It took an extra day more than she would have liked but 18-year-old Minjee Lee returned to the course Monday for her last two holes and left with her first LPGA win at the Kingsmill Championship Presented by JTBC.
Lee finished at 15-under-par for the tournament, two shots clear of So Yeon Ryu, to become the third rookie to post a win on Tour this year.
Lee becomes only the seventh player in LPGA history to win before her 19th birthday, joining Lydia Ko, Lexi Thompson, Marlene Hagge, Paula Creamer, Morgan Pressel and Jessica Korda. Her final round 7-under-par 65 ties Cristie Kerr and Inbee Park for lowest final round of the year by the eventual winner.
“I didn't think that moment would come this year, so I'm stoked to have won,” she said.
When the horn rang Sunday evening, signaling the conclusion of play, Minjee marked her ball on the 16th green at the close of one of the hottest stretches by a winner we’ve seen all season with a 5-under-par stretch No. 11 through No. 15. She surely wanted to keep on playing, hoping not even darkness could stop the otherworldly run she was on after draining an eagle at the 15th.
When she returned to the course Monday morning at 7 AM, hoping to close the books on her first LPGA title, she three putted, opening the door for Alison Lee who birdied behind her at the 15th to get within two. That would prove to be just a blip on the radar for Minjee, who made par at the nerve wracking 17th and calmly two putted from 50 feet at the last to get into the clubhouse at 15-under.
“On the [18th], I looked at the leaderboard and I saw [Alison] made birdie, so I kind of thought, I'll just do everything I can in my control,” Minjee said. “I just knocked it on and two‑putted for par.”
Up until this point, Minjee, the co-medalist with Alison at 2015 LPGA Final Qualifying Tournament, had enjoyed a solid rookie season with seven cuts made in 11 events, including one top 10, but she admitted she didn’t see this coming. She was just hoping for a good finish to get her game in tune for her U.S. Women’s Open qualifier, which was to take place in Richmond on Monday. She didn’t end up needing to make that tee time, though, as her win Monday ensured her a spot in the field.
Alison Lee (12-under) bogeyed the last to finish in solo third. Perrina Delacour posted the best finish of her career, nearly quadrupling her earnings to this point, and Suzann Pettersen, Hyo Joo Kim, and Paula Creamer all tied for fifth to round of the top five.