This 9-year-old entered U.S. Open qualifying. Here’s how she fared
Just us, or does the game keep getting younger? Even the amateurs entering pro competitions are younger than ever.
Enter Bella Simoes, a Brazilian amateur from Lake Worth, Fla., who is just…9 years old. Not yet double-digits. Not yet in middle school. Nine years old. Simoes was one of the record 2,107 entrants who signed up for the U.S. Women’s Open at Pebble Beach. Her eldest counterpart: 60-year-old Kimberly Williams.
For those without an exemption, all qualifying opportunities are created equal in the pursuit of a spot in the U.S. Open. Anyone with a 2.4 handicap index or better can enter. So there’s a little evidence of how good Simoes’ game is at such a young age. She’s won the Junior World Championship three years in a row.
Qualifying takes place over two rounds on the same day at 26 different sites across the world, and Simoes selected the qualifier at The Club at Mediterra, in Naples, Fla. She was treated with quite the honor: the very first tee shot — not just the first tee shot in her qualifier, the first tee ball in the entire qualifying gauntlet, worldwide. So there she was at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday, standing behind the tee box, rocking a bucket hat, ready for her introduction.
“This is the 7:15 tee time off Hole No. 10,” the starter said. “First to play, from Brazil, Bella Simoes.”
Yes, it’s okay to say it. She has a better swing than you. And me. And most of us. Simoes absolutely rips the ball. She began playing golf at age 2 and entering tournaments at age 5. Perhaps that’s why she looked so calm. And why her club-twirl is tight as can be. In the wake of news and opinions flying around the professional ranks about pace of play, we have no choice but to applaud how quickly Simoes gets after it. Fast golf seems to be the only kind of golf she knows. From the moment the starter announced her name to the instant her ball took flight, only 22 seconds passed.
For Simoes to have qualified for the Open, it would have taken something mighty — only two players advanced from the field of 69 — but that’s not the point here. Entering and competing in a qualifier at age 9 is an accomplishment on its own. Simoes shot 82-85, but made a birdie on the 7th hole during the first round, and finished off her day by dropping a 20-footer with a little fist-pump and a hug for her caddie and coach, Don Law. Afterward, she posted about the experience on Instagram.
“Dream come true🙏🏻❤️,” she wrote. “At 7:15 today, I was the first to tee off at the US Open Qualifier ⛳️🥰 6,500 yards on a 36 hole tournament and only one day to give my best… and I did. I had the most incredible time at the most beautiful location. Thank you @theclubatmediterra @usga @uswomensopen @donlawgolfacademy @taylormadegolf and everyone who support me”