Champions Lee and Park pose with their trophies – photo Golf Australia – click to open
For some time now, Perth’s, Min Woo Lee, has been considered Australia’s next golfing star and his two-shot victory at the ISPS Handa Vic Open at 13th Beach this weekend further confirmed this reputation.
It was 21 year old Lee’s first victory as a professional and provides full status for him on the European Tour for the next two seasons having just missed out on full status despite an impressive rookie season there in 2019.
Lee’s best European Tour finish prior to this win was when 3rd at the recent Australian PGA Championship on the Gold Coast but with this win he will improve to 130th in the world ranking, an improvement of some 230 positions from this time last year.
A former US Junior Champion the Perth golfer was an impressive performer in the amateur ranks despite not winning many titles but this week’s victory opens the door for a very successful professional career especially with the confidence it will bring.
“I’m pretty proud of the way I played,” said Lee. “I thought coming in I had a really good chance because I was hitting it really good, but I think I impressed myself with the game this whole week. Hopefully I’ll have more of these over my whole career.
“I felt really comfortable just because if I did exactly the same as I did yesterday, I felt pretty hard to stop. I started off really hot out the gate and was pretty comfortable those last few holes. I got a bit nervy, but I’m pretty proud of the way I finished.
“I hit one shot at a time. It’s a cliché, but it’s just that. You can’t really worry about anything else. I hit it so well, I’d give myself nine out of ten for ball striking this week. Coming into today I knew I could just stay calm and just hit every shot the same as the last three days.
“I was pretty calm until, you know, the last hole. I wasn’t nervous, just on my toes a little bit. I thought it’s a par five, straight downwind, the ball’s not going to curve much off the tee – stripe one down and I thought I had it in the bag from there.”
New Zealander Ryan Fox only just made the cut heading into the final 36 holes but weekend rounds of 69 and then 64 on Sunday, the best of the day by three shots, saw him storm through the field to grab second place, three shots ahead of Australians Marcus Fraser and Travis Smyth and Frenchman Robin Sciot-Siegrist.
Fox’s round was made even better by the demands of the strong winds that buffeted the course throughout the weekend, an eagle at his final hole the icing on the cake of an exceptional effort on the final day.
“That was probably the best round I’ve played in a tournament,” said Fox. “I would not have thought 64 was out there at the start of the day. I think the only saving grace with this wind direction is you either play a hole straight down or straight into.
“I made a couple of eagles, which was nice. I hit a lot of shots inside of 15‑foot and made a couple of those, which is not really what you expect to do today. I never really felt like I was under any pressure out there which, in conditions like this, that’s always nice.”
The women’s Vic Open was won by Korean Hee Young Park who survived a three person playoff to win her third LPGA Tour title after regaining her playing privileges at the LPGA Tour School in December.
She defeated fellow South Koreans Hye Jin Choi and So Yeon Ryu with a par at the 4th hole of extra time.
Park has seriously considered giving the game away last year, but she gave Tour School another chance and finished second there and now her career is very much alive once again.
“I wasn’t going to just to put off Q‑School because I thought this is enough, my golf career, but I tried the Q‑School, made the Q‑School, finished second. That kind of gave some other confidence. And then I just want to ‑‑ got the feeling with the rookie year feeling, you know?
“Back to refreshed instead of like overall. This is my almost 13th year on the tour, so kind of too used to it on the tour, but after Q‑School I have something new feeling, so I think that gave to me a lot of things.”
The leading Australians in 6th place were Minjee Lee, the sister of the men’s champion, Su Oh and Robyn Choi who recorded her best ever LPGA Tour finish when sharing the honours of leading Australian.
Hannah Green worked her way through the pack over the weekend to tie for 11th.
The LPGA Tour moves now to Adelaide for this coming week’s Women’s Australian Open while for the Australasian Tour they head to Toowoomba for the Queensland PGA Championship and for the European Tour, their next event will be in Oman beginning on February 27th.