Former child prodigy Lucy Li's professional career got off to a sluggish start on Friday, when she shot a three-over 75 in the Florida's Natural Charity Classic, a Symetra Tour event.
It left her eight strokes off the lead of Maddie Szeryk of Canada, who opened with a five-under-par 67.
Li, 17, broke onto the national scene in 2014 when she qualified for the U.S. Women's Open as an 11-year-old. She shot 78-78 at Pinehurst No. 2 and missed the cut. Li might be best remembered for the press conference she gave that week, eating ice cream while swiveling in her chair and answering questions.
Since then, she's steadily checked off major junior and amateur milestones. Li won the 2015 Junior PGA Championship, she was low amateur at the 2017 ANA Inspiration, she made the cut at the 2018 U.S. Women's Open, played for the winning United States team at the 2018 Curtis Cup, and was co-medalist at the 2018 U.S. Women's Amateur.
In 2019, she took the next step by trying to qualify for the LPGA Tour. She didn't make it to the final stage, but finished T-72 after the second stage, which was good enough to get status on the Symetra Tour. In November, she announced she'd turn pro and play Symetra Tour events in 2020. The top 10 players on the money list at the end of the year get LPGA Tour cards for the following season.
Li's amateur career ended on a disappointing note. Early in 2019, she appeared in an online ad from Apple for its Apple Watch. The USGA investigated the matter to see if Li had violated the Rules of Amateur Status, eventually giving her a one-time warning for her actions. And an injury prevented Li from competing in the inaugural Augusta National Women's Amateur, after having won her age division at the debut of Drive, Chip and Putt National finals at Augusta National in 2014.
Though Li's first round as a pro likely wasn't the the start the California high schooler dreamed of—she hit 10 of 13 fairways but missed 10 greens—she was optimistic afterwards at the Country Club of Winter Haven.
"It felt good. I was kind of nervous, but it was really windy out there and played really tough," Li said.
"It set up pretty tough. I had five months off without any tournaments, so I didn’t really know what to expect. Obviously, super excited for the season to start and getting used to how it is out here."