Lee made a late rally in sultry conditions at The Honors Course to defeat Noah Goodwin, 16, of Corinth, Texas, 2 and 1, and with it added a second USGA trophy to the Lee family mantle. Four years ago, Lee’s older sister, Minjee, a two-time LPGA Tour winner and one of two Australian representatives for next month’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, claimed the U.S. Girls’ Junior title, making them the only brother-sister tandem to win USGA Junior championships.
Hank (1998) and Kelli Kuehne (1995 and 1996) won U.S. Amateur and U.S. Women’s Amateur titles, respectively, and there have also been one sister-sister and five brother-brother combinations to have won championships, including Hank and Trip Kuehne (2007 U.S. Mid-Amateur).
“I think we made history, so that’s pretty cool,” said Minjee via Facetime from the LPGA Tour’s UL International Crown outside of Chicago, where she is competing this weekend at The Merit Club for Australia. “I just told him at the beginning of the day to just have fun. I’m glad that he came out winning, and it’s great for both of us.”
Added Min Woo Lee: “It feels great. I'm down in history on the USGA Junior trophy, so it feels really good. It's probably the best I've ever felt. It's a dream come true for me. I've always wanted to win this tournament. I was in good form coming into it. I knew I had a good chance. It feels great to win and be on the trophy with names such as Tiger [Woods].”
The championship began with 36 holes of stroke play on Monday and Tuesday, with the low 64 scorers advancing to match play. The two finalists had to win five 18-hole matches to advance to the championship match.
Lee, No. 131 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking™, also became the fourth international champion of the U.S. Junior Amateur, but the previous three – Terry Noe (1994), Sihwan Kim (2004) and Andy Hyeon Bo Shim (2012) – were all from the Republic of Korea. Australian Aaron Baddeley lost in the 1998 championship match to James Oh at Conway Farms in suburban Chicago, 1 down.
Lee became the first male Australian in 10 years to win a USGA title, the last being Geoff Ogilvy in the 2006 U.S. Open. Other notable Australian USGA champions include Nick Flanagan (2003 U.S. Amateur), Karrie Webb (2000 and 2001 U.S. Women’s Open), David Graham (1981 U.S. Open) and Jan Stephenson (1983 U.S. Women’s Open).
Goodwin, No. 35 in the WAGR, was bidding to become the seventh different Texan to win the Junior Amateur since Hunter Mahan’s triumph in 1999.
“I couldn't have lost to a better player,” said Goodwin. “He pushed me and challenged me every single shot today. I played my butt off today. I played great. I got beat by a better player. In the end, that's what it's all about. This tournament is just about finding the best player this week.”
Both finalists are exempt into next month’s U.S. Amateur at Oakland Hills Country Club outside of Detroit, and are exempt into sectional qualifying for the 2017 U.S. Open. They are also exempt into next year’s U.S. Junior Amateur at Flint Hills National in Andover, Kan. With the age limit changing to 18 next year, Goodwin also will be exempt into the 2018 Junior Amateur at Baltusrol Golf Club.
The U.S. Junior Amateur is one of 13 championships conducted annually by the United States Golf Association, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.
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