There are few – if any – competitors on the Australian elite amateur scene who wouldn’t tell you Min Woo Lee is the bloke they have to beat.
But even the man himself will tell you he hasn’t got as many tournament wins on the board as his prodigious talent would suggest appropriate.
So in a hectic summer schedule, Lee dug deep to rectify that situation today, powering to a dominant win in the Golf South Australia Amateur Classic.
The 19-year-old completed a stunning second half of the Royal Adelaide event, trickling in an eagle putt on the 9th hole today to power a 67-67 finish for a 14-under-par total and six-stroke victory over Victorian Kyle Michel.
So impressive was the Royal Fremantle ace’s performance that only five players finished in red numbers, highlighting his mastery of an impressive field, including his winning Bonallack Trophy teammates Greg Foo (T6 at even par), of Singapore, and ultra impressive Japanese youngster Takumi Kanaya (third at -4).
“I was talking to (coach) Ritchie (Smith) and we were just saying we haven’t been able to finish off a four-round tournament with a win for a while, so this was very important,” Lee said.
“I’ve been playing a lot of pro events and others (in team formats) where I’ve been playing pretty well, but there’s nothing like actually winning a tournament like this.”
The West Australian will likely rise perilously close to the top 10 of the world amateur rankings with his victory, which comes on the back of his key role in Asia-Pacific’s Bonallack Trophy win and his brilliant run to the quarter-finals of his hometown European and Asian Tour tri-sanctioned World Super 6 Perth.
Remarkably, the 2016 US Junior champ rattled off 12 birdies and an eagle in his closing two rounds at Royal Adelaide, a course others battled to tame in occasionally testing winds.
And there was a little helping hand from his time spent at the famous South Australian sandbelt course with his LPGA Tour-based sister Minjee Lee at the 2017 ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open.
“I kept the greens book Minjee had from last year … and it helped me a little bit this week,” Lee confessed with a giggle.
“I had it last year (when joint runner-up to Zach Murray), but barely used it, but this year I mostly played by feel like I normally do, but just looked at it when I wasn’t sure. It worked pretty well, that combination.”
Lee said there were several key targets on his radar this year, including key overseas events in Europe and the United States, before turning his attention to Australia’s Eisenhower Trophy defence and the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship.
“Of course it would be really good to do well in those, but the thing for me this week was to focus in here in Adelaide and get a win,” he said.
“It’s a big event and I’m really glad I could improve on last year.
“It’s nice to have the ranking go up a bit with a strong field and I was really happy to have a bit of (winning) margin because I think that helps your points, too.”
Michel (69 today) was impressive throughout the week, but couldn’t repeat his round-two heroics when he carded the 65 he realistically needed to challenge Lee, while Kanaya (70) pushed hard throughout, including three opening birdies, but made four bogeys at key moments to lose momentum.
Rising Queenslander Jed Morgan and Australian Amateur co-medallist Darcy Boyd, of New South Wales, shared fourth at two under after both carded closing 69s.
Colin Coleman, of The Grange, carded a rollercoaster 71 featuring six birdies to finish the best of the South Australian contingent at four over and in a share of 12th, a shot clear of clubmate Jack Thompson and Glenelg’s Jack Buchanan.