ASU's Lee to make 1st PGA Tour start in Phoenix
Ki Taek Lee couldn't get much sleep Monday night, and who could blame him?
Lee, a freshman at Arizona State, shot 7-under 65 in a Monday qualifier for the Waste Management Phoenix Open. The score put Lee atop the leaderboard at McCormick Ranch Golf Club, but with 40 or so players having to finish their qualifying rounds Tuesday morning, he would have to wait until then to find out if he would qualify for his first PGA Tour event.
"That's all I thought about," Lee said. "I couldn't go to sleep."
Then at about 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, Lee got the good news: he was medalist and one of three Monday qualifiers – Danny Lee and Chris Smith were the others – for this week's tournament at TPC Scottsdale.
"It's an unbelievable feeling," said Lee, who is the only amateur in the field and will be grouped with Smith and Kevin Tway for the opening two rounds.
Of course, Lee's first PGA Tour start will be even more special considering he goes to college nearby. Arizona State's main campus is located in Tempe, Ariz., less than a half hour from Scottsdale.
"It was amazing how many ASU fans were out there," said Lee, who played a practice round Tuesday with Jeff Maggert, Kevin Stadler and former Arizona State player Joey Snyder III. Stadler and Snyder have the same instructor as Lee (Dan Campbell).
"Everyone was yelling 'Go Devils.' They couldn't say my name right, though," Lee added, laughing at the latter part.
For those looking to get more familiar with Lee, here's a start: his first name is pronounced "Key-Tech," although his teammates call him Ki.
"My American name is Kevin, but there are a lot of Kevin Lee golfers out there," said Lee, who is a native of Canada.
Secondly, Lee made two starts for the Sun Devils in the fall, finishing T-28 at the Kikkor Husky Invitational and T-65 at the William H. Tucker Intercollegiate. He qualified for the team's first spring event, the Amer Ari Invitational, which starts next Thursday in Hawaii.
And speaking of familiarity – or lack of, for that matter – while TPC Scottsdale is in close proximity to Arizona State, Lee had never played the Stadium Course before Tuesday. "That surprised some people," Lee said.
His thoughts on the famous par-3 16th hole?
"It wasn't full, obviously, but it was still unbelievable," Lee said. "Today, I barely hit it on the green, but guys were yelling, 'That'll work!' "
Lee said he doesn't have anything special planned for the 16th come tournament time – last year, James Hahn danced and Padraig Harrington punted a football. Instead, Lee will be focused on making sure he hits the green, and doesn't get booed.
Although, getting booed might be difficult considering Lee will be a local favorite come Thursday. He estimates he must have signed 50 autographs and taken 20 pictures during his practice round Tuesday. Add that to the countless number of text messages and phone calls he's gotten since Monday.
"Best day of my life so far," Lee said.
But with his first Tour start approaching, that's likely to change.