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Minjee's Rite of Passage may usher in a New Golden Age

Minjee Lee (Photo: USGA)
In 1984 young Queenslander Ian Baker-Finch annihilated a NSW Open field that boasted a roll call of Australian greats including Rodger Davis, Graham Marsh, Peter Senior, Wayne Grady and defending champion Greg Norman.

Baker-Finch's 13-shot victory at The Lakes signalled to the world that the 'Dark Shark' was a talent to be reckoned with.

Just a few years previously Norman himself had already been making waves in Europe when he came home to deliver his first truly dominant domestic victory in the 1981 Australian Masters trouncing a quality field by 7 shots with the unrestrained flair of a savant who was still coming to terms with the extent of his own talent.

And at Royal Pines in 1998 Karrie Webb won the first of her Australian Ladies Masters titles  by 6 shots in a coronation that ushered in her decades long sovereignty over Australian golf.

It's a tradition that traces back to Thomson, Graham, Nagle, and Marsh who were all once our "next big thing" having some success overseas then returning home to deliver resounding victories while their careers were on a rapid upward trajectory.

It's a pattern we'd grown particularly accustomed to in the glory days of the Australasian Tour late last century.

But in recent times our big stars have seemingly skipped that step on their way to international success in a new pattern that sadly coincided with the decline in the prestige of our 2nd tier events.

Jason Day's World Cup individual trophy on Australian soil is an impressive standalone achievement but it's notable that Day & Marc Leishman don't have a significant pro victory in an Australian event.

While Scott & Ogilvy both took far longer than expected to achieve a local victory and their careers had already been established when they claimed their respective Australian Opens at NSW GC in 2009 and The Lakes in 2010.

But now with one round remaining in the Oates VicOpen at 13th Beach, Minjee Lee has a 1 shot lead and an opportunity to complete her own rite of passage with a big domestic victory that would signal her readiness to join the bona fide stars of this generation of Australian players.

Sure, Minjee has already won big at the Vic Open when she claimed the title as an amateur in 2014, but that had the potential to be a flash in the pan. Minjee and the VicOpen have both since grown significantly in stature.

In the intervening years Minjee has tasted international success and risen to the top 20 in the world. That experience has served her well this week where she's shown great poise and maturity in a thoroughly professional display that has looked a cut above a field that is bursting with up and coming talent.

At the same time the Australasian Tour, particularly the ALPG Tour, has been re-energised with several new events and the time is right for Minjee Lee to exert some dominance on Australian golf and continue the upward trajectory of a career which surely has the potential to yield multiple major victories.

Would anything less than a big margin of victory be acceptable?

Of course a closely fought win would be fantastic, particularly if Minjee were to battle down the stretch with Australia's other rising star Hannah Green.

But with the new found prominence of the Oates VicOpen on the world stage one can't help but wonder if an emphatic Minjee Lee win wouldn't accelerate the rejuvenation of our domestic tour which seems on the precipice of a new golden age

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