Date: May 19, 2015
Author: Mark Hayes

Olympics dawn on champion Minjee

Suddenly, the Olympics are real for Minjee Lee – and she could barely be more excited.

Lee, 18, vaulted from 59 to 19 on the Rolex Rankings after winning her maiden LPGA Tour event in Virginia on Monday.

Now just three spots below her idol and prospective Games teammate Karrie Webb, the West Australian prodigy is trying to keep focus on her rookie LPGA season.

But she is only too aware of the huge opportunity presented by golf’s return to the Olympic family after a 108-year absence.

And with Australia’s top two women in the frame for Rio 2016 selection, a once-distant dream is closer every day.

“Recently (the LPGA) has given us a lot of insight into the Olympics and telling us what will happen at the Olympics and how it will unfold – it’s super exciting,” Lee beamed.

“I kind of have more insight into what it will be like now (that it’s less than 15 months away).

“I’m thinking more and more of how cool it would be and how much of an honour it would be to go to the Olympics.”

Lee then checked herself. Temporarily at least.

“I haven’t thought too deeply into it; I want to get through this year first and see where it leaves me in terms of getting into the Olympics,” she said before dropping into full-blown teenage excitement about the world’s showcase sporting event.

“But oh my god yes, I’d be so excited (to be chosen). It would be awesome.

“Come on, it’s the Olympics – pretty awesome!”

Lee became just the seventh person to win on the LPGA Tour before her 19th birthday when she completed a breath-taking final-round 65 to win the Kingsmill Championship.

The Royal Fremantle Golf Club member charged to the front with five birdies and an eagle in nine unforgettable holes between a rain delay and bad light ending play late on Sunday.

With a four-shot lead when Lee resumed her round on the fringe of the 16th green the next morning, she nervously three-putted for a bogey to give her charging rivals hope.

But two steely pars on the tough closing holes were more than enough for a two-shot victory at 15 under par with four consecutive rounds in the 60s capped by her closing 65.

“I wasn’t nervous sleeping (on the lead), but when I got to green I was,” Lee said.

“When I missed those putts, I knew I just had to make par on the next hole and do everything I could in my control … which I managed to do.

“It’s not overwhelming, just kind of cool that I can say I’m an LPGA winner now. It feels pretty damn good.”