Young Lee Growing Up Fast At Women's Amateur
By Kent Zakour, USGA
Eugene, Ore. – Erynne Lee has another six months before she can get her driver’s license, but the biggest day of her blossoming golf career comes on Saturday.
At just 15, Lee, of Silverdale, Wash., is trying to become the fifth consecutive junior to win the U.S. Women’s Amateur, joining Jane Park, Morgan Pressel, Kimberly Kim and last year’s champion Maria Jose Uribe.
“Wow, really. Just wow,” said Lee of her disbelief of reaching the semifinals. “I'm really glad that I've gotten this far. Right now I just really want – now that I think about it, I really want to win it. But it will kind of be hard.”
Lee, who has a quiet demeanor and serious face on the golf course, finally cracked a smile as she converted a 4-foot putt to win her quarterfinal match over 19-year-old Chelsea Stelzmiller, 4 and 3, Friday at the 2008 U.S. Women’s Amateur.
On Eugene Country Club’s 385-yard, par-4 15th hole, Lee discussed her options for the final putt with her father/caddie Brian.
“The arguments are putting reads,” joked Lee, who is playing in her second U.S. Women’s Amateur and third USGA championship this year after qualifying for the Women’s Open and Girls’ Junior. “Even though he tells me where to [hit the ball], I just do my own thing.”
Despite occasionally blocking her father’s voice out, Lee received her start in golf from him seven years ago.
“After he saw [fellow Korean] Se Ri Pak winning one of the tournaments, he thought I had a chance of being like her,” said Lee. “He [reminds me on the course to keep me calm] – the fundamentals of my golf swing, shoulder turn, keep my lower body quiet.”
The first half of the match was a back-and-forth affair. With the match all-square through eight holes, Lee, a sophomore-to-be at Central Kitsap High School, took control by winning four consecutives holes starting at the 402-yard, par-4 ninth.
“Today I played my own game, stuck to a strategy,” said Lee. “I tried to just stay on the fairways and reach the greens and play a good game. And if I had a chance to make a birdie, to capitalize [on] it sometimes.”
Lee recorded a winning par at the ninth as Stelzmiller, a sophomore-to-be at UC Davis, watched her approach from a fairway bunker land in amongst the tree line. Stelzmiller’s woes continued when her third shot failed to find the green.
Despite consistently being out-driven, Lee used accurate iron shots and her precise putting to take control of the match. She extended her lead to 4 up at the 168-yard, par-3 12th. Lee had chipped to within 12 feet of the flagstick before Stelzmiller conceded the hole following an errant tee shot and two chip shots failed to reach the putting surface.
Lee’s next challenge is 2007 U.S. Women’s Amateur runner-up Amanda Blumenherst in one of Saturday’s semifinal matches.
“I'm not really sure [what to expect],” said Lee. “I really want to enjoy it. I want to learn a lot from her. Because she's like a veteran out there.”
A part that Lee is slowly obtaining this week, despite her age.
Kent Zakour is the USGA Media Relations summer intern. E-mail him with questions or comments at email@example.com.