Australian Ladies Professional Golf
Brilliant Minjee Lee in contention again
Date: 14th February 2014
By: Martin Blake / www.golf.org.au
Minjee Lee

Minjee Lee is the Real Deal.

Runner-up at Royal Pines last Sunday, the teenaged Australia was impressive in backing up with a first-round 68 in the ISPS Women's Australian Open, then she went one shot lower today at Victoria with a 67.

These are heady days. The 17-year-old tapped in for a birdie at the par-five ninth hole, her 18th for the day having started on the 10th, and she held the lead in her national championship at nine-under-par.

It was a fleeting piece of fame, because Sweden's Caroline Hedwall went birdie-eagle-birdie about half an hour later to pinch the clubhouse lead, but Lee is unlikely to forget that feeling for a long time. As it is, she is in with a chance of winning a tournament that has five of the top 10 players in the world competing.

She has missed just three greens in regulation in 36 holes, such is the quality of her ball-striking, and she is hitting it longer all the time, well past her playing partners, longtime professionals Sarah Kemp and Lindsey Wright. This from a tiny frame. "Yes, well I don't have a massive build, so just trying to get stronger and trying to get that dynamic in your swing so you can hit it longer,'' she said today. "Obviously there's room for improvement but I don't feel like I'm way behind or anything. I can get longer but that will come over the years.''

Lee is a remarkably calm individual. Asked if she had started about winning, she was emphatic. "No, I'm just going to play how I play and if I can get close, then good. But, yes, just carry on as I'm going.''

Her round today was steady to start with, carding nine straight pars after starting on the 10th. Then at the first hole, the short par-four, she pumped a three-wood shot on to the green and drained the putt for eagle, and she was away. She hit it close at the fifth for a birdie, then took advantage of the two par-fives at eighth and ninth. At eight, she was up and down from the greenside bunker at the 500 metre ninth, she hit two pure shots to the front edge of the green and two-putted for birdie.

Lee is in what she calls ''my gap year'', having graduated from year 12 studies at Corpus Christi in Perth. A reporter suggested that most teenagers tend to look for fun in their gap year, and she shot back: "Isn't this fun?'' One of her heroes is Suzann Pettersen, the Norwegian world No. 2 who is playing this week: "She's so cool!''

She intends playing in any professional events that she is invited to this year, and going by this week's form, there will be plenty of invitations. At the end of 2014, she intends travelling to the LPGA Tour school and turning professional. So long as everything is okay. "I think turning pro is when you feel ready,'' she said. "It's not something that someone should push you to do. I think whenever it comes it'll come.''

Australia needs to get to know this young woman. Born in Perth of Korean parents who emigrated to attend university in Perth, she has already won two Australian amateur championships and with Grace Lennon and Su Oh, won the Queen Sirikit Cup amateur teams title in Thailand last year.

Golf Australia's elite performance people have been saying for ages that Oh and Lee are the best young players Australia has produced in many years; columnist Michael Clayton believes that pair are the best this country has seen since Karrie Webb emerged 20 years ago. Oh, also 17 and a Melburnian, also went under par yesterday and looked likely to make the cut.

Webb is the only Australian in the top 100 of the world rankings, but that might be about to change over the next few years. Not before time, either.

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