15 Sep 2023 | Professional golf |
Great Australian Moments 26: Minjee Lee's Pine Needles romp
by Martin Blake
As a little girl in Perth, learning the game from her mother Clara and hanging at the driving range, Minjee Lee developed a dream to win the US Women’s Open.
It’s the biggest tournament in the game for women, after all, and the fact that the USGA as organizer had lifted the prize pool to a record $US10 million in 2022 would have only added to her anticipation.
So when the 2022 event came around at Pine Needles in North Carolina, she knew that she was in her prime. No.4 in the world, she had only three weeks early won the Founders Cup on the LPGA Tour.
Australia’s Lee duly went out and dominated the tournament like has rarely been seen, well in front after rounds of 67-66-67 on the first three days.
Momentarily she threatened the tournament record of 16-under by Juli Inkster, particularly after she birdied the 12th from long range, celebrating with a fist pump and grabbing a six-shot buffer before two late bogeys took her back to reality. Ultimately Lee posted a final-round 71 in difficult conditions to finish at 13-under.
She was a full four shots ahead of her nearest competitor, and the first Australian to win the US Women’s since Karrie Webb in 2001.
Twice a winner of the Karrie Webb Scholarship for amateurs, Lee had enjoyed a great mentorship from the seven-time major winner Webb. It was her second major title after the Evian Championship in 2021, putting her in remarkable heady territory.
Only Webb and Jan Stephenson among Australians have won more than one women’s major. The same trio are the sum total of this country’s US Women’s Open winners.
"I mean, I'm speechless," Lee said. "I can't believe it right now. No, it's just super, super special and just a great honor. It's been my dream since I was a little girl. It's the one that I always wanted to win on; now I've done it, and just feels amazing."
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