Date: May 18, 2015
Author: Mark Hayes

Lee triumphs amid fierce pressure

lign="left" />

Perth’s Minjee Lee has won her maiden LPGA Tour title, standing firm amid huge pressure to win the Kingsmill Championship.

Having returned to her marked ball to resume her fourth round, Lee took three from the fringe to watch her overnight lead slashed to three within seconds of the resumption after the final round was called off on Sunday night in Virginia.

But two ice-cool par putts later, the former world No.1 amateur showed in just her 11th start as a member of the LPGA Tour that she will soon be a force in pro ranks, too.

The pressure was ramped up further when So Yeon Ryu (-13) and Alison Lee (-12) both made birdies in the chase behind the Golf Australia rookie squad member.

A regulation par three on the 17th left Lee with the tough 18th to negotiate. She cracked a long drive over water down the middle, but left her approach shot 18m short.

Her first putt had perfect weight but leaked 1m left, leaving a knee-knocking par putt to finish at -15 and leave her opponents needing miracles.

And when she calmly rolled it in with the aplomb of a veteran, the 18-year-old had already done enough.

Ryu could only muster par, while Alison Lee bogeyed the last to cede outright second to the Korean.

And the Aussie party began.

Lee became the fourth LPGA rookie to win this year and the fifth teenager since the start of the 2014 season.

But the 18-year-old spoke admitted it had only come after a nervous resumption.

“I three-putted the 16th and I was like, `Ugghh, let’s just make two pars and get out of here’,” she said.

“I was a little bit nervous but I was glad I could get the win.”

Lee, whose win locked up US Open qualification, said it had already given her great belief.

“Definitely I’ve got a lot more confidence and I know I can win out here now,” she said.

“That thought (will) give me so much drive to win out here, but other than that I’ll keep everything the same and just go through the routines that got me here.”

But that hasn’t stopped her adjusting her already lofty ambitions for the rest of the 2015 season.

“Just play great golf and hopefully get a couple more wins.”

Lee set up a four-shot overnight buffer with a scintillating mid-round run.

Ranked 59th in the world, she began her round tied for third and showed no signs of her impending scoring explosion when she made bogey on the fourth hole to remain square for her round.

Then, fuelled by a banana and having “chilled with the girls”, Lee showed the pro world exactly why she had been the talk of the amateur world.

A birdie on the 7th was followed by three more on the 9th, 11th and 13th before a monster putt fell on 14 to give her a two-shot edge.

And that’s when she got really hot.

A 255m blast off the par-five 15th tee was followed by a laser four-iron from 178m to inside 4m for eagle, which she duly rolled in to charge to 16 under.

“Pretty much my putter was rolling pretty hot those holes, and I really set myself up for a good opportunity to make eagle on 15,” said Lee, who said nothing of note changed in her swing as she lit up the course.

“I didn't do anything crazy.  Just my putts seemed it drop.”

Lee had the option of putting out on the 16th, but took her caddie’s advice to wait for them to be freshly mown and more easily readable in the morning light.

When she rammed that putt 1.5m by and missed the return attempt, the nerves jangled.

But Lee held her nerve admirably, hopefully for the sake of Australian golf for the first time of many in the future.