Mirim Lee, the de facto defending champion at this week’s Reignwood LPGA Classic in China, has shown an ability to rise to the occasion. Just look back to 2014, her rookie season on the LPGA.
Lee’s first career LPGA victory came in early August 2014 at the Meijer LPGA Classic in Michigan when she beat fellow South Korean Inbee Park with a birdie on the second playoff hole. More than just a first victory, it also came against the best South Korean player.
“I (was) nervous 100 percent," Lee said. "First time in playoff. Inbee Park is like a hero in Korea and all the young girls want to be her now in Korea.”
Two months later, Lee trailed Stacy Lewis, the world’s No. 1-ranked player, and Caroline Hedwall entering the final round of the second playing of the Reignwood LPGA Classic. On a windy Sunday, Lee shot 69 to overcome both players for her second win of the year.
“Usually when I play my rounds I don’t watch the other players.” Lee said of playing with Lewis. “Today I really observed how Stacy played, and she was such a phenomenal player. It shows why she is the No. 1 player in the world.”
Lee, 25, has been close to winning this year with consecutive runner-up finishes at the Marathon LPGA Classic and RICOH Women’s British Open in an attempt to capture the first win since her rookie season. Her major championship record this year was also encouraging, with a T4 at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, T11 at the U.S. Women’s Open and the T2 in the United Kingdom sandwiched in between missed cuts at the ANA Inspiration and Evian Championship.
Which all leads to this week. Since the event wasn’t played last season, Lee is gaining attention as the defending champion. She is paired with Ariya Jutanugarn and 2013 Reignwood winner Shanshan Feng in the first two rounds. That’s a lot of attention to work through, but something that Lee has experienced before.