28 Oct 2019 | Professional golf |

Min Woo Lee's European agony

by Martin Blake

Min Woo Lee
Min Woo Lee. IMAGE: Getty

Australia’s young gun Min Woo Lee has missed out by two agonising spots on a full European Tour playing card… a month after he believed that he would be safe and gainfully employed for 2020.

Lee finished tied 63rd in the Portugese Masters over the weekend, earning another cheque.

But when the final Race To Dubai rankings came down, he was 117th on the list, down from 110th the week before.

His management told Golf Australia that the top 115 would be given cards, once other categories are taken into account.

Hence, the 21-year-old Lee misses by a gut-wrenching two positions, possibly only a few dollars, or a shot or two.

He will, however, have conditional ‘category 18’ status which will give him some starts if he chooses to take them, possibly around 15 tournaments.

Coach Ritchie Smith said Lee was gutted, but that with the chance of playing on a conditional card, he would surge forward.

“It’s a fair kick in the teeth,’’ said Smith. “But I think he’ll be fine. Put it this way, if he can’t make enough money in those 15 or 20 starts to stay on the tour, then he probably shouldn’t be there.’’

Smith said Lee texted him from Portugal with the news that he was not secure, despite all his camp and Lee himself believing until then that he had already secured a card through points accumulated. Smith was shocked; they’d been led to believe the cut-off point would be around 380 points, and Lee had more than 400. He ended up with 440.

“In the end, he’s probably missed by a shot, or if you want to take it further, probably about 20 bucks,’’ said the Perth coach and mentor to both Min Woo and sister Minjee. “In the bigger scheme of things, it might end up being a good thing because it will give him time to develop his game. He needs to get used to playing for a living. Now, there’s a finite measure of what he’s doing. Before, it was just ‘go out and play your best’.”

Playing on 15 invitations this year, Lee earned 297,000 Euros, including fourth in the Saudi International and fifth at the World Super Six in Perth. He led the tour in driving distance at 322 yards. But it was not quite enough.

Lee, out of Royal Fremantle, is a Golf Australia rookie squad member. He had an excellent amateur career, winning a US junior amateur title, and turned professional early in 2019.

Smith said Lee should not deviate from the plan to tackle Europe. “I still think it’s the right way to go,” he said. “The money’s good, the courses are more Australian, the people fit with how Australians are aligned.”

Meanwhile, a brilliant late season fight back from Lucas Herbert has helped the Victorian retain full status on the European Tour for 2020 after finishing 106th on the Race To Dubai rankings.

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