MEN'S WRAP: A superstar is born

Min Woo Lee
Min Woo Lee wins the 2020 ISPS Handa Vic Open. Photo: Kirsty Wrice

Australia has a new golf superstar in 21-year-old Perth professional Min Woo Lee, who closed out the ISPS Handa Vic Open at 13th Beach to join his sister, Minjee, as a winner of the tournament.

Lee, from Royal Fremantle, was greeted with a hug from his sister after he birdied the 72nd hole to win by two shots from New Zealand’s Ryan Fox, having started the day with a three-shot lead.

Minjee Lee, who is in the top 10 on the women’s world rankings, previously won the Vic Open in 2014 and 2018. She finished tied-sixth today, but at one point threatened to make it a dual Lee victory before fading late. Their mother Clara, and grandmother Angela, were in the crowd jumping between holes to watch the siblings.

Min Woo Lee played sensational golf for a fourth consecutive day, starting with three birdies in his first four holes and ultimately carding a four-under par 68.

“Yeah, my sister and I winning the same tournament, it's pretty special,’’ he said. “I've got bragging rights now, so it's even better.’’

Minjee Lee had completed her final round and was able to watch the finish with her family. “It’s pretty cool, being able to watch,” she said.

A former US junior champion, Min Woo has been on the radar for at least five years but today marks his arrival. He gets a two-year European Tour exemption as a result, and can pick and choose where and when he plays.

He won $183,000 and planned on buying his first car. “I use my sister's car back home and that's pretty good, but I might have a top off from that.’’

Fox made it tough for him, scorching around 13th Beach in an incredible 64 that he called the best round of his life, and eagling the last hole to get within a shot of Lee, who had bogeyed the 17th. But the Perth wunderkind gathered himself, hit a safe four iron off the 18th tee and then a brilliant nine iron to the fringe of the green at the 18th, and walked up to the green knowing that he had it in the bag.

He had an eagle putt to put the exclamation mark on it, but ultimately tapped in for birdie and his first professional win. “It's been so special with the crowd right behind us. I want to see that picture after. It was pretty special.”

Lee was a potentially heartbreaking two positions off earning his full European Tour card last year on the basis of his results on invitation starts. Worse, he thought that he had done enough until the standings came out. But he has pushed on and now there is no doubt. “I think I can just move on from that and be happy with where I am now. I was fine with it afterwards, a little bit of a bummer, but this kind of makes everything so much better. I'm looking forward to the rest of the season.’’

Fox’s round had to be seen to be believed, including two eagles and four birdies and not a single bogey, incredible golf in the howling winds. “It’s comfortably the best round I’ve had in a tournament,” he said.

Frenchman Robin Sciot-Siegrist, New South Welshman Travis Smyth and Marcus Fraser were tied third at 14-under.

Fraser started brilliantly in the final group going birdie-birdie, but ultimately could not land a blow on the Perth star.
“The thing that stands out is he doesn't have a weakness,’’ said Fraser. “I think he's got a great head on his shoulders, which is probably the most important thing. I think he's got the mind of a 40-year-old out there, someone who's been out there for a long time. He'll be a top-10 player in the world at some point, it's just a matter of when he gets there, I think.”

Queenslander Jed Morgan was the leading amateur, shooting a final-round 70 to finish tied-seventh.