A rookie in 2015, Alison Lee accomplished in one season what the rest of Team USA spent the two-year qualifying period trying to achieve. She climbed the Rolex Rankings, one of two tracks to earn a spot, and on to her first Solheim Cup team. A feat made all the more impressive given Lee’s well-documented balancing act of playing full-time on Tour while also taking a full course load at UCLA.
This week the newly minted graduate will watch from the sidelines, just two years after helping Team USA to victory.
“I am very disappointed for sure,” Lee told LPGA.com about missing this year’s matches in Des Moines. “At the start of the year, I had two goals in mind. One was to graduate and finish school and one was to make that team. Both these goals came with a little difficulty.”
This year, the scales tipped in UCLA’s direction, as Lee remained enrolled for the spring quarter in order to graduate on time. It was a decision she made the previous two years in favor of golf. Lee finished well outside the Rolex Rankings, 17th in the point standings and, without a top-10 this season, made a tough case for a captain’s pick.
“If I wanted to make the team, I had to work through my swing problems and mental game to play well. It was definitely difficult for me during this time period between March and June. I struggled a lot and had a tough time trying to fight my way back and make the team.”
That’s not to say 2017 wasn’t a huge success for Lee, who graduated from UCLA in mid-June and is beginning to enjoy a little free time for the first time on Tour.
“I definitely feel a different vibe on the golf course,” Lee said about transitioning to life without school. “I usually talk to Jason (my caddie) on the golf course about the essay or project I was working on, but last week I looked over to him and said, ‘I have nothing to do today after the round!’ I feel a sense of relief, but feel like something is missing at the same time. I think I'm going to have to find a hobby to fill in the time.”
She won’t have much time to fill.
The 22-year-old, who isn’t far removed from her own junior golf days, has stayed connected with the AJGA. Last week she hosted the Under Armour Alison Lee Championship for the second consecutive year at her home club of Valencia Country Club. She flew from the Ricoh Women’s British Open in Scotland to California where she arrived on day two of the three-day event to draw social media attention to the rising stars with her more than 13,000 Twitter followers, helped with scoring and hosted a clinic for the juniors.
“Since I am a recent grad of UCLA and spent about two and a half years balancing a full time schedule on tour and in the classroom, I spoke about the importance of time management and practicing with a purpose. With a busy schedule, every minute was important and had to be used wisely. Therefore when I practiced, it was quality over quantity.”
As the Solheim Cup matches begin Friday in Des Moines, Lee will watch from the sidelines. But she doesn't regret her decision to get her degree.
“Attending the school of my dreams in L.A., graduating in four years, and making all those memories were worth it and I would not trade it for anything else. Even if it meant [not] making the Solheim Cup team this year. But in two years, I'll be ready to get back out there again.”