04 Feb 2020 | Vic Open |
The superstar: Minjee Lee starts afresh at Vic Open
by Martin Blake
For Australia’s Minjee Lee, 13th Beach this week represents a new beginning.
Lee, a two-time winner of the ISPS Handa Vic Open, has had a long break; her last tournament was in November, 2019.
She’s had a holiday with her family – father Soonam, mother Clara and younger brother Min Woo – which is a rarity in itself. Minjee travels the world playing golf, usually with her mother at her side, and Min Woo, who’s also a pro golfer, quite often has his father with him as he travels through Europe and the Middle East trying to make his name.
“We haven’t done that, the four of us, in a very long time,” said Minjee today. “And grandma (who lives in South Korea) made five.”
Now it’s back to work and the 23-year-old Lee is as ready as she can be for 13th Beach, a venue where she’s had success (in 2014 as an amateur, and in 2018), and a tournament where she loves the mixed-gender format.
“Being a past champion here, I think it's a really great venue just with the guys as well. I think it's just something very different that we don't get to have often. It's just a great atmosphere. And all the crowds and the supporters come out and they can walk with us, so it's just something different for everyone.”
The world No. 9 comes into the tournament as the second-highest ranked player behind the brilliant South Korean Jongeun Lee6, but she does not see it as pressure to perform. “To be one of the top players coming into the event, I think it's always a really good feeling and it's just something that you hope … like I guess it's an excitation for you yourself to want to play well. Obviously, it's in Australia, so I want to have a good result as well. That's just something for myself.
“I think it's more motivation than a stress now, but obviously a little bit of stress. Yeah, just a little more motivation for myself just to get my butt in there and do well.’’
Lee had a good year on the LPGA Tour in 2019, winning in Los Angeles and reaching her highest world ranking at No. 2, then going into what by her standards was a lull late. She watched her Perth compatriot Hannah Green do what she has not yet been able to achieve, winning her first major at the Women’s PGA Championship at Hazeltine with pride.
“I'm not really like envious, like I know my time will come,” she said. “I was just really happy for her, sent her a message straight away. It was cool, it was cool to watch, for sure.’’
It is also an Olympic year, and having worn the green and gold four years ago in Rio De Janeiro, Lee has her sights set on Tokyo as well. On the current rankings, Lee and Green would take the two Australian spots, but Su Oh, who was her teammate at Rio, is in the mix as well.
“It’s definitely been on my mind since last year,” she said. “It goes by the world rankings, so I’m going to try to keep that in range.”
Join our newsletter
Get weekly updates on news, golf tips and access to partner promotions.