WILLIAMSVILLE, NY- One local golfer will be driving, chipping and putting this weekend, at one of the most historic golf courses in the world- and she's only 9-years-old.
Lily Zhang, a 4th grader at Forest Elementary School in Williamsville, arguably has a better golf swing than men or women who have been playing their entire lives.
"She's a tremendous thinker not an analyzer," said Joe Lusardi, one of Lily's coaches and owner of the Elite Junior Golf Academy in Rochester. "That's where adults go wrong. They analyze. Lily thinks."
As soon as she could walk, Lily's parents put a club in her hands. Now they support her as she practices six days a week and attends 25 tournaments around the country each year.
"She's a hard worker. Smart. Dedicated. Determined," said Li Xin Zhang, Lily's dad.
LPGA Professional Cindy Miller has been coaching Lily since she was a toddler. Miller says Lily is the best 9-year-old in the country.
"She loves it. Her parents really encourage her. She practices all the time," said Miller. "You don't want to push and make them crazy. She loves what she's doing and she works harder than anyone in Western New York to get that good."
"She does an amazing job of processing the information and then more importantly, implementing it almost immediately. And you just don't see that very often," said Lusardi.
Lily's talent and dedication has helped her win multiple tournaments, meet Michelle Wie and golf's biggest stars, and even land a hole-in-one at Park Country Club in Williamsville. But she says this latest accomplishment tops them all. She beat out thousands of other young golfers to qualify to compete in the Drive, Chip and Putt competition ahead of The Masters at the famed Augusta National Golf Club.
"I think I literally cried cause it was my dream," said Lily.
This is the third time she tried to qualify. The third time was the charm. She'll compete with 80 other kids beginning April 1. She'll face off against 9 other girls in her age 7-9 category. Her dad gets to be her caddy.
"She is so confident on the course. She knows the game so well, it surprises me," he said.
Lily is not a one trick pony. She also plays basketball, takes ballet, is an accomplished ballroom dancer and plays the viola and piano. She aspires to one day be a doctor and play golf "just for fun."
Whether her hands are on the piano keys or wrapped around the golf club, Lily finds her rhythm and makes magic happen.
"You just have to work really hard and you will get rewarded," said Lily.
To learn more about the Drive, Chip and Putt Competition, click here. Coverage begins live on the Golf Channel at 8 am on Sunday, April 1.