03 Jul 2023 | Professional golf |
Minjee’s major ambition moves to Pebble Beach
by Tony Webeck
Minjee Lee has refused to put a number on how far her major ambition reaches but is excited to take her game to the “iconic” Pebble Beach setting to defend her US Women’s Open crown.
The 27-year-old West Australian was asked four weeks ago to return the enormous trophy that she won at Pine Needles last year, the empty space now on the shelf at her Dallas home the motivation to launch yet another trophy hunt.
As a two-time major winner Lee already lives in the rarefied air of Australian golfers.
Earning her breakthrough major at the Evian Championship in 2021, Lee is one of only six Australians to have won multiple major championships. Win again this week and she is in company kept only by Hall of Famers Karrie Webb (seven), Peter Thomson (five) and Jan Stephenson (three).
She appears unaware of her already elevated status within Australian golf history and says her victory by three strokes last year has provided the fuel to chase further success.
“I don’t have a number on it or anything but if I can play to the potential that I think I can then I think I’ll have a good chance of winning a few more,” said Lee.
“I’m not really sure if (winning a second major) was extra validation because after the first one you kind of have the validation within yourself that you can win a major and that you can win on the highest stage.
“I don’t think it was extra validation but it’s definitely motivation to win the other ones.”
Unlike Cameron Smith and the Claret Jug, Lee resisted the temptation to fill the Harton S. Semple Trophy with alcoholic beverages during her time in possession.
She admitted that sending it back was a “bitter-sweet” moment and that its absence the past few weeks has not gone unnoticed.
“It’s been sitting on my ledge for the past year so now that I don’t see it, I do miss it a little bit,” she added.
Two weeks after China’s Ruoning Yin won at Baltusrol, Lee’s defence will take place at one of the planet’s most revered golf courses.
When she arrives on the Monterey Peninsula in California it will be Lee’s first look at a championship venue that is an annual stop on the PGA TOUR and which has hosted seven men’s majors.
“It’s really cool that we get to go to these iconic places now,” Lee said of Pebble Beach, which hosted the US Women’s Amateur in 1940 and 1948 and which is scheduled to host the US Women’s Open again in 2035, 2040 and 2048.
“It has taken a while to get there but now that we’re here we get to experience what the men are experiencing, even though it was a little bit of a long time coming.
“I’m grateful for the opportunities that we have now. I know the women’s tour has been working really, really hard for us to have these opportunities so I don’t think I can complain.
“It has gone from strength to strength and we have been going to better and better venues so I’m sure once I leave the tour it’s going to be in an even more amazing place.”
Lee headlines a six-strong Australian presence at Pebble Beach that also includes Hannah Green, Grace Kim, Gabriela Ruffels and amateur Maddison Hinson-Tolchard.
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