Seventeen-year old Australian Minjee Lee is the newest youngster to come knocking at the door of professional golf. She’s been traveling a familiar route, collecting victories and trophies from junior and amateur regional, national and international events since 2010, sharpening her technical skills and strengthening her mental game.
Lee collected her first pro victory in February at the 2014 Oates Victorian Open, and while her win may have put her on the international radar for the first time, Australian golf fans have been following Lee for a couple of years now:
I had not heard of Minjee’s deeds prior to the [New South Wales] open 2 years back at Oatlands but when we saw her there we could not believe that such a young girl could play with such ease and skill and with such a fine swing and demeanour. Since then we have watched her and been so glad to see her succeed as she has.
John Conion, www.alpg.com comment section, 24 February 2014
2014: Minjee Lee’s Winning Game
Lee flirted with her first win in a professional venue two times before she put it all together at the Victorian Open. She was runner-up to Cheyenne Woods at the Australian Ladies Masters in early February. Then, the week before the Victorian Open, it looked like she might take the top of the board at the Women’s Australian Open. After posting rounds of 68, 67, and 68, Lee went into the final round at the Australian Open at the top of the leaderboard. But the wind, the pressure of the final round, the gallery, undid the teenager. She carded a final round of 78 and finished in a tie for eleventh place.
Lee’s mentor and her competitor, Karrie Webb, closed in on the final round, overtook Lee, won the tournament for the fifth time in her career, and then comforted her protégé.
I told her `good play’ . . . It’s probably tougher to lead a tournament in conditions like today than if you’re behind because you don’t have as much to lose if you’re behind.
Lee had narrowly missed carding her first pro victory over a field that included three other teenaged rising stars in women’s pro golf, American Lexi Thompson, Englishwoman Charley Hull, and New Zealander Lydia Ko.
For the third time in less than a month Minjee Lee teed it up at a pro event, and this time she put it all together. At the Oates Victorian Open she carded even par for the first round, and then picked up steam, posting 70, 68 and 68 and claiming the top of the leaderboard. Over the four rounds Lee had piled up an eagle, twenty-one birdies, forty-three pars, and seven bogeys and cruised to a comfortable six stroke victory.
Who Is Minjee Lee?
Australian-born Minjee Lee’s Korean mother introduced her to golf when she was ten. Lee took to the sport and four years later, in 2010, right on schedule developmentally, the teenager became the youngest ever winner of the Western Australia State Amateur Championship. Over the next three years Minjee Lee built a breathtaking amateur golf resume.
The following year, 2011, marked Lee’s meteoric rise through amateur golf competitions. She won the Handa Junior Masters, Western Australia Womens’ Amateur, Singapore Ladies Amateur, Srixon International Junior Classic, and the Tasmanian Stroke Play Championship. She also came close to winning the Australian Amateur Championship, losing on the 38th hole in the final. Lee was fifteen.
Now eighth in the Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking, in 2012 Lee collected two more victories on the amateur circuit, the US Girls’ Junior and the Tasmanian Stroke Play Championship. At the US Girls’ Junior Lee defeated defending champion, Thailand’s Ariya Jutanugarn, another teenager who’s now nibbling at the edges of professional golf And she again made the semifinals in the Australian Amateur Championship, losing to New Zealander Lydia Ko.
In 2013 Lee went on to capture the Australian Women’s Amateur, the Western Australia Womens’ Amateur, the Rene Erichsen Salver, the Australian Girls’ Amateur, and the Dunes Medal titles. In January 2014 Lee successfully defended her Australian Women’s Amateur championship, and then she stepped onto the big stage of pro golf, and she did so with considerable flourish and ranked number one in women’s amateur golf.
A Professional Future: Lee’s Blueprint
Lee has graduated from high school and will celebrate her 18th birthday in May 2014. During her 2013 trip to the United States Lee was approached by several universities who hoped to recruit her for collegiate golf teams. She declined, explaining,
I am not going to take that pathway, I was never the type of girl who really wanted to go [to college], it’s not for me.
Although Lee’s non-committal on the timing for turning pro, she plans to “play all the Aussie professional circuit events and then go to China for the World Ladies Championship. After that I think I’ll head to the United States for the U.S Women’s Amateur and play a couple of other big events over there.”
Karrie Webb believes she has the talent to attend Q-school and aim to play full-time on the LPGA Tour by the end of the year.
Webb is predicting a huge future for rising star Minjee Lee.
She’s got more talent in her little finger than I ever did at 17 . . .You will definitely see a lot more of her.