Australian star Min Woo Lee ready to make leap to pro golf

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Australian star Min Woo Lee ready to make leap to pro golf

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Australian star Min Woo Lee ready to make leap to pro golf

It has been years in the making, but one of Australia’s young stars is ready to take the leap.

Min Woo Lee, 20, is fresh off reaching the Web.com Tour Qualifying Tournament – also known as the final stage of Web.com Tour Q-School – and earning conditional status for the circuit in 2019. (Every player who made it to that stage earned conditional status. Lee finished the event T-67 at 15 under, three shots short of status that would guarantee him several 2019 Web.com Tour starts.)

With that, the sixth-ranked amateur in the world has confirmed to Golfweek he is turning professional. He follows in the footsteps of older sister Minjee Lee, who turned pro in 2014 at the age of 18.

Minjee’s brother could’ve made the jump at the same age – he won the 2016 U.S. Junior Amateur just days before his 18th birthday – but decided to remain an amateur for a couple years thereafter. The time to move to the next level, though, has arrived.

“My sister was a very accomplished golfer at such a young age, and she was ready at 18,” he told Golfweek. “I wasn’t ready at 18, even at 20 I am still very young, but have discussed with my team (and) I feel now is the right time.”

This will put yet another talented young Australian in the paid ranks. Jason Day turned pro at 19 and has since become a major champion and World No. 1. Adam Scott did the same and has accomplished the same. Cameron Smith, 25, also turned pro at 19 and already has won on the PGA and European tours. Curtis Luck, 22, and Ryan Ruffels, 20, also turned pro by age 20 and have displayed worlds of potential.

Despite representing a country with such pedigree, the Aussie isn’t making grand claims as he prepares for professional life.

He does have his professional debut set: The European Tour’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship from Jan. 16-19. He’ll also be playing in the circuit’s Saudi International from Jan. 31-Feb. 3. And he has a start set up for the Web.com Tour’s Panama Championship (Feb. 7-10). Obviously results in those events could impact his future schedule, but the broader look in 2019 beyond the aforementioned starts at the moment is potentially a few Web.com Tour Monday qualifiers “and see how we go from there.”

Min Woo won’t lack in support, as he notes that as far as management goes, “I’ll be working with IMG.” He will have Callaway helping him out on the equipment front. He also has Minjee, now 22 years old and a four-time LPGA winner, to offer thoughts on how to navigate the pro ranks.

“She’s giving me some advice, especially staying patient,” he said. “Hopefully I’ll have a long career in golf so I definitely should stay in the present and hit one shot at a time.”

Min Woo really started making a name for himself internationally in 2016 as he finished runnerup at the prestigious Junior Invitational at Sage Valley and won the U.S. Junior Amateur later that year.

He considered college golf but ultimately decided to remain based in Australia. Golf Australia, the governing body of golf in the country, helped in his playing a strong amateur schedule over the last couple of years. He also has been coached in Australia by renowned instructor Ritchie Smith for the last five years.

He has won a pair of amateur events and finished high in several others since his 2016 U.S. Junior triumph. He’s also played in more than a dozen pro events in that time, making several cuts and posting four top-15 finishes.

Min Woo believes his mental game has improved in recent years, and he’s gained invaluable experience playing against pros and high-level amateurs. The good showings in pro events along with passing through the first and second stages of Web.com Tour Q-School helped convince him he is ready for the pro level.

“I felt I was good enough when I competed in the pro events and got to play with top pros,” he said. “I played with Jordan Spieth in the Australian Open, which was an awesome experience, played against other pros and I felt as if I had the ability to be head to head with them. I love playing professional events, and that made me work even harder to one day turn pro.” Gwk

(Note: A version of this story appears in the January/February 2019 issue of Golfweek. The above version includes developments that emerged after magazine publication.)

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