PINEHURST, N.C. – Lucy Li didn’t make the cut, but she made her mark on this historic U.S. Women’s Open.
The 11-year-old delighted the galleries at Pinehurst No. 2 Friday with her attitude and demeanor as much as she did displaying some precocious skills.
With another 8-over-par 78, what Li showed most this week was a resilience and poise beyond her years. She showed it in her news conference and in her play as the youngest qualifier ever to tee it up in the championship.
“I'm really happy with how I bounced back from the big numbers,” Li said after Friday's round. “I got birdies after I got, like, doubles and triples, so that's what I'm really happy about.”
After making a double bogey at the opening hole for the second consecutive day, Li birdied the third hole. After making a triple bogey at No. 13, Li birdied the 14th.
When Li met the media Tuesday, she said she didn’t care about the outcome, she just wanted to have fun and learn. She meant it.
What did she learn?
“Just be patient, and not care about what happened, just go to the next shot and hit it like nothing, like it's the first shot,” Li said.
Sports psychologists make good money in golf teaching that.
At the 13th, Li pushed her drive into a thick patch of wiregrass. She tried to chop out and couldn’t budge the ball. She took an unplayable lie and made triple bogey. Her reaction to all of that might have been more impressive than her reaction to any of her four birdies over two days.
She was asked if she's old enough to curse.
“No,” she said giggling.
Li's final tally of 156 was better than 30 other players.
“It was never about score,” said Bryan Bush, her caddie. “She didn't even know what she made on 13, when we walked off the green. She was like, `What did I make?’ It was fun. We had a great time.”
Li said she plans to stick around with her family and watch the weekend play at the U.S. Women’s Open. They’re heading back to their Redwood Shores, Calif., home on Monday, but not before she appears on NBC's Today Show at 8 a.m. Saturday morning from Pinehurst.
Her next big event will be the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links at The Home Course in DuPont, Wash., July 14-19. She became the youngest player to advance to match play in that event last year when she was 10. She’s going back to the championship after making it through a sectional qualifier earlier this year.