Lucy Li Flashes Immense Potential at 1st Round of U.S. Women's Open

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistJune 19, 2014

PINEHURST, NC - JUNE 19:  Eleven-year old Amateur Lucy Li of the United States watches a tee shot on the third hole during the first round of the 69th U.S. Women's Open at Pinehurst Resort & Country Club, Course No. 2  on June 19, 2014 in Pinehurst, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

So what were you doing when you were 11?

You probably weren't participating in LPGA majors, one would guess. But Lucy Li is. And not only is she participating, she's also playing quite well, opening her first round at the U.S. Women's Open with an eight-over 78 on Thursday.

Steve DiMeglio of USA Today recapped her round:

The sixth grader, the youngest player to ever qualify for the U.S. Women's Open, turned in a respectable 8-over-par 78 that included birdies on No. 1 and No. 5.

The round was marred by double-bogeys on her opening hole and the 16th hole and a triple-bogey 7 on the third hole when she tangled and lost with the turtle back green.

Then she ate a watermelon flavored ice cream bar at her post-round interview.

'I'm happy with how I played,' Li said. 'I mean, it's 8 over, it's not bad. But I was 7 over in three holes, so that's 1 over in 15 holes. I just need to get rid of the big numbers. ... I learned that you've got to be patient. One shot at a time. Try to get rid of the big numbers. And, yeah, I learned a lot.'

To shoot eight-over at Pinehurst No. 2 is so impressive. Remember, she's 11. Pinehurst No. 2 is an extremely challenging course for the most talented players. If you take away three holes, she played a top-notch round. And according to Doug Ferguson of the Associated Press, via ABC News, she missed just one fairway (and that was by just a yard). 

How many people—let alone 11-year-olds—could birdie two holes at the US Open?

Not many. Not many at all.

And what's scary is that she played like a player who has a better round on Friday in her. Take away a few holes that got away from her, and you have a steady, successful round. That's pretty amazing. 

Plus, keep in mind that she outperformed some household names, as Shane Bacon of Yahoo! Sports noted:

Or you could put her round in an historical context, as Golf Central did:

Or you could just listen to what the golfers who played next to her had to say. 

Catherine O'Donnell told DiMeglio, "She's way better than I was expecting. She's a great player. She hits it out there farther than I was expecting, too. She hit it by me twice, I wasn't really happy about that. But, no, she's a joy to play with. Couldn't have been nicer. Very intelligent girl."

Added Jessica Wallace, via Ferguson, "She's so much more mature than I could possibly imagine. She's a lot better than people thought. She's very capable on this golf course. She played like she belongs out here. And it was a real pleasure."

And not only was she composed, she had a little fun, too. It's hard to beat her outfit, after all. 

Chuck Burton/Associated Press

Li came into the round with the right approach. She seemed more interested in soaking up the experience and learning as much as she could rather than putting pressure on herself to post some incredible number at the course. For an 11-year-old, the achievement is impressive, but the most valuable aspect of the tournament will be what she can take from it moving forward. 

And for those watching, simply appreciating the talent of this young girl and her ability is far more important than what comes next.

Yes, she shot an extremely impressive 78 and in the process, served notice that she has the tools to become the next great golfer on the LPGA Tour. But there's plenty of time for all of that talk.

For now, let's all just let Li enjoy her ice cream.


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