SAINT ANNE, Ill., July 1, 2007 Two weeks from now in Connecticut, Lee likely will be arranging another dinner outing after earning her second consecutive victory today at the $80,000 Team WLF.org Golf Classic.
The 18-year-old first-year member of the Duramed FUTURES Tour rolled in a 21-foot birdie putt on the last hole to assure the win over Celeste Troche. Lee carded rounds of 71-68-69 for a 208 (-8) total in her win at the Kankakee Elks Country Club.
“That’s a difficult hole to birdie, so what a way to win,” said Troche (72) of Asuncion, Paraguay, who tied for second with Ha Na Chae (70) of Seoul, Korea, and Beth Allen (71) of San Diego at 210 (-6). “If I can’t win, that’s the way I’d like to lose every time.”
Lee got off to a slow start, carding one bogey and no birdies on the front nine in today’s final round. But the rookie from Seoul, Korea got busy on the back, draining a 24-footer for birdie on the 10th hole, a nine-footer for birdie on the 11th and rolling in a six-foot putt for eagle on the 12th. That gave her a two-shot lead with six holes to play.
“My dad said, ‘Good job,’ but I knew I just had to forget the eagle and keep playing,” said Lee, who earned $11,200 for her win and moved from No. 4 to No. 3 on the season money list.
Defending champion Mollie Fankhauser (71) of Columbus, Ohio made a run at Lee on the back nine with her own eagle on the 12th hole and another birdie on the 14th. But the former Ohio State University All-American bogeyed the 17th to finish fifth at 211 (-5).
Chae carded only her second of two birdies all day on the 13th hole, but played at even par for her final five holes. For the one-time Tour winner, it was a frustrating day of patience.
“It seemed like every par putt was difficult,” said Chae, who won last season in Syracuse, N.Y.
Like Lee, Allen is a non-exempt LPGA Tour member and has played on both the Duramed FUTURES Tour and LPGA Tour this season. And like Lee, Allen returned to the Duramed FUTURES Tour just to compete on a regular basis. The LPGA’s Monday qualifying tournaments had become an increasingly more difficult way to earn a living, Allen said.
The Californian rolled in four birdie putts on the back nine, including a five-footer on the last hole. She had at least three more birdie chances and one par save from eight feet today, but she couldn’t close the deal on the 6,244-yard, par-72 course.
“I played so ho-hum solid on the front nine, and then on the back when I heard that [Lee] had it to eight under, I started going for it,” said Allen. “It was fun to be in contention, but I didn’t really execute today.”
That left only Troche, a former All-American at Auburn University, to try to chase the hard-charging rookie. If Lee were to bogey the final hole and Troche were to roll in her 12-foot birdie putt, the two would drop into a tie and move into a sudden-death playoff.
But Lee and her caddie/father, Young Ho Lee, carefully surveyed the green, determined the line she wanted and the teen stepped up and confidently stroked the ball. She admitted to being nervous over that last putt, but it never showed. And her putt never moved off the line. It poured straight into the hole for the win, causing her father to let out a celebratory whoop.
“You can’t give too many strokes away to such a good player,” said Troche, 26, who hit 14 greens, but needed 31 putts today. “She’s very solid and she doesn’t make many mistakes.”
And Lee’s sparkling final-round play allowed her to hit every fairway, 15 greens in regulation and to use only 28 putts. She said she “didn’t expect to win twice” in one season, but she did have a repeat performance today reminiscent of Cincinnati.
“I like final rounds,” said Lee with a shy smile.
And from a dinner perspective, that’s a good thing for Lee’s friends.
For scores and more information, visit www.duramedfuturestour.com.
Weather: Mostly sunny and fair with a high temperature of 82 degrees with wind around 13 mph, gusting up to 20 mph.
Contact: Lisa D. Mickey, Duramed FUTURES Tour at (863) 709-9100 and at email@example.com.
photo Getty Images