6th-grader Lucy Li's Open: a 78, then ice cream

Published on NewsOK Modified: June 19, 2014 at 3:10 pm •  Published: June 19, 2014
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PINEHURST, N.C. (AP) — Lucy Li showed her age only when she finished her historic round Thursday at the U.S. Women's Open.

Just like any 11-year-old, she went straight for an ice cream.

The youngest qualifier ever at the Women's Open played a grown-up game at Pinehurst No. 2, except for three holes that made her 8-over 78 look a lot worse than it was and stretched the odds of her becoming the youngest player to make the cut.

"She looks 11. She doesn't talk 11. And she doesn't hit the ball like she's 11," said Catherine O'Donnell, who played with her in a sunbaked opening round on a course that only four days ago hosted the men's U.S. Open.

The sixth-grader from the Bay Area was the star attraction, right down to her Stars & Stripes outfit to celebrate the occasion. She wore a mid-drift shirt patterned after the American flag, with a similar motif for a skirt, complete with silver stars that matched the color of her braces.

Li wound up 11 shots behind Stacy Lewis, the No. 1 player in the world who opened with a 67. But one moment was telling.

The kid made a 7-foot birdie putt on the par-5 fifth hole and headed to the next tee, her braided pigtails swinging with each step. The media and a large gallery followed her right past the adjacent green, where hardly anyone noticed Lewis making her way around Pinehurst with no bogeys.

Only this was more than just a sideshow.

Li missed only one fairway — by less than a yard. Even though she hit fairway metals into half of the holes, she rarely got out of position. Now if she could only take back three shots that led to big numbers.

"It was a lot of fun. I kind of struggled today, but it was great," Li said, pausing to lick her ice cream between answers. "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. So yeah, I just need to get rid of the big numbers."

Li had the same score as O'Donnell, Natalie Gulbis and Jessica Korda, a two-time winner on the LPGA Tour this year. There already were 11 rounds in the 80s.

Perhaps most remarkable about her round, besides the 13 pars and two birdies, was how she bounced back from mistakes.

"That's what I was so happy about in my round," she said. "Because after I got doubles and triples, I was able to get it back. Like I made a good stretch of holes after the double on the first hole. And after the triple, I birdied No. 5. And I got a lot of pars after that."

Li left a tough angle for her third shot on the par-5 10th hole and came up short and into a bunker. The sand shot looked reasonable until it kept rolling off the back of the green. She chipped with her wedge (a pink shaft) to about 8 feet and missed the putt to take double bogey.

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