Date: March 06, 2009
Author: Dean Wedlake at Clearwater, Sportal

Lee thriving on local support

Seven days ago he was packing his bags due to a missed cut at the Moonah Classic but young Kiwi star Danny Lee thrived on the support of a bulging local crowd to easily make the weekend at the NZ PGA Championship. The 18-year-old world No.1 amateur cut a frustrated figure at Clearwater on Thursday in opening with a one-under 71 where he said &apospretty much everything was wrong with my putting&apos. The flat stick was still shaky the following day, actually taking one more putt than an initial effort of 30, but a five-under 67 saw Lee race up the leaderboard into a tie for 12th. Ball-striking was the big improver as he found five more fairways and three more greens (11 of 14 and 16 of 18 on Friday respective) in recording four birdies and an eagle. “I actually played pretty well in the first round – I just started really bad and came back in the middle,” Lee said. “Today I had lots of birdie chances but still missed quite a lot and shot five-under. I&aposm happy with it.” “I was hoping not to miss the cut again and I&aposve done it alright and made it.” Lee has experienced all the high and lows in a three-week period where he announced himself on the professional scene with victory at the Johnnie Walker Classic then dipped out at Moonah despite holding the lead after 14 holes. It seems everyone wants a piece of the affable teenager. Fans seek his autograph, the media wants his perspective and corporates love him as evidenced by his sponsor&aposs exemption to the NZ PGA. The demands on his time after the Johnnie Walker triumph were more than most could handle, let alone a youngster, but Lee won&apost point to that for his Moonah struggles. “A little bit of that but I don&apost want to blame it. I wasn&apost really ready to play in that tournament.” The golf course is where he feels at his most comfortable and he showed that on Friday by providing the burgeoning galleries with plenty to cheer about. Fine golfers in their own right, Australian veteran Peter O&aposMalley and Ryan Armour were a mere sideshow to their precocious playing partner. “I can see it and I can hear it – when Peter and Ryan made a putt [the gallery] just clapped and when I made a putt they went crazy,” Lee said. While O&aposMalley is likely to have been impressed by the talents of his young companion, the admiration was more than a one-way thing. “He&aposs such a great ball-striker – I&aposve never seen a person strike the ball that well,” Lee said of the two-time NZ PGA champion. “I was really surprised. He holed some good shots and I saw some really good shots. It was great.” Lee is well known for his rigorous practice regime but he was planning to hit only a few post-round putts and come out firing the next day. “I&aposm a bit exhausted at the moment so I&aposll take it easy and rest.” “I think I&aposm going to play well.”