Date: April 24, 2017
Author: Mark Hayes

Lee dips Sage lid to hot Niemann

Sometimes, as a golfer, you just have to dip your lid to a red-hot opponent.

Such was the case for Min Woo Lee at the weekend when his valiant run at the Sage Valley Junior Invitational title came up short on a dramatic final day.

Lee, grouped with eventual winner Joaquin Niemann, began the third and final round a shot clear and was two clear standing on the fourth tee and subsequently birdied that par five.

But the young Chilean, already world No.2 amateur and predicted by many to have a bold future, simply took control from that point and peeled off seven birdies in 10 holes to surge clear.

Niemann, 18, eventually signed for a 67 on the Graniteville, South Carolina, layout and a tournament record 12-under-par total, four shots clear of defending champion Austin Eckroat, who stormed home with a 66.

It left Lee and Americans Garrett Barber and Davis Shore to share third a shot further back after a round in which the Perth ace simply couldn't find his momentum.

"He played so well," acknowledged Lee, who has now finished third and second in his two years of eligibility.

"When he was in a situation to make birdie, he did. He played well throughout. I just could not stop him."

Niemann, who ceded the lead to Lee after a triple-bogey on the 17th hole of his second round, put his attacking final round down to that moment.

"It sounds weird, but I think that helped me a lot because my mindset was different. I just wanted to go make birdies, birdies, birdies," he said.

"This is awesome. I just kept making birdies and I was able to really enjoy the last nine (holes)."

It was a great tournament for the five-strong Australian contingent.

Cameron John finished T7 at five under after an entertaining final-round 70 that featured an eagle and five birdies but was marred by five bogeys.

Fellow Victorian Karl Vilips, still just 15, finished T22 and will rue the 17th hole that he played five over for the week in his two-over total.

Nevada-based Queenslander Jack Trent enjoyed a wild ride in his final round, too, with an eagle and a double-bogey in his even-par 72 that left him T31 at four over, alongside Perth's Fred Lee, who closed with a 74.