The USGA announced Thursday that Lucy Li violated the Rules of Amateur Status, but that the 16-year-old will retain her amateur status after receiving a "one-time warning."
Li appeared in an Apple Watch advertisement campaign in early January, immediately catching the attention of the USGA. After a review period, a USGA committee determined that Li had breached Rule 6-2, which states that “an amateur golfer of golf skill or reputation must not use that skill or reputation to obtain payment, compensation, personal benefit or any financial gain, directly or indirectly, for (i) promoting, advertising or selling anything, or (ii) allowing his name or likeness to be used by a third party for the promotion, advertisement or sale of anything.”
A USGA release provided further details of Li's involvement with Apple.
"Late last year, Ms. Li was engaged by a casting agent for an acting assignment to promote the Apple Watch. At that time, the nature of her participation was not defined and she was given no indication that she would appear as a golfer. While on this assignment, Ms. Li was filmed engaging in a variety of recreational activities, one of which was golf. The casting agent informed her that her appearance in any final advertisement was not guaranteed, nor did they know how she would be featured."
The USGA said that Li became aware of her inclusion in the ad as a golfer on Jan. 2. A day later, she was notified by the USGA that the governing body was looking into the matter. On Jan. 11, Li was again contacted by the USGA, which told the golfer that she had violated the Rules of Amateur Status.
However, after several further discussions with Li and her family, the USGA decided not to take away Li's amateur status because Li is a minor and it was her first breach of the rules. Also, Li did not receive any monetary or non-monetary compensation for appearing in the ad, and she did not knowingly break Rule 6-2.
"I have apologized to the USGA and accept my responsibility in participating in the Apple Watch ad," Li said via Twitter. "It was never my intention to cause the USGA and myself to be in this position. The USGA is like a family to me, and I appreciate the thorough review of all the facts and the consideration I've been given. I'm looking forward to continue playing as an amateur and to do all that I can to promote this great game."
Li, who is ranked eighth in the Women's World Amateur Golf Ranking and has played in 14 USGA championships (including two U.S. Women's Opens, in 2014, at age 11, and last year), recently withdrew from this week's AJGA Buick Shanshan Feng Girls Invitational. She is still scheduled to compete in the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur on April 3-6.