The Lucy Li Show is about to hit Pinehurst No. 2.
Li, an 11-year-old who qualified for the U.S. Women’s Open, will be the center of attention when the tournament starts Thursday in Pinehurst, N.C.
Li became serious about golf four years ago in Miami, and two months ago she won her age division in the inaugural Drive, Chip and Putt Championship at Augusta National. Now she’s at Pinehurst No. 2, ready to take on the course where Martin Kaymer won the men’s U.S. Open on Sunday.
“It’s awesome, right?” Li said. “I mean, Pinehurst and Augusta National in like two months. I mean, that’s just amazing. It’s mind-blowing for me. It’s been awesome, because it’s been … I mean, the food is great and it’s been a lot of fun. I’ve made a lot of friends.”
Li became the youngest qualifier in U.S. Women’s Open history when she shot 68 last month at Half Moon Bay in California and won her sectional by 7 shots. (Beverly Klass was 10 when she played in 1967, before there was qualifying. )
Li celebrated by having dinner at her favorite restaurant and watching “The Amazing Spiderman 2.”
“She looks so darn cute,” said Michelle Wie, who didn’t make it to her first Women’s Open until she was 13. “I was like, ‘I don’t think I looked that cute when I was 11.’ But she just looks so excited, so wide-eyed. … And I’m just really so excited for her to be out. It’s a memory that will last her a lifetime.”
There’s something about U.S. Women’s Open in the North Carolina sandhills that attracts all the kids.
Morgan Pressel qualified when she was 12 and had just turned 13 when the Women’s Open was down the street at Pine Needles in 2001 (Li wasn’t even born then). Lexi Thompson qualified and played at 12 when it returned to Pine Needles in 2007.
Too young? Both went on to win major championships.
“Look, if you’re good enough, you’re old enough — or young enough, whichever way you look at it,” LPGA veteran Laura Davies said. “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.”
Li looked as if she was having a blast on a broiling day of practice Tuesday. She went nine holes with a local caddie. Then, it was time for a news conference, which drew the largest crowd of the day.
Li made one thing clear. She’s not out to prove anything. She not out to make history.
“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,” Li said. “I want to have fun and learn. I want to learn a lot from these great players.”
| Staff and wire reports
PGA TOUR: Travelers Championship. Thursday through Sunday in Cromwell, Conn. TV: Golf Channel (Thursday and Friday, 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, noon) and CBS (Saturday and Sunday, 2 p.m.).
LPGA: U.S. Women’s Open. Thursday through Sunday in Pinehurst, N.C. TV: ESPN2 (Thursdayand Friday, 3 p.m.) and NBC (Saturday and Sunday, 2 p.m.).
CHAMPIONS TOUR: Encompass Championship. Friday through Sunday in Glenview, Ill. TV: Golf Channel (Friday, 11:30 a.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 2 p.m.).
WEB.COM TOUR: Air Capital Classic. Thursday through Sunday in Wichita. No TV.
Players to watch
Ko, the youngest LPGA Tour winner in history at 15 in the Canadian Women’s Open two years ago, is among the favorites at the U.S. Women’s Open.
McIlroy, who said Wednesday that he will play for Ireland at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, heads the field for the European Tour’s Irish Open.
Watkins, who played in college at Kansas State, is in the field for the Air Capital Classic in Wichita. He finished tied for 14th, a season best, June 8 at the Web.com’s Cleveland Open.