SAN FRANCISCO – Every elite participant goals of competing in the U.S. Open. Only one individual in the world has achieved that dream at 11 years outdated.
Lucy Li, the baby prodigy who might be the hometown favourite on this 12 months’s U.S. Women’s Open.
Li’s stardom started when she qualified in 2014, turning into the youngest to ever qualify for the championship. But she didn’t simply win her qualifier, she obliterated the area, beating second place by seven pictures at Old Course at Half Moon Bay Golf Links.
Her candy demeanor and colourful outfits at Pinehurst No. 2 charmed the crowd instantly. It was her unimaginable talent at such a younger age, nevertheless, that made jaws drop. Media swarmed over Li, craving to seize her distinctive story in the proper phrases.
Child prodigies are available uncommon type, however a number of large names – Lexi Thompson, Michelle Wie West and Morgan Pressel – surfaced when watching Li carry out.
“I didn’t really care about anything back then. I was just focused on hitting the ball and eating ice cream,” Li recalled on Tuesday at Olympic Club, the place she returns as an 18-year-old skilled.
Ice cream is what number of bear in mind Li. After an opening 78, she stepped in entrance of the media, ice cream on a stick, in hand. She spoke and ate and endeared, sporting pigtails and a red-white-and-blue shirt with hearts and stripes.
Li nonetheless holds the report as the youngest qualifier for the U.S. Women’s Amateur and the youngest participant to advance to match play in the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links. In 2016, Li gained the Junior PGA Championship which qualified her for the Jr. Ryder Cup. She went on to win the 2017 Ping Invitational and Rolex Tournament of Champions and competed in the victorious Jr. Solheim Cup in 2017 and 2019, and the victorious 2018 Curtis Cup.
She ultimately turned pro in 2019.
Did that imply she would forgo a university schooling?
“It was an easy decision [to turn pro] because I wasn’t going to be giving up my education and that was super important to me,” stated Li, who has already completed a 12 months of credit via an on-line college.
Now returning to the U.S. Women’s Open after a seven-year drought, Li hopes to channel the same mindset as when she was 11. But skilled golf is completely different. It’s lonelier and comes with additional baggage of inner stress.
“I had a lot of friends when playing junior and amateur golf, so going to professional golf was an adjustment,” she stated. “People take themselves a lot more seriously, whereas junior and college golf it’s a lot more chill.”
Makes sense – there’s lots more on the line as soon as cash is concerned. However, this doesn’t imply professionals need to let go of their carefree novice mindset. Former No. 1 in the world and two-time USWO champion Inbee Park shared the same expertise. “Since my first U.S. Open [in 2004], a lot of things have changed,” she stated. “My first U.S. Open, I was an amateur, so I had nothing to be afraid of. I [just] played a practice round with a Japanese girl amateur, I think, and really reminded me of my first U.S. Open.”
Park continued, “She just looked nothing to be scared of on this golf course and just bombing the balls. I kind of envy that, and I don’t think I’ll be able to ever do that again.”
Last 12 months for Li, COVID-19 plus an harm set her again mentally. “When I was playing Symetra events, I got kind of frustrated because I felt I was playing really well but left a few shots out there,” she stated.
The frustration took a toll: “I didn’t remember getting that frustrated when I was playing amateur golf,” she confessed.
Proper self-awareness and reflection improved with time. Her household has additionally performed an enormous position in how she’s maintained her wholesome mindset.
“I don’t get as frustrated, and I try to not take [golf] as seriously. If you don’t play well, it’s not the end of the world and you just go on to the next hole, next tournament. And when you play well, you cherish every moment.,” she stated.
“I feel so grateful to have such a strong support group. It’s really nice to know that I can freewill out there and know they will always have my back.”
The byproduct for Li’s psychological maturity has been decrease golf scores, and Li, born in close by Stanford, California, is each excited and proud to be again at the U.S. Open.
“To be able to qualify this year is really exciting and especially having it being in my hometown,” she stated. “That was something I’ve been really looking forward to. This year there is limited gallery, but I have some friends and family that are going to come out and watch.”