Perth's Minjee Lee and Melbourne's Su-Hyun Oh have been nominated as the two young women who can kickstart the production line of world class women from Australia.
With only one player, the veteran Karrie Webb, sitting in the top 100 of the official world rankings for women, Australia is well and truly due to uncover some jewels. But Brad James, director of Golf Australia's high performance program, said it had been obvious for some time before Lee's charge to second place in the Australian Ladies Masters last Sunday that she was a superstar in the waiting, repeating Oh's performance in the same tournament two years ago.
"Anyone who knows or understands golf can pinpoint Minjee and Sue Oh as our next two great Australian players,'' said James. "Plus you've got the likes of Stacey Keating, but these two have really shown at a young age that they're world class.''
Lee, 17, was born in Perth of South Korean parents who resettled in Australia. She has only recently finished year 12 studies, and has set aside future university studies to play golf throughout the world in 2014, including some big amateur events as well as some professional tournaments. She may turn professional late this year and head to the LPGA Tour school in the United States seeking a card for 2015.
It was her sensational performance at Royal Pines last week that brought her to notice, although she has previously won the United States girls' title (2012) and twice won the Australian amateur championship. She is currently ranked in the world's top-five amateurs.
Right up until the final hole at Royal Pines she was engaged in a duel with American professional Cheyenne Woods for the Masters title, trailing by two shots. Lee made birdie but Woods matched it to take the championship. The Australian had shot a final-round 69 under the intense glare of a professional tournament, and had to be content with the title of leading amateur. "I really haven’t really been in this situation before so I am happy with how I played today and hopefully there are many more to come.''
Watching it on television, James sensed that the fiercely competitive Lee was disappointed.
"When she gets in that situation, she usually takes advantage of it,'' said James. "I said to her coach (Ritchie Smith) 'if she can get a sniff of the lead, I'd be surprised if she didn't win'. She's very strong. She expects to win. Her and Su Oh, you could throw a coin up as to who's better.''
Lee hits it relatively long, despite lack of bulk, and putts superbly. "Pound for pound she's one of the strongest athletes we have, probably the strongest. I mean, she works hard in the gym, she's the full package.''
While she is drawing the publicity right now GA officials also rate Oh, 17, who was with Lee on the winning Australian team at the prestigious Queen Sirikit Cup last year. Oh, who plays out of Metropolitan Golf Club, is a phenomenon; she won a degree of fame for qualifying for the Women's Australian Open at Metropolitan when she was just 12 years old.
Both Lee and Oh, also 17, are in the field for the ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open this week.