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
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 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
David Shefter is a
senior staff writer. Email him at email@example.com.