Australia’s Minjee Lee has confronted a hot field in her quest to win the LPGA’s rookie of the year award, but Perth’s Lee is making a good fist of it.
Lee, 19, who secured her first United States tour win recently at the Kingsmill Championship, goes into this weekend’s Walmart NW Arkansas Championship in third place behind a pair of South Koreans, Sei Young Kim and Hyo Joo Kim.
They are part of a cluster of four rookies who have won on the tour this year, with Sei Young Kim having won twice already. It is the hottest group of first-year players the LPGA Tour has seen in some years. There are six rookies on the top 25 on the money list.
She has set herself a target of becoming the first Australian to win the Louise Suggs Rookie of the Year award since Karrie Webb in 1996. She still has plenty of time to catch her rivals, with three more majors to come beginning with the US Women’s Open early next month.
Lee, ALPG Member and winner of the 2014 Oates Victorian Open as an amateur, has won $US427,876 this season, sitting 14th on the money list and 13th on the season-long Race to CME Globe points standings. She finished in the top 15 at the season’s third major, the Women’s PGA Championship, a fortnight ago.
The Royal Fremantle member first came to prominence when she won the 2012 US junior amateur, then twice won the Australian Amateur Championship in 2013 and2014. She was ranked the No. 1 amateur in the world when she turned professional late last year, and had already won a professional tournament playing as an amateur – the 2014 Oates Victorian Open at 13th Beach.
She is currently ranked 17th on the Rolex world rankings, just behind Webb (16) as Australia’s top-ranked player.
This week’s tournament at Pinnacle Country Club sees Korean Inbee Park and New Zealander Lydia Ko resuming their duel for the world No. 1 ranking, with Park back on top for the first time since Ko first took the mantle in February. Park won the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship a fortnight ago to regain the No. 1 ranking she has held several times in the past.
Karrie Webb, Sarah Jane Smith, Katherine Kirk and Sarah Kemp join Lee among the Australians in the field.
LOUISE SUGGS ROOKIE OF THE YEAR STANDINGS
1. Sei Young Kim (South Korea) 886 points
2. Hyo Joo Kim (South Korea) 794
3. Minjee Lee (Australia) 551
4. Ha Na Jang (South Korea) 494
5. Ariya Jutanugarn (Thailand) 348