In 2008, South Korean prodigy Inbee Park became the youngest ever champion to win the US Women’s Open at just 19 years of age. Now in 2023, Bella Simões, the Brazilian amateur from Lake Worth, Florida set a new record. She is the youngest player ever to attempt qualification to the US Women’s Open tournament. At just 9 years old, Simões was treated with quite the honor. She was given the very first tee shot at her selected qualifier located at The Club at Mediterra, in Naples, Florida.

Check out Bella Simões’ first shot:

For Simões to have qualified for the Open, it would have taken a sensational performance with years of training under her belt. Only two players were able to advance from the field of 69. However, what makes this story so incredible is the fact that entering and competing in a qualifier at such a young age only proves what determination and skill can do for a dedicated player. Simões shot 82-85, but made a birdie on the 7th hole during the first round. She finished off the day by dropping a 20-footer, and had a little celebration with her caddie and coach, Don Law.

Simões took to Instagram later on to say: “Dream come true. 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 ❤️🙏🏻”

How was Simões able to compete in the qualifier?

Now, you are probably wondering how a 9-year-old was able to compete in such a high level tournament. 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, or those who are already labeled as professionals, can enter. Several groups are exempt and receive an automatic invitation, including the last 10 champions and the top 75 players in the world rankings. Qualifying for the US Open takes place over two rounds on the same day at 26 different sites across the world. Kimberly Williams, a 60-year-old pro from Bethesda, Maryland, was the oldest player to attempt qualification this year, according to the USGA.

Simões has an already impressive résumé with winning the Junior World Championship three years in a row to becoming a US Kids Golf World champion in her age category for both 2020 and 2022. The US Kids World Golf Tournament is a youth competition with merit. World No. 7 and 2014 Chevron Championship winner, Lexi Thompson, was twice a champion before she became one of the game’s elite players. Thompson became the youngest golfer ever to qualify for the US Women’s Open at 12 years old, when she made it to the 2007 edition of the major.

Why has this story received so much attention?

It would have been a much wilder story if 9-year-old Bella Simões was able to earn her way into the finals of the US Women’s Open, yet this story has grabbed the attention of golf fans for a reason. It’s not just because of her record breaking age that Simões has fans turning heads. It is because again and again this determined young prodigy is putting in the work and effort to make herself seen, and strengthen her skills and abilities as a golfer. She is inspiring other young golfers to find ways to achieve their goals and dreams. At such a young age, she has her sights set on a bright future, and has been constantly showing the world that she wants to go far.

Source: Sean Zak for | CNN

– Photo Credit: James Gilbert/Getty Images –

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