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Jeff Gravley

A walk with Lucy Li at her welcoming party

Posted June 20, 2014
Updated June 21, 2014

There are lime green lanyards distributed by the USGA that give you access inside the ropes here at the U.S. Open. This week I have one for women's play, and today I used my golfing hall pass to follow 11-year-old Lucy Li for a few holes.

I can't tell you how impressed I am with her game and how she has handled herself outside the ropes.

Her first drive of the day ended up in the "stuff" off the fairway at hole No. 1. She pulled her second shot and hit her third shot short. Li left the first hole Friday with a double-bogey.

She arrived at the short par-4 third hole where some of the players were trying to drive the 229-yard target. Lucy decided to hit an iron off the tee, and her ball landed right on her pegged distance – just in front of a large bunker. The second shot was simply incredible – hitting within  four feet. Li tapped in for a fist-clinching birdie.

During my walk, I noticed USGA president Tom O'Toole following along. I asked, "How neat is this?" Amazing was part of his answer.

He went on to tell me how he walked up to Li earlier in the week and said, "Hi Lucy, I'm Tom O'Toole president of the USGA."

Li replied, "I know who you are, sir. I met you at a junior golf event last year."

As I followed Li down the fairways, I couldn't help but notice the stares from the young girls in the gallery and the smiles on the faces of the adults as she passed by.

Li didn't make the cut in her first U.S. Open, but she did make a lasting impression after back-to-back 78s. She beat out 26 other competitors and recorded the same score as Natalie Gulbis.

I made sure that I was on the 18th tee box to watch her final hole of competition. I wasn't alone. Sitting in a golf cart was Peggy Kirk Bell, one of the great pioneers of women's golf. The 92-year old owner of Pine Needles wanted to see Miss Lucy in person. She saw Li out-drive her two playing partners, hit the green in regulation and two-putt for par.

That's U.S. Open golf, and this year's tournament introduced us to Lucy Li.

After her opening round on Thursday, she brought and ate a pink ice cream pop during her press conference. The summer heat melted the ice cream like Li melted hearts here at Pinehurst.

Some said she was too young to play in the Open. "Where does she go from here?" asked the tour's top-ranked player, Stacy Lewis.

My guess is she's going to the ice cream store.

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  • vt94hokies Jun 21, 2014

    Totally enjoyed watching this pretty little phenom. She is well beyond her years with intellect, skills, and her personality is off the charts. She certainly has a bright future. She was definitely the darling of the US Open.

  • jmcdow2792 Jun 21, 2014

    This is a great story. We will see her again.

  • Jack Miller Jun 21, 2014

    This girl is amazing. I admit that I am not a huge golf fan but can certainly appreciate the level of dedication this girl has. She is obviously not the typical 11 year old texting away all day...

  • Toddler10-21 Jun 21, 2014

    Great young lady. Enjoy watching kids playing sports and not complaing about its either too hot, or too cold. No video games for her this weekend. IMO they destroy kids if the parents allow too much. Heck I hated when the street lights came on. Again Amazing young lady!

  • Jeanne Gunn Jun 21, 2014

    "Where does she go from here?" Anywhere she chooses, because not only is little Lucy already an amazing athlete, she has a personality as bright as her future, grace and maturity well beyond her years, and has captivated anyone who has seen her play or watch her being interviewed while eating a pink ice cream pop. Forget being on a box of "Wheaties", her little face should grace cartons of Baskin and Robbins!

  • Leave it to Beaver Reruns Jun 20, 2014

    And honestly, it doesn't matter where she goes from here. Lucy played in a US Open. Golf fans like us can only dream that we did.

  • Leave it to Beaver Reruns Jun 20, 2014

    Simply amazing. I still can't believe that an 11 year old girl just broke 80 twice in a US Open at Pinehurst #2. In my opinion, she is the story of the year in sports. Great article, sir.

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