RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – Lucy Li bounced around Mission Hills on April 1 in her flowing skirt and nude-colored stockings as if she competes in major championships every weekend. In fact, the 14-year-old is the only amateur who will carry on at the ANA Inspiration as the other five missed the cut.
This despite a sputter at the finish for Li, who bogeyed three of her last four holes to post 1-over 145. Li, who burst on the national scene three years ago at the U.S. Women’s Open at Pinehurst, returned Saturday morning to finish eight holes of her second round and sits in a tie for 51st. The high school junior (she skipped two grades), will be paired with two-time U.S. Women’s Amateur champion Danielle Kang and Ayako Uehara of Japan in Round 3.
“You know, kind of disappointed,” Li said of her morning finish. “I played really well today and yesterday except the last four holes.”
Through 36 holes, Li ranked T-9 in fairways hit (21) and T-18 in total putts. In distance off the tee, the diminutive Li ranked T-72 out of 107 players with an average of 252 yards.
Li’s ability to stay within herself while playing alongside a player twice her size was nothing short of incredible. Former phenom Michelle Wie averaged 282 yards off the tee in the first two rounds. Wie, who played alongside Annika Sorenstam in the final group on Sunday as a 13-year-old at this championship, trails leader Lexi Thompson by a stroke.
“It was really a lot of fun to see Lucy play and play well,” said Wie. “Just really impressed with how she carries herself out there.”
Much like Wie’s father B.J. carries around sheets of stats and binoculars, Li’s intense aunt takes notes of her own on yellow legal paper.
Li doesn’t have a formal instructor but has taken playing lessons with Johnny Miller and corresponds with LPGA great Mickey Wright. She qualified for her second major by winning the ANA Junior Inspiration March 26 and will compete for a second consecutive weekend on the Dinah Shore Tournament Course.
“I know how to play this golf course under tournament conditions and under pressure for sure,” Li said.
Needless to say, she’s a quick study.