NORMAN — Annie Park and Doris Chen played early Tuesday and we’re able to enjoy the afternoon because of the way they played.
The Southern California teammates shot mirroring 68s and 36-hole 8-under par 136 totals to claim medalist honors during the stroke-play qualifying portion of the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links at the Jimmie Austin OU Golf Club.
“I’m gonna go rest a bit, then practice and then go back and sleep,” Park said after saving par with a 15-foot putt on No. 9, her last hole of the day.
Some rest would be a good thing for both Park and Chen.
“I told my caddie when I practiced that I felt dizzy. I don't think I slept enough. I was just a little tired today,” Chen said. “But I really like the way I played today. I pulled myself together.”
Park and Chen are members of the national championship-winning Trojan golf team.
They, along with teammate Kyung Kim, comprised three of the top four stroke-play finishers. Kim, who won the 2012 WAPL at Neshanic Valley Golf Course in Neshanic Station, N.J., would be appear to be the dominant story going into today's match-play elimination matches.
Instead, they were upstaged by the smallest player in the field.
Lucy Li, 10, became the youngest player in WAPL history to advance to match play. The 4-foot-10, 80-pound sixth-grader to be is a week younger than Michelle Wie when she advanced to the match play in the 2000 event.
Li, who shot a 1-under 71 to finish the qualifier at 4 over par, flipped a lob wedge out of the right green-side bunker on No. 9 to punctuate her round with a birdie. The shot had Li sprinting to the scoring tent and into the arms of her mother and aunt.
"I wasn't really expecting much coming into this," Li said
. "I just wanted to play as well as I could."
She finished tied for 25th in the stroke play and that was after picking up a two-stroke penalty for fixing a spike mark on the 12th green Monday.
Though it may take some time to realize the historic significance of her accomplishment, a USGA official may have had an idea when he asked her to autograph the ball she holed out with before sending it on to the USGA Museum in Far Hills, N.J.
Li took it in stride.
“I don’t really care that much,” she said.
She plays with a care-free attitude.
The bunker shot on No. 9 was her fourth birdie of the round and her seventh in two days.
Her routine is pretty simple:
Take a couple practice swings and line up the shot. Once her caddie tells her she's lined up at the target, Li lets it rip.
"She's at such a young age that she doesn't have any fear," said Chelsey Franklin, her caddie. "She just picks a target and commits to it, which is a fabulous. Hopefully, it's a quality she's able to maintain throughout her career."
Franklin, who played golf at OU and is taking a break from her job as the OU course’s event and membership coordinator, was one of many volunteer caddies the club lined up for the tournament.
"They were saying names in the pro shop and I jumped on it," Franklin said. "I said, 'Give me the 10-year-old! I want Lucy Li!' I fought hard for her.”
They’ll have at least one more round together.
Li meets Ember Schuldt, who finished at 5 over par in the stroke play, at 9:15 a.m this morning in the sixth match of the day.
Matches will continue through until a champion is crowned Saturday afternoon.
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