Li revels in Augusta chance 

Lucy Li choked down on the oversized golf club as firmly as her tiny hands would allow. But tiny hands didn’t deter the then-7-year-old Lucy from winding up her big brother’s club and taking a swing that would change the rest of her young life.

“We were on the driving range waiting for [Luke],” said Lucy, recalling the day four years ago, as her brother was finishing a tournament. “And I just started hitting. I liked it.”

What followed that very first swing was an unparalleled passion for the game of golf — a passion that drove the Redwood City girl to make history last year. Twice.

Less than a year after setting a pair of records as the youngest player ever to qualify for the U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship and the youngest to reach match play at the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links, Lucy, 11, will find herself contending on the most coveted golf course in America.

“It’s really exciting,” said Lucy, who on April 6 will be one of 88 junior golfers competing in the Drive, Chip and Putt Championship at the famed Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga., the course designed by one of her sporting heroes, Bobby Jones. “I’ve always wanted to go there.”

Having craved a chance to play at Augusta — a golf club that up until two years ago barred women from acquiring membership — since learning how to swing, the 5-foot-1 Lucy earned her trip to Georgia in August, outhitting and outplaying the competition at a regional qualifier and winning her age division by 11 points.

“I just focus on the shot and try to play as well as I can,” said Lucy, whose best career score on an 18-hole course is a 69. “I’m always happy.”

Happily, per the advice of her coach Jim McLean, is how Lucy played in her very first tournament in 2010. It worked. Lucy claimed third in the girls’ 8-9 division at the Doral-Publix Junior Golf Classic, and now owns many medals, trophies, ribbons and plaques.

“I just [want] to play as well as I can,” Lucy said. “And wherever it takes me, it’ll take me.”

It took her brother, Luke, eight years Lucy’s senior, through Carlmont High School in Belmont, where he was the captain of the golf team and graduated salutatorian. And Lucy, the straight-A sixth-grader who has a penchant for reading and arcade games, more than holds her own against her Princeton-bound brother, who owned the club she first swung.

“I pretty much beat him every time,” she said.

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