Lucy Li, 11, misses the cut but makes big impression at US Women's Open

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 21 June, 2014, 9:31am
UPDATED : Saturday, 21 June, 2014, 9:31am


Lucy Li’s friends back in California have been filling her inbox with emails. That’s the only way they can reach her at the US Women’s Open.

The 11-year-old is too young for a cellphone.

“They’re like, ‘Oh, you’re famous now’,” she said, laughing.

She was here for the experience and the opportunity to play with the best players in the world. She proved that she can.
Caddie Bryan Bush

Li, whose family is from Hong Kong, made quite an impression at Pinehurst No. 2 – even if she didn’t make it to the weekend. The youngest qualifier in the history of the tournament mostly held her own.

For the second straight day, a couple of rough holes proved to be her undoing. Hurt by a double bogey and a triple bogey, Li shot her second straight eight-over 78.

According to her caddie, this week was never about her score.

“She was here for the experience and the opportunity to play with the best players in the world,” caddie Bryan Bush said. “She proved that she can.”

Li was 22 strokes behind leader Michelle Wie and 19 behind Lexi Thompson, who both know about playing the Women’s Open at a young age.

Wie’s first was in 2003 when she was 13. In 2007, Thompson became the youngest to qualify at age 12 – until Li supplanted her.

“I hope she’s having a blast out there,” Wie said.

All eyes were on the pre-teen from the Bay Area who showed a beyond-her-years knack for bouncing back from mistakes and rough holes.

She bounced back from her roughest hole – the par-4 13th – with one of her best.

Li’s tee shot on 13 landed in some thick weeds, and she missed the ball when she tried to punch it out. After a brief chat with USGA President Tom O’Toole, she took a drop and her shot from that rough ricocheted off the green and near the seating area.

After she chipped to about 15 feet, she pushed that putt wide right and tapped in for her second triple bogey of the tournament.

She came back strong: Li birdied the 14th – her favourite moment of the tournament – and closed her round with pars on three of her final four holes to match her opening-round score.

“I’m really happy with how I bounced back from the big numbers,” Li said.

Marlene Bauer’s place in tournament history as the youngest player to make the cut remained safe: She was 13 in 1947 in the second Women’s Open before going on to become one of the founders of the LPGA Tour.

Wie and Thompson are the only two players under par after Friday’s second round at the demanding Pinehurst course.

Wie finished with back-to-back birdies for a two-under 68 to give her a three-stroke lead at four-under 136, while Thompson ran off three straight birdies to match her for the lowest score on Friday and remain in touch.

Their second-round performances perhaps set up a rematch from the first major of the year when Thompson soundly beat Wie in the final round at the Kraft Nabisco Championship.

“Definitely too early,” Thompson said. “Thirty-six holes in a major, that’s a lot of golf to be played, especially at a US Women’s Open.”

“It’s a grind out there. It’s not easy,” Wie said. “Really grateful for the par putts that I made and some of the birdie putts that I made. I can’t complain. I’ll take it.”

Stacy Lewis, the No. 1 player who opened with a bogey-free 67, picked up a bogey on her first hole in a wild round of six bogeys, three birdies and a tough 73.

“I hung around, and that’s what you’ve got to do at this tournament,” said Lewis, at even-par with Amy Yang (69) and Minjee Lee, the 18-year-old amateur from Australia who played bogey-free on the back nine to salvage a 71.