Call her a prodigy. Call her a wunderkind. Call her a phenom.
Most of all, call her 11 years old.
Lucy Li, this 11-year-old cutie pie, turned the calendar on its head with consecutive rounds of 78 in the U.S. Women’s Open. Afterward she talked openly about the experience, engaging in grownup conversation with journalists and fans who seemed to forget they were speaking with a person not old enough to be called a teenager.
Let her be a girl, please.
There is something frightening about all this. Just because she is smart enough to talk about the lessons of life doesn’t mean she really understands what she is saying.
We should allow her to be an 11-year-old brainiac, which she clearly is. There is a big difference between adolescent experiences and adult experiences. Deep down, her perspective is that of an 11-year-old.
“I don’t care about the score,” she declared about 100 times in two days. Did she really understand what she was saying?
This is an adult concept. Such knowledge and advice – focusing on each shot rather than the numeric result on each hole – generally is gained through experience and not through conversation.
“It was a lot of fun,” she said. “I guess that it was fun because I had two great playing partners. They were really nice. I guess because I did a good job of staying patient and going to the next shot and not caring about what happens.”
Observed playing partner Catherine O’Donnell: “She hits her woods better than her irons. She hits them close every time. It’s hitting it to 15 feet (with an iron), and she’s hitting it to 3 feet with a 3-wood. I’m like ‘Geez, it’s really impressive to watch.’ She hits it like a college kid but has confidence like a pro.”
Her next appearance in a U.S. Golf Association national championship will be the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links, July 14-19 at the Home Course in DuPont, Wash.
What we had at Pinehurst was a full-blown golfer in the body of a child. She might as well be from another planet. She is that rare.
But mental growth does not necessarily run parallel with golf growth. Now that her Women’s Open is history, let’s leave her alone. Let’s allow her to be 11. Let’s get her away from this adult world of major golf championships.
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For the record, Li hit 17 of 36 greens in regulation at the Women’s Open. Her driving distance average was 221.25 yards. She totaled 62 putts.
In the first round she stumbled with two double bogeys and one triple bogey. In the second round she had one double and one triple.
She had four birdies, two in each round. The highlight of her play was a second round birdie on the par-4 14th, coming after a triple bogey on the par-4 13th.
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Li’s bag contained a mixture of clubs from TaylorMade Golf and Edel Golf. She had three Edel wedges and an Edel putter. The remaining 10 clubs were from TaylorMade.
“I think she likes the fact that we treat a Tour player and a little kid the same way,” said David Edel, founder of Edel Golf. “We constantly have to adjust her putter, because she is growing so fast.”
The shafts in the wedges were pink UST Mamiya Recoil 650 graphite from UST Mamiya. Yes, pink is the standard color for these shafts. Li matches the color of the shafts with pink paint fill added to the wedge clubheads.
“The great thing about these shafts,” said UST Mamiya’s marketing manager, Danny Le, “is that you can really feel the weight of the head. We’ve got (17-year-old) Lydia Ko on the LPGA Tour using these shafts.”
Both her irons and hybrids had Matrix Kujoh 65 graphite shafts.
“They made good decisions,” said Chris Nolan, executive vice president for global operations for Matrix. “These shafts are designed to be helpful to the golfer, to get the ball up in the air with enough spin to maintain the proper trajectory.”
Her driver and fairway woods contained Oban Devotion 6 low-spin shafts that work particularly well for golfers with a quick tempo, such as Li.
At TaylorMade’s test center in Carlsbad, Calif., Li was tested on a Trackman launch monitor and posted these numbers with her driver: 88.3 mph clubhead speed, 128.5 mph ball speed, 13.5-degree launch angle and 2,465 rpm.