Duke freshman golfer qualifies for U.S. Women's Open: 'Incredibly excited'

Thursday, May 30, 2024
Duke freshman golfer qualifies for U.S. Women's Open
Katie Li did not like golf as a child but learned to love the sport. Now, the All-ACC Duke freshman will play in the U.S. Women's Open.

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- All eyes will be on the links in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, for the U.S. Women's Open this weekend.

To qualify for the championship is a feat in itself but doing it as a teenager and a freshman in college is another level.

That's exactly what Duke golfer Katie Li did.

Not bad for someone who despised the game as a child.

"My whole family got into golf together. I think I was around 5 years old," said Li, 19. "I hated golf when I first started, I remember like the whole family would go out to the range, and my dad would get me a bucket of balls and I would clump all the balls together and then 'accidentally' hit like 10 of them, just to get rid of them."

Things changed once she got a little older and her competitive side emerged.

"Once my parents started putting me in tournaments, I think two, three years later that's when I really started loving golf," Li said. "I'm a competitive person and being in tournaments motivated me and helped me find my passion for the game."

The Basking Ridge, New Jersey, native immediately made an impact at Duke, earning All-ACC honors as a freshman. She had a 73.19 stroke average with one win and three Top 20 finishes. She also became the first Duke women's freshman to register back-to-back rounds of 66 and the first Blue Devil freshman to win a tournament since 2015. In fact, she was the only ACC freshman to win a women's tournament this season.

"I'm a long hitter. People don't expect that from me because I'm barely 5-3, but I hit it a long ways," Li said.

Li is one of 21 amateurs in the U.S. Women's Open, which begins Thursday and runs through Sunday.

"I would say I'm a relatively aggressive player," Li said. "Definitely one of my goals growing up, I'm like incredibly excited, playing the women's U.S. Open playing alongside all the pros. I'm trying not to make myself too nervous around all like the best players in the world."

With her stellar first year at Duke behind her, Li will get a chance to measure herself against the best in the world this weekend.

"I'm not going to say golf hasn't caused me a lot of pain but all that pain is worth it in the end when you win or like you accomplish something great like making the U.S. Open," she said.

Li tees off Thursday at 7:07 a.m., on hole No. 10 at Lancaster Country Club.

"I would really like to make the cut," she added. "That's the No. 1 goal."