West Australian Min Woo Lee hopes to cap his maiden year as a professional with one of Australian golf’s most prestigious trophies after a thrilling 4-under 68 put him within striking distance at the Australian PGA Championship on the Gold Coast.
This time last year Lee had not yet even left the amateur ranks but on the back of a tie for fifth at the ISPS HANDA World Super 6 Perth spent much of the year on the European Tour, only just falling short of retaining his card.
A win in the co-sanctioned event would solve a number of the scheduling issues he currently faces for 2020 but it would more importantly establish his bona fide credentials as a future superstar of Australian golf.
A holed bunker shot he rated “10 out of 10” at the par-3 14th hole came in the centre of a three-hole stretch of birdies, a par saving putt from six feet on the final hole keeping him just two shots back of 54-hole leader Adam Scott with one round to play.
Managing his round and avoiding “rookie errors” is all part of the 21-year-old’s education in professional golf and he knows that will be vital if he is to etch his name onto the Joe Kirkwood Cup on Sunday.
“I’m still learning,” Lee admitted.
“The thing about golf is the one week where you don’t make mistakes, you’re probably going to be up there in the lead or going to win. I’m still looking for that. Hopefully, it’s this week.
“But I’m still learning a lot about myself.
“This whole year most of the pros, probably 90 per cent of them, they hit it very straight.
“They don’t make too many mistakes and I’m over here adventuring in the trees.
“I’ve got things to tidy up. Those major winners, they just hit it so straight and nothing really goes wrong.”
By finishing 117th on the Race to Dubai rankings Lee has only limited status in Europe next year and is entered for the South African Open that begins on January 9.
A win or even a runner-up finish may be enough to improve his status significantly, added incentive to try and log his first win as a professional.
“Of course I’m trying to win. I’ve been here a few times so it will be nice to finish it off,” said Lee, who was third at the AV Jennings NSW Open and is now ranked 299 in the world.
“(A win) is going to solve a few of my problems. Not problems, but I can set my schedule next year and a lot of benefits to it.
“I’m looking forward to it.”
With his family home in Perth preparing for Christmas, Lee expected to receive a message of support overnight from older sister Minjee, herself a five-time winner on the LPGA Tour.
“Whenever I do well or whenever I’m down, she messages me and lets me know just to keep my head up,” said Lee.
“Depends what moods she’s in. She might send one, she might not, but it’s all good.”