Time is a funny thing. Sometimes we want it to go faster, sometimes we want it to slow down. But it’s often the only thing that allows us to heal, to grow and to mature. Everything comes in its own time.
For Minjee Lee, she didn’t have to wait long to find success in golf. She was a decorated amateur, who ascended to No. 1 in the rankings, won the U.S. Girls’ Junior, back-to-back titles at the Australian Women’s Amateur, and even won a professional event in her home country of Australia before herself becoming a pro. Once she joined the LPGA Tour, she won in her rookie season and added three more victories to her resume in just four years on Tour. Mentored by fellow Aussie Karrie Webb, Lee has the makings of her own Hall of Fame pedigree.
But even Lee has had to wait for major glory.
In what is now her fifth season on the LPGA Tour, Lee has just three top 10s in major championships. Currently No. 3 in the Rolex Rankings, Lee arrives at the season’s first major, the ANA Inspiration, a likely favorite to not only contend, but to win. She’s coming off the best season of her career in which she won for the fourth time on Tour and racked up 12 more top 10s. She finished the year ranked second on the money list, and No. 2 in scoring average, birdies and rounds in the 60s. She was also No. 3 in the Rolex Player of the Year race. She rode that momentum into 2019 with two runner-up finishes in six starts.
And what did Lee take away from all that success?
She realized it was all a learning process, and one that took time to get her where she is today – at the doorstep of her first major title.
“I'm just a little bit more mature, more settled down on the tour,” Lee told the media at Mission Hills. “I know what I'm doing in terms of, I have my routine. Just a little bit more familiar with the places I'm going and obviously the courses as well.”
That familiarity led to an improvement in Lee’s consistency which, in turn, led to better results. When she joined the Tour in 2015, she finished the year ranked 15th in scoring average at 70.88. In 2018, she was one of only four players to finish the year with a sub-70 average at 69.75 and second only to Ariya Jutanugarn for the year.
“I'm hitting more fairways, more greens, so obviously more opportunities for birdies,” said Lee. “Everybody is working very hard, but I just feel like I'm always trying to better myself. I'm seeing improvements now, which is nice.”
Lee knows the next step in her growth as a player would mean winning a major championship. It’s what she’s set her sights on for the year.
“Majors are pretty important to me at this point,” Lee said.
Winning that first major could lead to Lee accomplishing an even loftier goal, which would mean her getting back to No. 1 in the world, but this time as a professional. It’s a goal that wouldn’t have been possible without going through the paces of being a touring professional, learning not only what it takes to travel the world, but what it takes for her to personally succeed.
“I really know what I need for myself now and what works best for me,” Lee said. “I sort of know where I stand and what I need to improve on to try to make it to world No. 1.”
If good things come to those who wait, there’s a lot more success waiting for Minjee Lee. It’s only a matter of time.