Australia has long produced a steady pipeline of players who have found a home on the PGA TOUR. This week at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, one of the new breed, Min Woo Lee, makes his TOUR debut. Lee is the younger brother of LPGA star Minjee Lee. (That makes two very talented brother-sister combinations coming from Down Under, with Gabi and Ryan Ruffels also trying to make their way in top level golf). Minjee, 24, already has five LPGA titles to her credit and represented Australia at the 2016 Olympics. Min Woo is 22 and already boasts a European Tour win – having won the PGA Tour of Australasia co-sanctioned Victorian Open in 2020 and was the U.S. Junior Amateur winner in 2016. Minjee won the U.S. Girls’ Junior in 2012, making them the first brother-sister duo to win those USGA titles. Here both take us through their formative years and their ongoing journey in the world of golf, courtesy of www.PGATOUR.com
Coming out of my sister’s awesome shadow
By Min Woo Lee
Growing up with Minjee, it was kind of a normal brother-sister relationship. There was a bit of rivalry when we were younger as we are both competitors. I remember she didn’t want me hanging around when we were practising as I was kind of annoying. I was about eight when I really got into the game and she was 10 or 11 when she first started.
We learned to travel early on in our early teens, and we kind of knew how to handle each other when we were off the course. We didn’t need the full attention every time but it was always good to talk to her. Now, we certainly appreciate each other a lot as we don’t get to spend much time together and it’ll be nice to live in America someday as she lives over there.
Winning the U.S. Junior Championship (in 2016) was one of the biggest wins of my amateur career. After the win, I thought I could play out in the U.S. as I had one of my best tournaments and winning was really special. To become the first brother-sister combination to win the U.S. Juniors (Minjee won the U.S. Girls’ Juniors in 2012), that was pretty awesome and special. It’s a piece of history which no one can take away from us.
It’s amazing to see what she has achieved. Even though she started playing after me, she got fired up really early. She has a lot of talent and works real hard. Her handicap came down quickly and when she turned pro, she won Qualifying School and pretty much won on the LPGA straight off the bat, and has won in nearly every year since then. The way she persevered and the hard work that she has put in, she deserves it and she’s made her game very steady and very consistent to be in the top-10 for a long time.
I get a bit of grief sometimes about being in her shadow a bit, so it’s become kind of a motivation for me. But apart from that, it’s nice to have a sister who plays at the highest level and you can brag and tell people she’s a really good golfer.
She’s been a good mentor since I turned professional. Amateur golf is different to professional golf and I needed someone to talk to initially to guide me along and she’s been there and I appreciate her for it. She also watches me play on TV, and I’m the kind of player who shows a lot of body language, some positive and some negative. In contrast, she is pretty calm and is very straight faced. I’m learning to be a bit more like her. I still want the fire or anger when something happens but I want to learn to be able to move away from it quickly. Minjee is very good at it, and you won’t know if she’s shooting 5-under or 5-over. That’s one thing she’s helped me the most as she is very level headed.
Her work ethics are tough and she works so hard. She goes through all the drills and that’s one thing I’m trying to improve. When I feel tired, I would stop. Her perseverance is amazing as she sticks with something that she needs to do and finishes it off. I really love that about my sister which is her normal character and her golf character.
It’s been fun to drive each other on. When she wins one, she’s got the upper hand on me but when I won the Vic Open (February 2020), I got the upper hand for about three quarters of the year and then she wins in Dubai (December 2020) and now has the upper hand. We try to be the best that we can be in the world and we want each other to succeed. I think it’s a good bragging right to have over your brother or sister.
I’m so proud of him
By Minjee Lee
My brother was always interested in playing golf. When my mum used to teach at the local driving range, all his friends would be there and he would be trying to teach them how to hold the golf club, how to swing it. He was always interested in helping everyone just like how he was interested in the game itself. I think it was always going to be his pathway. From a young age, he wanted to be a professional golfer and wanted to be on Tour. He’s really living his dream now and that’s really cool to see.
At a young age, he played golf very often with his friends. We didn’t play too much together as he was always keen to be on the golf course while I was more the practiser, I’m either at the driving range or the chipping green. It was fun though to see each other hit some benchmarks as we were growing up. For example, I got into the state golf programme and a bit later, he got into the same programme. So it was cool to see how things happened in the different ways.
Every year since he’s been a professional golfer, I can see a bit more maturity in his game, and the way his practices. From the time Min Woo was an amateur to where he is now, he really owns what he does now. Through his experiences, he has gotten better as a player and has improved on the things that he needs to do. The biggest thing I’ve seen in him is the maturity in himself and his game.
When we were young, we didn’t play in tournaments together. I played the amateur stuff and he was playing junior events but I think because I was winning a lot of junior tournaments and amateur events, he sort of wanted to win as well. Maybe he had a one-sided rivalry against me.
I think it’s pretty special to have a brother as a professional golfer as you don’t really see too many families with two golfers playing at the highest level. That’s kind of a special thing coming from the family. Previously, a lot of people were saying ‘This is Minjee’s brother’ and I think that kind of got on his nerves a little but I think he’s writing his own book now which is cool to see.
Minwoo has a brighter personality. He loves the crowds, and he rides on the momentum through the crowds as he’s a fiery spirit. I think that’s probably the one thing I would want from his golf as he’s really aggressive on the golf course. If I had a bit more of that, I think it would help make me become a better player. He’s very friendly with everyone while I’m the introvert. I’ve gotten better but I’m still more of a homebody and the quieter one while he’s definitely more outgoing. He’s got a really good personality.
As I’ve won several events on the LPGA, it is the highest achievement in women’s golf and I think those wins drive him on to also want to win at the highest level. Because he sees me doing well, he wants to do well too and I’m sure he will.
I’ve always been a bit more mature than him and I always think I have the responsibility of doing well and that he would follow in my footsteps. That’s always been my mindset. However, when he won the Vic Open, that was one event that I really wanted to win but I didn’t. I think because I saw him doing so well, I wanted to do well too which I guess pushed me along.
Story courtesy of the PGA Tour. Original story can be found here: https://www.pgatour.com/news/2021/02/08/min-woo-lee-minjee-lee-siblings-golf-journey-att-pebble-beach-pro-am.html