11-year-old Lucy Li is one of five USGA Members who will compete in the national finals of the inaugural Drive, Chip and Putt Championship at Augusta National Golf Club on Sunday, April 6. Read her story here, and then click below to read about Sean Haselton and Edward Stephens Jr., fellow Members who will also be competing. Live coverage of Drive, Chip and Putt begins at 8 a.m. Eastern Time on Golf Channel, and can also be viewed at www.DriveChipandPutt.com.
Of the 88 finalists in the inaugural Drive, Chip and Putt Championship, Lucy Li is perhaps the most recognizable.
The 11-year-old from Redwood City, Calif., who is one of five USGA Members to reach the finals on April 6 at Augusta (Ga.) National Golf Club, made national headlines last summer by qualifying for a pair of USGA championships. At 10 years, 8 months, 16 days, Li surpassed Michelle Wie as the youngest match-play qualifier in U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links history. Two months later, she became the youngest to qualify for the U.S. Women’s Amateur, where she posted a remarkable 1-under-par 70 on the second day of stroke play to miss the match-play cut by only two strokes.
Now, she’ll look to add to her impressive résumé at the Drive, Chip and Putt Championship, a competition for boys and girls ages 7-15 conducted by the USGA, Augusta National and The PGA of America.
“I’m really excited,” said Li, a sixth-grader. “I’ve always wanted to go to Augusta.”
At her regional qualifier at the Morongo Golf Club at Tukwet Canyon in Beaumont, Calif., Li posted a score of 150, the second-highest total in the competition.
Because Northern California didn’t offer qualifying at the local or regional levels, Li traveled more than six hours to compete – first to San Diego for the local event, and then to Riverside County outside of Los Angeles for the regional competition.
The lengthy road trip was worth it in the end.
“I was just super excited after I made it,” said Li.
Li first started playing golf 3½ years ago when her parents discovered her aptitude for the game. Prior to golf, Li had taken diving lessons at Stanford University and was diving from the 10-meter platform as a 4-year-old. Gymnastics and music were also part of her extracurricular activities until Li picked up a club at age 7 while her parents were watching her older brother Luke, a student at Princeton University and former high-school golfer, hit balls on the range.
That’s when her parents asked noted instructor Jim McLean, whose students include 2008 U.S. Girls’ Junior champion Lexi Thompson, to have a look.
A few years later, Li was competing with the game’s elite amateurs. In December 2013, Li finished 11th at the prestigious Dixie Women’s Amateur at Heron Bay Golf Club in Coral Springs, Fla. Li posted scores of 76-70-73-71 for a 2-over-par total of 290.
A week later at the Junior Orange Bowl at the Biltmore Golf Course in Coral Gables, Fla., Li posted rounds of 74-76-75-76 to place 17th as the event’s youngest competitor. The winner was 2013 U.S. Women’s Open qualifier Brooke Mackenzie Henderson, of Canada.
Li’s primary focus is now the DCP and going to Augusta National for the first time. After school, she practices at Cinnabar Hills, a daily-fee course in San Jose, Calif. Li routinely averages 220 to 230 yards off the tee. Obviously, distance is an issue for Li when she competes in “open” amateur or elite junior competitions, but for her age level, her length is remarkable, especially for someone who weighs less than 90 pounds and stands 4 feet, 11 inches.
“Playing against older people, I had to hit it farther because the tournaments are held on courses that are really long,” she said.
While she doesn’t have a particular player she wants to follow during the practice round – DCP finalists receive complimentary Monday practice round passes – she is most eager to see the closing stretch of holes.
As for the competition itself, Li understands that her accomplishments have put her in the spotlight to some degree.
“Going into the [regional], there was a lot of pressure,” she said. “[Winning the competition] would definitely be one of the [top achievements].”
David Shefter is a senior staff writer. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.