Min Woo Lee wins Vic Open to make it a family affair

GEELONG, AUSTRALIA (AFP) – Min Woo Lee followed in his sister’s footsteps by winning the innovative Vic Open yesterday, earning a two-year European Tour exemption in the process, as South Korea’s Park Hee-young claimed the women’s title after a play-off.

Seen as one of Australia’s most exciting young talents, 21-year-old Lee showed nerves of steel to hold on to his overnight lead with a four-under-par 68 to win by two strokes from New Zealander Ryan Fox.

“It’s amazing, I have got to think it through,” said an ecstatic Lee of clinching his first tournament. “I just played awesome and out of myself. I’m over the moon.”

His older sister, world number nine Minjee Lee, won the tournament, where men and women tee off, in alternate groups on the same course and for equal prize money, in 2014 and 2018.

Since her last triumph at the event – the only one of its kind in the world – it has taken on added significance with the European Tour and the United States (US)-based LPGA Tour jointly sanctioning it for the first time last year.

Australian Min Woo Lee earned a two-year European Tour exemption by winning the Vic Open. PHOTO: AFP

She hit a one-over-par 73 yesterday to finish tied for sixth, two behind Park.

“We’ve played twice before at tournaments and I’ve come out on top on the third time, so I guess I’m the better one,” Min Woo Lee joked when asked about earning bragging rights over his sister, who was on the 18th green to give him a congratulatory hug.

US junior champion Lee went into the final round at the 13th Beach Golf Links in Geelong, south of Melbourne, with a three-shot buffer from fellow Australians Marcus Fraser and Travis Smyth.

Smyth and Fraser kept in touch while New Zealand’s Fox made a late charge with a best-of-the-day 64, including an eagle at the last to apply some pressure. Lee remained focused until the 17th when he hit his first bogey of the day. But he regrouped to birdie the last to raucous applause from the crowd.

South Korea’s Ayean Cho was the overnight women’s leader, but she had a horror final round of 81, as did Sweden’s Madelene Sagstrom, her nearest challenger after round three. That opened the door to South Korean trio Choi Hye-jin, Park Hee-young, and Ryu So-yeon.

Choi was the early clubhouse leader on eight-under-par, with Ryu and Park matching her on the 18th to send it to a play-off. They couldn’t be separated on the first hole, all sinking birdies.

Ryu was eliminated after the second, with Park winning her third LPGA title on the fourth hole after Choi hit the rough and couldn’t recover.