Date: July 22, 2016
Author: Mark Hayes

Two Perth Lees reach US Junior quarters

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Eight boys remain in the biggest junior golf tournament in the world – two of them are named Lee from Perth.

On an extraordinary day in Tennessee, Fred Lee turned potential disaster into one of his greatest days, then watched as namesake Min Woo Lee won at the first extra hole to push the West Australian pair into the elite quarter-finals of the US Junior Amateur.

Fred, 16, extraordinarily jogged on to the first tee for his morning round-of-32 match against China’s Wocheng Ye 20 seconds after the designated start time and was subsequently penalised with the loss of the first hole.

Remarkably unfazed, the Royal Perth member quickly knuckled down and prevailed 3&2 to after playing holes eight through 16 two under the card.

But even better was yet to come for the 2016 WA Amateur Champion.

Lee, seeded 17 after strokeplay at The Honors Course in Ooltewah, backed up in the afternoon round-of-16 match to take down Texan medallist Travis Vick 2&1.

Vick, who set a course record 64 in strokeplay qualifying, was no match for Lee who won the second hole with a par and never trailed in a quality match highlighted by the Aussie’s penchant for clutch putting.

“It definitely proves that my game is solid,” said Lee, whose caddie this week is the son of the club professional. “It showed out there today. I didn’t miss many greens and I hit quite a few fairways.”

Lee made a lovely up-and-down for a par from rough to the side of the 13th green to take a 2-up lead. In what proved the decisive moment, he pitched from trouble to within 3m and rolled in the putt from which Vick couldn’t ultimately recover.

“It was one of those days where you just get beat by the putter,” Vick said. “Inside of 15 feet, he was very, very clutch.”

Lee blushed and said he wouldn’t be late for subsequent tee times.

“I felt really good on the range and on the (practice) green … I should have sprinted a little faster. I almost got there.”

“But I was confident in my game. The extra practice … definitely did help.”

Min Woo Lee also had a great story to tell. After pouring in three birdies in his first five holes, the Golf Australia national squad member coasted to a 6&5 win in his morning match with American Chase Furey.

But it was far close in the afternoon session, with Lee taking until the 19th hole to eliminate Minnesota’s Frankie Capan with a 2m birdie putt as the pair went back up the first.

In another quality match, Lee stood on the 18th tee two under the card and with a 1-up lead before a double-bogey threw the match wide open again.

But a superb approach to the first green enabled the Royal Fremantle member to salute with his second birdie on the hole for the afternoon, prompting a big fist-pump in celebration.

“It’s about survival here (and) being level-headed,” he said after his marathon day.

“I'm motivated, healthy and determined coming into the round, but it’s a long and tough course and it can mentally drain you, so … it’s all about staying in the game.

“Bad tee shots cost me on four or five holes, but I had a lucky break on the 17th, hit the tree and came back on right side of fairway, hit a 40m cut 4-iron to 20 feet and won the hole.

“On the 19th hole (I) had 130m downhill shot and hit a 52-degree wedge to 10 foot and holed the putt – it was probably the first `holeable’ putt in five holes.”

Min Woo said he was proud of Fred’s achievements and was excited to “make it a WA championship!”.

The No.3 seed will tomorrow face New Hampshire’s Brandon Gillis, the 38th seed, while Fred Lee will face another Texan, Noah Goodwin, the ninth seed.