Much has changed, but much remains the same. Lucy Lee doesn’t appear in pigtails and face paint anymore. She no longer dresses like a teen whose parents choose their battles. She did, in fact, what girls do: to mature into a young, confident woman.
But golf is still unusual. Just two weeks after earning her LPGA Tour card by retaining the top-10 finish at the end of the season in Epson Tour’s Race to the Card, Li entered the Dana Open presented by the Marathon and collected two impressive rounds, finishing Friday with a 7-under, 64 to top midday after the morning wave and ensure one of the late tee times on Saturday.
“I was doing really well today,” she told me after her tour. “Yesterday too. I just got a few hits to drop today. I did some good even balls on my back nine times, so I kept the momentum.”
Some of the basics are the same. As you’d expect, the swing has changed since Lee came on stage when she was 10 at the 2014 US Women’s Open in Pinehurst. In that time she broke the record for the youngest player ever to qualify for a major tournament. While she missed the weekend, Lee’s pre-tournament press conference while she ate ice cream remained one of the indelible images of that tournament.
It has gotten progressively stronger over the years, and longer in the last couple of years. As an amateur, she was a staple of the United States’ Curtis Cup teams. She has held a number of amateur titles, particularly in her native California, before turning professional in 2020 at the age of 17. Now, at the age of 19, she has twice won the Epson Tour with four more top ten places. To her credit, including runner-up.
By all rights, she should be in her California home getting on her feet this week. But she played the CB Women’s Open in Ottawa last week and finished in the top 10, earning her a spot at the Dana Open. With so many LPGA rounds available, Lee knows she needs to tap when she can.
“I was so excited to play last week in Canada,” she said. “It was a great tournament and a great tournament, and the hospitality. So that was one of my goals during the week: trying to get into the top 10 (my way) into this event. I was just happy to slip in there, so (I am now) kind of trying to keep going and keep going. in doing what I do.”
Golf comes to you at different times, regardless of your skill level. I had a novelty eight years ago. Now she is a player.
“I think initially when I first became pro, I kind of struggled (admitting such a young age, and) being patient. Especially the first year was a little unlucky with the COVID kind of slowing me down.
“I think the main thing, the number one thing for me and why I’m playing better this year, is just my ability, when you’re on the court, to forget everything and play golf.
“It was a little hard for me (in the past) because I was so young. But someone called me old this week, and that was hard. Now, just focus on playing my game and not thinking about the past or the future, because that doesn’t really matter when you’re there.
“That’s definitely huge.”
There are some lessons that only experience can provide. Winning is one of them.
“I’ve never led an LPGA event before, so we’ll see,” she told me as she showed a level of maturity that continues to belie her 19 years. “It’s a new experience. But these two Epson Tour wins definitely give me confidence in knowing I can play better. Good at the bottom of the sprawl.I think it’s really important to approach every day the same way, no matter what position you’re in.
“That’s like the first key to me.”