Lee Joins Webb, Kirk and Smith In First Major
Rookie Minjee Lee has played her way into the first major of the LPGA year, ANA Inspiration, which gets underway this Friday morning.
The West Australian golfer, who is playing her first full year as a professional, has gotten off to a great start. Lee started the 2015 season with a 12th place at the Coates Championship, she then made the cut and finished tied for 27th in the Bahamas. The former World No.1 amateur then returned home and posted her first top 10 finish in an LPGA event in the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open. It was those three starts that earned her enough money to secure a spot in this week’s major.
It is not the first time that Lee has played the Dinah Shore layout at the Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, 12 months ago she played it as an amateur. The Perth golfer put in a very credible performance with rounds of 75, 68, 73 and 72 she finished at even-par and in a share of 24th place.
Formerly known as the Kraft Nabisco Championship, the ANA Inspiration is being played from 2 to 5 April. Lee is joined in the field by two time winner of the event, Karrie Webb, Sarah Jane Smith and Katherine Kirk.
Kirk is the first Australian to tee off, she tees off at 7.44am local time, while Webb is off at 8.16am, Smith and Lee tee off on 1st and 10th tee respectively at 8.48am.
The defending champion is American Lexi Thompson who took a celebratory leap into Poppie’s Pond – and subsequently golf history - a year ago here at Mission Hills, becoming the second youngest major champion in LPGA Tour history.
The achievement changed the way Thompson is announced on the first tee, adding major champion to her intro. It also meant she had added plans to her tournament agenda this year with an invitation to the champion’s dinner on Monday, but largely she remains unchanged, she says.
“I’m still the same person, but winning the ANA Inspiration has given me so much confidence,” Thompson said. “Just even coming back to the tournament I remember the shots I hit every day, and it brings back so many great memories. But going into every tournament, I go in with extra confidence now knowing I’ve won this one.”
While Thompson says she’s the same as last year, this championship has evolved. The 2015 edition comes with a new name – the ANA Inspiration – but the history of this championship remains the same. The winner on Sunday will still jump into Poppie’s Pond and will be donned with the iconic white robe on the 18th green Sunday.
“This tournament has so many traditions. Whether it’s jumping into Poppie’s Pond, putting that robe on after you jump into the pond, there are so many traditions and so much history behind this tournament,” Thompson said.
113 players will be vying for the title and their share of the US$2.5million purse.