West Australia’s Minjee Lee shot a career best bogey-free round of 64 to win the 2016 LOTTE Championship Presented by HERSHEY at Ko Olina CC in Hawaii. The win was Lee’s second LPGA career victory, her first win coming at the 2015 Kingsmill Championship Presented by JTBC.
Lee had held the 36-hole lead after shooting opening rounds of 68 and 66, but seemingly had put herself out of contention after disappointing 3rd round two over par 74. Lee had spoken with her long time coach Ritchie Smith the after round and he had told her that if she shot 8 under she would be fine. And that’s exactly what she did.
Lee started the final round five shots behind overnight leader Katie Burnett, and was off to a solid start making the turn in 2-under-par 34, still four shots back from the leaders. A birdie at the 11th saw Lee pull to within three shots of the lead, but it was a spectacular chip-in eagle at the par-5 13th which hurtled the talented 19 year-old back into contention. Two further birdies at 14 and 15 saw her move into a tie for the lead with Chun and Burnett, and another birdie at 17 would see the number one ranked Australian heading to the 18th tee with a one-shot cushion.
With the pressure now firmly back on Lee, she showed her class making a solid par 4 at the tough closing hole, but she would have to wait to see if either Chun or Burnett could make a birdie to send the Lotte Championship into extra holes before the celebrations could begin
Both Chun and Burnett safely hit the green in regulation, but neither could make a birdie and the 2016 Lotte Championship presented by HERSHEY belonged to Minjee Lee.
With the win, Lee is projected to move up from No. 17 to No. 12 in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings, and courtesy of the US$270,000 first-place cheque, she has now crossed the US$1 million mark in career earnings with $1,237,560 as a member of the LPGA Tour.
Lee also becomes only the the fifth player to win twice before her 20th birthday, joining a select group of Lydia Ko, Lexi Thompson, Marlene Hagge and Sandra Haynie.
For Lee there is so much to look forward to in 2016, there are still four major Championships to compete in plus the International Crown and the Olympic Games in Rio.
“This win is definitely a big confidence boost, the last few weeks I was there, but not quite there in the end. Now my game seems to be coming together really well,” she says.
Sarah Jane Smith was the next best of the ALPG contingent, finishing at -3 in 39th place, Su Oh finished at even par in 47th place, Sarah Kemp finished +2 in 59th place while Katherine Kirk shot a 5 under par 67 to finish at +3 in 62nd place