Min Woo Lee celebrated a top 15 at The Masters this year but for sheer exhilaration he’s never experienced what he did on the 17th hole at Royal Queensland on Saturday.
The short, beguiling 125-metre par 3 is the centrepiece of the TaylorMade Party Hole with full-throttle fun, hoots and music at the Fortinet Australian PGA.
Lee wasn’t even in Cameron Smith’s group yet the big crowd turning the hole into an amphitheatre gave him a roaring welcome just as they did for players all day.
It caught the young Western Australian by surprise in the best way.
“It’s been a fantastic year… The Masters was obviously very solid (in a dream debut) and playing with Jon Rahm in front of the Spanish crowd was amazing (at the Spanish Open),” Lee said after a fine third round 68.
“I think the standout (moment) was the 17th, something I’ve never really had.
“People were screaming my name for two or three minutes. That was pretty cool. That’d be up there with the top two or three moments of my life, actually.”
Moving day charge for @Minwoo27Lee
Will it be enough to make the final group tomorrow? #AusPGA pic.twitter.com/wVCHlhhMP0
— PGA of Australia | #VicPGA (@PGAofAustralia) November 26, 2022
More than anything, it was yet another reflection of how transformative this Australian PGA has been, the first big, star-filled post-pandemic tournament in this country.
There have been thousands in the galleries who have never attended any sort of tournament before. There are kids – so many kids – women, young men with tattoos, club golf groups in Hawaiian shirts and corporate tents with house full signs.
The “oohs and aahs” tell you many have never before seen a pro up close smoke a drive 300m like Lee or hit an 8-iron so close to a hole-in-one as Smith did on the par-3 fourth.
It’s a complete reinvigoration for tournament golf and Lee loves being part of it. Of course, he was going to toss his ball to the crowd after he putted out for par on the 17th.
“I love the crowds. Even though I was far away from the leading group there were a lot of people watching,” he said.
He’s super-keen to get in the mix with the leaders on Sunday from his seven-under-par perch, four shots behind leader Smith.
“He’s a top golfer for a reason and I’m striving to be like that,” Lee said.
“I want to see if my game keeps up with him.”