I just want to have fun, says Lucy Li

California pupil, whose family is from Hong Kong, shrugs off the pressure of being the youngest qualifier for the US Women's Open

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 June, 2014, 10:54pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 19 June, 2014, 12:47am
AFP

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In pigtails and polka dots, pint-sized Lucy Li displayed plenty of poise as she talked about taking on the US Women's Open at the age of 11.

The California sixth-grader, whose family is from Hong Kong, is the youngest qualifier in the history of the event, but Lucy said it would not put her under pressure this week at Pinehurst.

"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," she said. "It's just I want to have fun and learn. I want to learn a lot from these great players."

Lucy did not think she would be intimidated by the crowds that she is sure to draw this week. She has already appeared at one of golf's iconic venues this year, winning the 10-11 girls age group in the inaugural Drive, Chip and Putt Championship at Augusta National in April.

"It's awesome, right? I mean, Pinehurst and Augusta National in, like, two months. I mean, that's just amazing. It's mind-blowing for me."

Lucy booked her place in the second women's major of the year when she shot 68 at Half Moon Bay in California last month to win her sectional by seven shots. She celebrated by having dinner at her favourite restaurant and watching
The Amazing Spiderman 2.

But her achievement in earning a place in the field has prompted concern as well as admiration from older pros.

"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," said world No 1 Stacy Lewis. "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 do next?' I don't know. If it was my kid, I wouldn't let her play in the US Open qualifier at 11. But that's just me."

Norwegian veteran Suzann Pettersen, ranked fourth in the world, said: "For an 11-year-old to actually qualify, on this stage, it's extraordinary. Hopefully, she can have a fantastic week. I'm sure she's already met and played with some of our big idols."

Laura Davies said: "Look, if you're good enough, you're old enough - or young enough, whichever way you look at it. 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."

Lucy, who tops out at 1.57 metres, has sampled other activities. She "really likes" dancing, "loves" diving and also plays table tennis and badminton.

But nothing else has more appeal. "I like golf because it's different from other sports," she said. "Anybody can play it - if you're tall, short, fast or slow, that's what I like about it."

She did not seem to be beset by worries over her future, and whether she'd like to follow in the path of the likes of Michelle Wie, Lydia Ko and Lexi Thompson.

"I haven't really thought about that," she said. "Right now it's just: play as well as I can and the game's going to take me wherever it's going to take me."

Additional reporting by Associated Press

 

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