For now at least, Lucy Li‘s Cinderella story is over. The 11-year-old sixth grader from Redwood Shores, Calif. finished her run at the U.S. Women’s Open with matching rounds of 78, missing the cut by seven shots. While that probably stings a bit right now, years from now she should be remembered as much for the maturity she displayed as her age.
In the lead-up to the tournament, current world No. 1 Stacy Lewis said that she thought Li was too young to be playing in a tournament that she really had no chance in. Her concerns were valid – for every success story like Michelle Wie or Lexi Thompson, there are just as many, likely many more, who fall short.
Wie and Thompson, who are actually the only players under par through two rounds at Pinehurst, certainly didn’t get where they are overnight, but they’ve shown the ability to bounce back from failures. It’s that quality that Li showed this week that makes me think she could have a shot at making this dream a reality someday.
The fact is, the U.S. Open is tough, whether it be the men’s or ladies’ version. Li may not be playing this weekend, but then again, neither are stars like Jessica Korda, Anna Nordqvist, or Morgan Pressel. When Li struggled with three double-bogeys and two triples, it would have been easy for her to hang her head, but that couldn’t be further from what happened.
Instead, she smiled her way through, enjoying every minute of her major championship experience and being a kid the way we all wish more athletes could allow themselves to be. She signed autographs, met Webb Simpson (her favorite player) and wore a star-spangled outfit on Thursday. Then she went out and played some really good golf along the way, only making back-to-back bogeys once, and following a triple with her final birdie of the tournament.
Does any of this mean Li is a lock to be an LPGA Tour star some day? Far from it. But whether or not she even likes to play golf five years from now, her ability to stay grounded and remember that she gets to play a game at a level so many of us will only ever dream of is absolutely something to be commended.