Long touted as Australian golf’s next big thing, teenager Minjee Lee has delivered with a stunning final round surge to claim her maiden LPGA title at the weather-delayed Kingsmill Championship.
Lee shot a final round six-under-65 on Monday at the River Course of the Kingsmill Resort in Williamsburg Virginia, over two days, to blast by the field and finish at 15-under-par, good enough for a two-shot win over Korean So Yeon Ryu.
The round featured a blistering stretch of five birdies and an eagle in just 10 holes, highlighting why many have been calling her the next Karrie Webb for some time.
The 18-year-old former world No.1 amateur turned professional just eight months ago and had been experiencing a mixed rookie season before the breakout win, but has now officially begun the chase of Webb’s 41 LPGA wins.
The West Australian product has been aware of the expectations of others but says it has not been a factor in her early career.
“I am extremely satisfied. I didn’t really think about the expectation from others because I put enough pressure on myself to perform well out here and this is a great confidence booster moving forward,” Lee said.
“This win is not going to make it easy but it should allow me to just free up a little bit to know I can play well out here and win out here with my natural game.”
Lee, just the seventh player in history to win an LPGA event before her 19th birthday moves up to world No.19 from 59 with the win and hopes she can now garner some consistency in her performance so she can challenge current No.1 Lydia Ko.
The Kiwi star, also 18, has seven LPGA titles on her resume.
“She’s achieved so much at such a young age with multiple wins and being world no.1, that’s a dream come true isn’t it, it’s what we all want to do and it is something for me to aspire to,” Lee said of Ko.
“It would be great if we could have a rivalry but I have a lot of work still to do.
“The next step for me is becoming a consistent contender on the tour, bringing it in with more top 10s and top fives and hopefully more wins. I have to stay focussed on that process and those goals.”
For Webb, the result was far from a shock, with the seven-time major winner excited about the future ahead of her compatriot.
“I don’t think anyone is surprised to see Minjee in the winners’ circle,” Webb told AAP.
“This win will settle her a little bit after an up-and-down start to her rookie season. It is a quality win on a quality course. We have to remember she’s only 18 with hopefully a long and bright future. I look forward to watching it.”
The win also guarantees Lee a place in the upcoming US Open, a timely bonus after the Monday finish meant she missed her tee time in the tournament’s qualifying event.