Li leads qualifying at U.S. Girls’ Junior

Luci Li of Redwood Shores captured stroke-play medalist honors by one stroke over Paphangkorn Tavatanakit of Thailand in the U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship at Boone Valley Golf Club in Augusta, Mo.

The 14-year-old Li carded a score of 71-66–137, 5-under-par, and will play Belinda Hu of San Ramon in the first round of match play on Wednesday morning.

“I hit the ball really well today, much better than I did yesterday,” said Li, who captured the 2016 Junior Girls’ PGA Championship. “I made four straight birdies from (holes) 5 through 8. I made a 20-footer on 5, and then stuck it to like 2 feet on 6 and 7. Then I made a 6-footer on 8, so that was good.

“I really struggled with my ball-striking (in the first round), especially with my hybrids. I missed the first three greens in a row, and I was 2-over most of the round, but birdied my last two holes coming in, which was good for my confidence heading into today.”

In 2014 when she was 11, Li became the youngest player to compete to play in the U.S. Women’s Open at Pinehurst No. 2, and also is also the youngest competitor in U.S. Women’s Amateur history, having played at age 10 in 2013.

Earlier this year, Li was low amateur honors in the ANA Inspiration, the first major of the LPGA Tour season in April.

Tavatanakit carded a qualifying score of 70-68—138, while Nicole Whiston of San Diego shot 70-70—140 to tie for third with Zoe Campos of Valencia, who totaled 71-69—140, and Caroline Hodge of Larchmont, N.Y., who finished at 68-72—140.

Mika Liu of Beverly Hills totaled 67-74—141 to tie for sixth with Karah Sanford of Escondido, who wound up at 71-70—141, Alexa Pano of Lake Worth, Fla., who shot 71-70—141, and Rachel Kuehn of Asheville, N.C., who came in at 75-66—141.

Michaela Morard of Huntsville, Ala., was 10th at 72-70—142.

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