Lucy Li, the child phenom who played in a U.S. Women's Open at 11 and appeared (briefly and controversially) in an Apple commercial at 16, has officially turned pro at 17.
The San Francisco Chronicle's Ron Kroichick first reported the news on Wednesday after getting confirmation from Li's mom. But it's a move that surprised no one after Li's T-72 at Stage 2 of LPGA Q School last month. After that performance, which didn't advance her to the final stage but did earn her some Symetra Tour status for next season, Li said the following:
“I’m excited to be playing here and really looking forward to the Symetra Tour next year, then hopefully take that jump to the next level."
The California native also tweeted a link to that story on SymetraTour.com:
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, both the United States Golf Association and the World Amateur Golf Ranking, in which Li had been as high as No. 3, have been informed of Li's decision.
It was the USGA with whom Li found herself in some controversy earlier this year when a commercial ran for the Apple Watch in which she is shown practicing and using the product. Golf's governing body investigated the junior golfer in February and determined she breached a rule regarding amateur status, but ultimately decided on issuing a one-time warning. The following month, Li was in the news again for withdrawing from the inaugural Augusta National Women's Amateur due to an unspecified injury.
In 2014, Li became the youngest to qualify for the U.S. Women's Open, breaking Lexi Thompson's record. Li joins Akshay Bhatia as the second high-profile American 17-year-old to skip college and head straight to the pros this year. Bhatia made his pro debut at the PGA Tour's Sanderson Farms Championship in September and is currently competing at the second stage of Korn Ferry Tour Q School.
Even had Li advanced past Stage 2 of Q School, played in the LPGA Q-Series and earned an LPGA Tour card, she would not have been allowed to play full-time due to the tour's 18-year-old age requirement. Li, who turned 17 on Oct. 1, would be eligible to play on the LPGA in 2021 should she earn her card either via the developmental Symetra circuit or through Q school next year.