‘Out of the Mouth of Babes'

I didn't want to love Lucy Li, 11, at the 2014 U.S. Women's Open, but I did. Perhaps I was prepared to see yet another spoiled brat making a hard game look easy, or perhaps I bridled at the notion of a child's youth being robbed by the fleeting glories of sports. Perhaps, but Li's lovely laugh and refreshing honesty were disarming.

Child stars (the late Mickey Rooney, Judy Garland, Justin Bieber, Tiger Woods) often don't do well in their personal lives when they grow up (although Tiger's coming around and Bieber still can turn it around). Success and the singular focus on fame and fortune replace experimental failure and the fun and fooling around that are necessary to childhood.

Skipping over childhood can screw up adulthood, so when I learned that Lucy Li had become the youngest golfer to qualify for a U.S. Women's open at 11 years and nine months, I groaned. First, the reaction was, "Here we go again, another brat who will be exploited for society's entertainment and to stroke the ego of her stage parents." Second, I also groaned that she did qualify, which means she has the game that people six times her age have worked hard to get but never will.

"I just don't care that much."

Forget all that. Just watch this video of her press conference at Pinehurst last weekend. Li disarmed the child-star haters and delighted the rest of us who were dubious about kids playing with adults. She missed the cut after shooting two 78s but made me think about why I really play the game. And when I do play, how I play.

It was so refreshing to sense her heart and honesty in this response to a question of whether she had ever been intimidated by a course. "No," she laughed, which revealed a gutsy little girl who will take on any track. And then she added the best part, that part that says play our best and then let it go. She said: "I just don't care that much."

Earlier in the press conference she said something similar, that, "I don't care about the outcome; I just want to learn."

I'll say it again, that it's refreshing to hear a person in the public eye say what we've all said or want to say at times: "I don't care." She wanted to learn from playing in the 2014 U.S. Women's Open and did, I'm sure. And we all learned from her as well. Thanks, Lucy Li.

What did you think of 11-year-old Lucy Li at the 2014 U.S. Women's Open?


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