This time of year when you were 11, you were most likely in the arts and crafts tent at summer camp, or shimmying down a water slide. Pint-sized and pig-tailed Lucy Li, however, is making history at the U.S. Women’s Open. At 11, Li is the youngest golfer to ever take to the tournament’s fabled links—and she’s playing well too. She scored a 78 on her first round, and while she was eight over par, still employed some great shots. In fact, Li made two birdies (when the golfer hits one under par on a specific hole), and had the longest drive on the second hole. When asked about these feats, she shrugged them off saying, “Yeah, I didn’t really care.”
The sixth grader who hails from Redwood Shores, CA—a Bay Area suburb—is used to playing really well. She nabbed her spot at the U.S. Open by winning the Half Moon Bay qualifier—beating the entire field by seven, a big deal in golf.
Li first swung clubs when she was just seven-years-old, and recognizing her talent, her parents took her to Florida, to train with famed golf coach, Jim McLean. Li soon started spending four-month stints in the sunshine state, living with her aunt, and continues to do so, each year. She is homeschooled, which makes the bi-coastal transitions easier.
At the U.S. Open, Li still resembles an 11 year-old. She wore red, white, and blue on her first day to celebrate the occasion, but also simply because she liked the colors. She enjoyed a dripping popsicle during her press conference, and was even seen toting a teddybear. But when it comes to her prowess and performance, Li is uncannily a pro. “I wasn’t that nervous,” she says, of stepping up to the first tee. “I play better with the crowds.”
She also somehow managed to understand what was most important: “I had a lot of fun,” she says. What’s more, she learned something even grown-ups struggle with; something she could apply not just to the rest of the tournament, but to her entire career—and life: “I learned you've got to be patient. One shot at a time.”
Sage advice from golf’s newest star.