Eleven-year-old Lucy Li shoots eight over in historic US Women's Open debut
Lucy Li showed her age only when she finished her historic round at the US Women's Open. Just like any 11-year-old, she went straight for an ice cream.
The youngest qualifier ever at the Women's Open played a grown-up game at Pinehurst No 2, except for three holes that made her eight-over 78 look a lot worse than it was, and stretched the odds of her becoming the youngest player to make the cut.
"She looks 11. She doesn't talk 11. And she doesn't hit the ball like she's 11," said Catherine O'Donnell, who played with her in a sunbaked opening round on a course that hosted the men's US Open just a few days ago.
Lucy was the star attraction, right down to her Stars & Stripes outfit to celebrate the occasion. She wore a mid-drift shirt patterned after the American flag, with a similar motif for a skirt, complete with silver stars that matched the colour of her braces.
She wound up 11 shots behind Stacy Lewis, the No 1 player in the world, who opened with a 67. But one moment was telling.
The kid made a seven-foot birdie putt on the par-five fifth hole and headed to the next tee, her braided pigtails swinging with each step. The media and a large gallery followed her past the adjacent green, where hardly anyone noticed Lewis making her way around with no bogeys.
Lucy missed only one fairway - by less than a yard. Even though she hit fairway metals into half of the holes, she rarely got out of position. Now if she could only take back three shots that led to big numbers.
"It was a lot of fun. I kind of struggled today, but it was great," Lucy said, pausing to lick her ice cream. "I mean, it's eight over. It's not bad. But I was seven over in three holes, so that's one over in 15 holes. So yeah, I just need to get rid of the big numbers."
Lucy had the same score as O'Donnell, Natalie Gulbis and Jessica Korda, a two-time winner on the US LPGA Tour this year. There already were 11 rounds in the 80s.
Perhaps most remarkable about her round, besides the 13 pars and two birdies, was how she bounced back from mistakes.
"That's what I was so happy about in my round," she said. "Because after I got doubles and triples, I was able to get it back."
The youngest player to make the cut was 13-year-old Marlene Bauer, who tied for 14th in 1947.
Lucy was looking forward to the next round. And what will she do in the meantime?
"Eat some more ice cream," she said.
Lucy was due to tee off with the later group on day two.