bad can come out of it because she's too young to worry about the pressure.

"She's just having fun. She's got a week off school. It's perfect."

Li looked as if she was having a blast on a broiling day of practice Tuesday. She went nine holes with a local caddie. Then, it was time for a press conference, which drew the largest crowd of the day. Her pigtails in braids, held by clips the shape of hearts, she twirled in her chair waiting for it to start.

She giggled before just about every answer, including one about whether her father could beat her.

She laughed. She laughed again. And then she moved closer to the microphone and said, "No."

But the kid made one thing clear. She's not out to prove anything. She not out to make history.

"The perfect week? I just want to go out there and have fun and play the best I can, and I really don't care about the outcome," Li said. "I want to have fun and learn. I want to learn a lot from these great players."

She is not the youngest player in Women's Open history. Beverly Klass was 10 when she played in 1967, before there was qualifying. The youngest player to make the cut was Marlene Hagge, who was 13 in the 1947 Open at Starmount Forest in North Carolina.

Among the favourites this week is Lydia Ko, the youngest LPGA Tour winner in history at 15 in the Canadian Women's Open two years ago.

Age is becoming irrelevant, though something about the number "11" grabs the attention.

"I saw her on the range this morning for the first time and didn't really watch her hit any balls — just how little she was, and the pigtails kind of caught me off guard," Stacy Lewis said. "But I'm not a big fan of it. She qualified, so we can't say anything about that. You qualify for an Open, it's a great thing. I just like to see kids be successful at every level before they come out here.

"When I found out she qualified, I said, 'Well, where does she go from here? What do you next?' I don't know. If it was my kid, I wouldn't let her play in the U.S. Open qualifier at 11. But that's just me."

Li played in the U.S. Women's Amateur last year at 10. She was the youngest to qualify for match play at the U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links. The idea to try to qualify for the Women's Open was "mine."

"Because I wanted to go out there and get the experience," she said. "Because it's 36 holes and I didn't care if I qualified or not. I didn't think about it. I just wanted to go for the experience."

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Jaws of life used to free two people after two-car collision

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Marc Gallant / Winnipeg Free Press. Local- WINTER FILE. Snowboarder at Stony Mountain Ski Hill. November 14, 2006.
  • MIKE APORIUS/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS STANDUP - pretty sunflower in field off HWY 206 near Bird's Hill Park Thursday August 09/2007

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

How surpised are you by the Bombers’ 4-1 start to the season?

View Results

Ads by Google