27 Jul 2021 | Professional golf |

Lee makes HP staff smile

by Dane Heverin

Minjee Lee kisses the Evian Championship trophy in front of the Australian flag.

Australia woke up in celebration mode on Monday morning as Perth's Minjee Lee won her first major championship, validating the hard work of this country's High Performance programs and completing a brilliant month for golf.

For 25-year-old Lee, the Evian Championship win comes after more than 10 years on the Australian golf scene and she caught the eye of many along the way.

Golf Australia high performance manager Brad James remembers first watching Lee play at the 2010 Australian Junior Championship.

“Obviously you could see she had some talent,” he said of the then 14-year-old.

James is in Tokyo waiting for Lee to arrive at the Olympic Games and he took time to reflect on her journey from talented youngster to major champion.

The Golf Australia programs run in conjunction with and complement the state high performance programs.

Lee’s longtime coach Ritchie Smith has been part of the journey prior to 2010 and he has worked closely with Golf Australia ever since.

"A key program role is to provide Ritchie, and all the primary coaches of programmed athletes, resources to enable our Australian athletes to reach their potential - you hope that potential is winning majors,” James said.

Along the way a number of other initiatives have also aided Lee’s development.

In 2013 and 2014, she won the Karrie Webb Series Scholarship which gave her the opportunity to play and train with, as well as be mentored by, the legendary Karrie Webb.

A lesser known, but extremely important, member of Lee's team throughout the journey is biomechanics expert Ryan Lumsden.

Lumsden works closely with Smith and the rest of Lee's team, while he also works with Lee's little brother Min Woo Lee and her Olympic teammate Hannah Green.

He has played a “big part in Minjee’s development”, James said.

Lee’s triumph adds to an already incredible July for Australian golf with Min Woo Lee and Lucas Herbert (European Tour), Stephanie Kyriacou (Ladies European Tour) and Cameron Davis (US PGA Tour) all claiming victories on major tours.

Sydney's Grace Kim has won twice on secondary pro tours in the United States recently despite being an amateur, and two top Australian amateurs - Louis Dobbelaar and Kirsten Rudgeley - have won big international amateur events in the US and Scotland.

All of whom have come through the high performance programs of Golf Australia and the various states, vindicating the methods being used and the work that has been done.

Many of them have spent time at the Golf Australia house in Orlando. 

“It gives them that home away from home,” James said.

"The staff are say g’day, they talk Australian lingo, bring them some Vegemite, whatever their needs are”, he added.

There have been many helping hands involved in the recent success.

“Golf Australia plays a pivotal role in being the architects, but ultimately it is an industry-wide program,” James said.

“It is an Australian golf program, not a Golf Australia program.”

“It’s an industry success, not just a Golf Australia success.”

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