In 2011, Minjee came pretty close to winning
the Australian Amateur Championship; she lost on the 38th
hole in the final. She made the semifinal in 2012, but lost
to Korean New Zealand superstar Lydia Ko, who went on to take
But Minjee's 2012 got better after that. In
the summer, she played at the US Girls Junior, and took the
title when she first beat Ariya Jutanugarn in the semifinals,
then Korean American Alison Lee (who had beaten Ko) in the
Minjee added the Australian Amateur title
at last to her trophy case in 2013. After two near misses,
she cruised to a 6 & 5 win in the final over Australian
Jenny Lee. The next week, she contended at the New South Wales
Open, a professional event. Tied for the lead going into the
final round, she ended up third, her best finish yet in a
pro event. Only the 2011 champion, Caroline Hedwall, and the
defending champ, Lydia Ko, finished ahead of her. In her next
event, the Volvik RACV Australian Ladies Masters, she finished
tied for 16th.
Lee kept racking up wins in amateur golf
throughout 2013. Among her triumphs were wins at the Western
Australia Amateur Championship, the Rene Erichson Salver and
the Australian Girls Amateur Championship. She also reached
the round of 16 at the US Women's Amateur, and teamed with
Su Hyun Oh to help Australia capture the Queen Sirikit Cup.
She finished the 2013 season the 4th ranked women amateur
in the world.
In 2014, Minjee took another quantum leap
forward in her game. She started the year by repeating as
the Australian Women's Amateur champion. She then played several
professional events, excelling in all of them. At the New
South Wales Open in late January, she finished tied for 5th.
At the RACV Australian Ladies Masters, however, she was brilliant,
contending the entire week and coming up just short to Cheyenne
Woods, finishing second - her best ever professional result.
The next week, she again found herself in the final group
on Sunday, this time at the Austrlian Women's Open, her first
LPGA event. Tied with Chella Choi going into the final day,
she managed to stay atop the leaderboard until the tough conditions
finally wore her down with a few holes to play. She wound
up tied for 11th.
Minjee would not have long to wait to avenge
that loss, however. In her next pro event, the ALPG's Victorian
Open, Lee zoomed to a three shot lead after three rounds,
with fellow am Oh in third. But Minjee would not be denied
this time: on the final day she shot a scintillating six under
par 68 to crush the field by six for her first pro win. Several
thousand fans followed her the entire day, and Lee has become
a big story down under. Her win also elevated her to the #1
spot in women's amateur golf.
Lee focused on professional events for the
rest of her amateur career, with good results. She played
four Majors in 2014, missing the cut at the British, but notching
top 25 finishes in the Evian, US Women's Open and Kraft Nabisco
(her best finish was a T-16th at the Evian, her first event
as a pro). She was the low amateur in the Open and Kraft.
Lee did play in one more important amateur
event: the Women's World Amateur Team Golf Championship, or
the Espirito Santo Cup. Teaming with fellow Korean Aussie
amateur stars Shelly Shin and Su Hyun Oh, Australia launched
a massive final round comeback - spearheaded by Minjee's 65
and Oh's 66 - which resulted in Australia capturing the cup.
She immediately turned pro after that and played in the Evian.
Minjee also was on Team Australia at the
International Crown; she was the only amateur in that event.
But Australia did not make it to the final round.
In the Winter, Minjee attended LPGA Q-School.
She ended up tying Korean American amateur Alison Lee for
the top spot, earning her tour card for 2015.
Minjee struggled a tad early in her rookie
season. After a top ten in Australia, she finished 30th in
Singapore, then missed three straight cuts. She had two top
twenties, then another missed cut. But everything came together
for her in May at the Kingsmill Championship. Rain delayed
the end of the tournament until Monday, but as light waned
on Sunday, Minjee went on a tear, amassing a large lead on
the back of multiple birdies and an eagle. So Yeon Ryu made
a run at her the next day, but Lee held on and collected her
first career LPGA win.
Lee went on to make 7 top tens during the
year. She did well at the Majors, with a top ten at the British
and two more that just missed the top ten at the KPMG and
Evian. She made over $800K and finished 16th on the money
list. Amazingly, that was only good enough for third in the
rookie standings behind Hyo Joo Kim and Sei Young Kim.
Minjee also became the top Australian women's
golfer in the Rolex rankings, climbing ahead of Karrie Webb,
who had been number one for more than a decade. She looks
good to be on the Olympic team in Rio in 2016.