The accolades are continuing to pile up for Perth teenager Minjee Lee, who was awarded the inaugural Herb Elliott Medal at the Western Australian Institute of Sport annual dinner over the weekend.
Herb Elliott became a legendary figure in Australian sport after winning the Men’s 1500m at the 1960 Olympic Games, and a medal has been struck in his honour to recognise an inspirational sporting performance by a Western Australian every year.
Lee was nominated alongside WA cricket captain Adam Voges, who became the oldest debutant centurion in Test cricket history in the West Indies, and Caitlin Bassett, who was pivotal in Australia’s 2015 Netball World Cup victory.
But it was Lee’s win at the 1.3 million dollar Kingsmill Championship in May that earned the award, with Lee becoming the seventh woman in LPGA history to win on tour before turning 19.
“Thank you so much for giving me this award,” said Lee, who accepted via video due to her playing commitments at the Hana Bank LPGA Championship in Korea.
“Herb Elliott is such a great athlete and a great role model in WA, so it is such an honour for me.”
In Lee’s absence, Golf Australia national coach Ritchie Smith was on hand to accept the award from Elliott.
“I was obviously very proud to accept the award on behalf of Minjee, who has had a great start to her professional career’” said Smith, speaking after the award ceremony.
“When I was up on the stage Herb Elliott said to me — ‘I can’t believe how good she is, and I can’t believe how beautifully she swings the club.’
“Minjee is a really proud West Australian and is well aware of Herb Elliott’s achievements. To win an award struck in Herb Elliott’s name will mean a lot to her.”
Lee’s professional journey began just over a year ago at the 2014 Evian Championship last December, finishing in the top 20 to earn her first pay cheque of US$42,329.
At the 2015 Evian Championship, Lee finished T11 to earn another $53,998 to bump her total career prizemoney up to US$740,825. Thanks in part to the poorly performing Australian dollar, Lee became a millionaire after 12 months on the professional circuit, with her career earnings just ticking over one million Australian.
The say the first million is always the hardest, so we can only anticipate what is to come from the 19-year-old Royal Fremantle member in the coming years.
The Herb Elliott medal was presented as a part of the WA Hall of Champion celebrations, and Hall of Champions Committee Chairman David Hatt was equally excited about what is in store for Minjee Lee.
“Minjee’s efforts in winning the Kingsmill Championship in her debut season on the LPGA tour captured the attention of all Western Australians and stood as the most inspirational sporting moment of the past year,” said Hatt.
“I congratulate Minjee and wish her all the best as she continues to raise the profile of the sport for young Western Australians.”