Pinehurst, NC, United States (4E Sports) – Lucy Li, the 11-year-old phenom who has grabbed attention at the U.S. Women’s Open, fired an 8-over-par 78 in her opening round Thursday at Pinehurst No. 2.
Li tallied two birdies at No. 1 and No. 5 with three bogeys, two double bogeys and a triple bogey at the 3rd hole.
“I’m happy with how I played,” said Li, who was the youngest-ever U.S. Women’s Open qualifier. “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. I just need to get rid of those big numbers.”
The 5-2 Li recorded an average driving distance of 235 yards, about 15 yards behind the field but she hit 13 of 14 fairways and nine of 18 greens in regulation.
“She’s way better than I was expecting,” said Catherine O’Donnell, a 24-year-old graduate of nearby North Carolina who was in the grouping with Li and also shot a 78. “I was really looking forward to it. I was interested to see how she was going to play.”
Li bounced back from her opening double bogey at the 10th by making par on four of her next five holes. Another double came at No. 16, and then she had a triple-bogey at No. 3. She also had bogeys at Nos. 13, 7 and 9.
Li’s first birdie came on No. 1 — her 10th hole — and she added another on No. 5.
O’Donnell and Jessica Wallace, a 23-year-old Canadian who played collegiate golf at Pepperdine and Colorado, said they were happy to be grouped with the youngster.
“It was a very surreal experience,” said Wallace, who shot a 4-over 74. “I know what a big deal Lucy is coming out here, so, hey, I’m totally fine coattailing off of people wanting to take a look at her.”