Golf has a new young phenom.
Very, very young.
Her name is Lucy Li, she’s 11 years old and she’s the youngest player to qualify for the U.S. Women’s Open, set next month at Pinehurst No. 2.
Li, from Redwood Shores, Calif., not only qualified for the Open but also won the sectional qualifying tournament this week at Half Moon Bay in California. She did it with rounds of 74 and 68, winning by seven shots.
In 2007, when the Women’s Open was played at Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club in Southern Pines, Lexi Thompson grabbed a lot of attention by being the youngest to qualify. Thompson, who was 12 years, four months old, played with some polish and poise, although missing the 36-hole cut.
Morgan Pressel also was 12 when she qualified for the 2001 Open but turned 13 before the tournament began at Pine Needles. She, too, attracted a lot of media and handled the situation well, carding a pair of respectable 77s.
Pressel and Thompson both have won major championships on the LPGA Tour, in the Kraft Nabisco Championship. Now comes Li, who participated in the inaugural Drive, Chip and Putt competition on the Sunday before the 2014 Masters, winning her age division.
Li’s parents have declined interview requests before the U.S. Open, but they did release a statement through the U.S. Golf Association:
“Lucy is very honored to have qualified for the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open, and to have the opportunity to compete in this most prestigious national championship. Her time spent playing in last year’s USGA championships, as well as her win at Drive, Chip & Putt, have provided her with many good opportunities that she will consider as she prepares for the U.S. Women’s Open.
“We are very grateful for the support Lucy has received, both from the golf community and the media. She is looking forward to playing at Pinehurst.”
Beverly Klass was 10 when she played in the 1967 Women’s Open, but that was before qualifying tournaments were held for the event. Li is now in the USGA record books.
Pressel, during media availability Tuesday at Pinehurst, said she had read about Li qualifying, seen photos of her and was impressed by her play.
“I see these young kids out playing golf and I can’t believe that’s what I looked like,” Pressel said. “The kids are good. Now they’ve seen a few other people have done it, so they go out and give it a shot.”
Michelle Wie, once a young golf prodigy, may have put it best when she tweeted: “Whoa! Amazing!”