Min Woo Lee and Hee Young Park land big victories in Geelong
By Keith Jackson
Last Updated: 09/02/20 11:58pm
Min Woo Lee scored another Vic Open victory for his family as he claimed his maiden European Tour title with a two-shot win in Geelong..
Lee held his nerve under intense pressure from a fast-finishing Ryan Fox as he emulated elder sister, Minjee, although she was just 17 when she first won the ladies' crown as an amateur back in 2014.
Minjee, who doubled up with another victory two years ago, was two shots shy of a play-off in the LPGA Tour event which was eventually won by Hee Young Park at the fourth play-off hole after she finished tied at the top with compatriots Hye-Jin Choi and So Yeon Ryu.
The strong breezes which scuppered many of the field on Saturday returned for the final day at the 13th Beach Golf Club, which Lee began with a three-stroke advantage following his last-hole eagle in the third round.
The 21-year-old, making only his 19th start on the European Tour, made light of the conditions and his inexperience as he got off to the ideal start on Sunday, chipping in for birdie at the first and adding a nice four at the long second before picking up another birdie at the fourth.
With his closest rivals overnight struggling to maintain their challenges, Lee was content to grind out the pars and made 10 in a row before breaking the run with a birdie at the 15th, although a glance at the leaderboard would have alerted him to the presence of Fox.
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The big-hitting New Zealander, son of All Blacks legend Grant Fox, emerged as a serious threat after carding four birdies and an eagle at the fourth, and Fox ramped up the pressure further when he knocked a delightful second to four feet at the last and rattled in the putt for his second eagle of the round.
Fox's bogey-free 64 set a testing clubhouse target at 17 under par, and Lee then picked an inopportune moment to drop his first shot of the day as a bogey at the penultimate hole saw his lead trimmed to a single stroke as he arrived on the 18th tee.
But Lee refused to buckle and hammered an excellent tee shot before clipping his second to 12 feet and safely two-putting for the winning birdie with his big sister cheering on from the sidelines, capping a 68 for a winning score of 19 under par.
"I'm pretty proud of the way I played," said Lee. "I thought coming in I had a really good chance because I was hitting it really good, but I think I impressed myself with the game this whole week. Hopefully I'll have more of these over my whole career.
"I felt really comfortable just because if I did exactly the same as I did yesterday, I felt pretty hard to stop. I started off really hot out the gate and was pretty comfortable those last few holes. I got a bit nervy, but I'm pretty proud of the way I finished.
"I hit it so well, I'd give myself nine out of 10 for ball-striking this week. I was pretty calm until the last hole, but I wasn't nervous, just on my toes a little bit. But it's a par five, straight downwind, the ball's not going to curve much off the tee, so I striped one down there and I had it in the bag from there."
Lee had a lengthy wait for the trophy presentation after the LPGA Tour event went to a three-way play-off, with Park, Choi and Ryu all finished tied at the top on eight under with Ireland's Leona Maguire missing out by just a shot, while overnight leader Ayean Cho crashed out of contention with an 81.
With the trio playing the 18th repeatedly, Ryu was eliminated when she failed to match the birdies of her rivals at the second extra hole, and the tournament was decided two holes later when Choi got into trouble off the tee and then put her third into a hazed, taking six shots just to get to the green.
Park's safe par was enough to capture her third LPGA Tour win, and her first silverware for six-and-a-half years and came just a few months after she considered quitting the game after losing her card.
"Last year was the worst year in my life and I had to go to Qualifying School and I was going to stop golf because I thought there was no more game in my mind," Park said. "Then I made Q School and I had a chance to play another year this year."