SOUTHERN PINES, NC — Karrie Webb and Jan Stephenson have lengthy been the usual for Australian girls’s golfers. With 10 main titles between them, any dialogue of biggest golfers from Down Below began — and ended — with the names Webb and Stephenson.
On Sunday afternoon at Pine Needles, that duo grew to become a trio.
Minjee Lee, daughter of Western Australia, received the 77th US Girls’s Open in dominant trend, defeating a area of one of the best gamers on this planet by 4 strokes. In doing so, she turns into simply the third Aussie lady to personal a number of main titles.
“It is such an amazing honor simply to be amongst these two names,” Lee stated. “It is simply actually, actually particular.”
The driving vary is a lonely place on Sunday afternoons, and this Sunday within the Carolina Sandhills was no totally different.
Because the pretenders filtered out, and the true contenders arrived, actual property on the again of the Pine Needles vary was plentiful. With almost each competitor already on the course (or on a aircraft to their subsequent vacation spot), and few followers making the tracks to the far finish of the vary, gamers in the previous few teams had the place largely to themselves.
Lydia Ko occupied the spot on the far proper, striping excessive attracts with the breeze as her caddy and mom watched on. A number of paces to her left, Bronte Legislation prepped for maybe probably the most consequential spherical of her life. With a $10 million purse up for grabs, the Englishwoman was in line for the largest paycheck of her profession.
Additional down the vary, with a row of empty placards in between, Mina Harigae went via her personal warmup. Reminiscent of been the case all week, her matte PXG irons made repeated — and satisfying — thuds as she labored her means via the bag. Her caddie, outfitted in pink high-top Jordans 1s (maybe in a nod to Harigae’s self-proclaimed obsession with the model), watched and inspired his professional, figuring out full nicely this could possibly be a life-changing day.
Lastly, there was Lee, donning a neon inexperienced polo with a easy phrase on the again: “Win in any respect prices.” It was an applicable reminder contemplating the stakes. The 54-hole chief arrived to the vary final, and left loads of area between herself and her competitors.
It was an applicable scene — Lee arriving on her personal phrases and with an enormous hole between herself and the competitors — as a result of the scoreboard mirrored the same dynamic. There was Lee, after which there was everybody else.
Via 54 holes, Lee had dictated the tempo at Pine Needles. She’d performed fearlessly — and, at instances, flawlessly — and rewrote the US Girls’s Open file e book within the course of.
Lee wanted simply 200 strokes to play the primary three rounds, the fewest of any rivals within the historical past of the championship, and only one participant was inside three photographs of her 54-hole lead.
There was Lee, after which there was everybody else.
The theme continued through the last spherical, and by day’s finish, the 26-year-old was hoisting the US Girls’s Open trophy.
On Saturday night, as Lee addressed the media following her third-round 67, she supplied a assured, and prescient, reply when requested about her final-round recreation plan.
“I am simply going to try to make as many birdies as I can,” she stated.
She made good on her promise.
After surviving the pre-round jitters, Lee teed up her Srixon on the primary tee and ripped driver down the left facet of the green. Her second swing of the day despatched the ball piercing via the japanese breeze, and completed inside 30 ft of the flag. Two putts later, her first circle of the day was on the cardboard.
Her second gap was equally fruitful. Fairway, inexperienced, jarred putt (a protracted one this time). Lee’s lead was all of a sudden as much as 5 as she walked to the third tee field at 15 beneath.
However on a day when Pine Needles (lastly) performed like a real US Girls’s Open take a look at, the center portion of Lee’s spherical was a battle.
Lee, who did not have her regular ball-striking moxie Sunday, dropped a shot on the fifth, and one other on the seventh. The course performed almost two-and-a-half photographs tougher on Sunday than it did the day prior, so the miscues had been comprehensible.
However even when the ship was unsteadied, there was nothing that might sink the Aussie. Not a missed inexperienced, or a wonky lie in a sandy native space, or a three-putt on the tough Bermuda greens. Most of the time, when Lee discovered bother, she escaped unscathed.
“I did not hit it that nicely,” she stated. “I had actually good saves, up-and-downs from loads of locations … That was sufficient to get it performed at the moment.”
When she stepped onto the 18th tee, her lead was 5 over her taking part in companion. The one drama that remained was the query of if Lee may break the US Girls’s Open scoring file.
The present file has stood for 26 years. Annika Sorenstam set the mark of 272 in 1996 — at this very course — and nobody has bested the mark since. It has twice been tied, by Juli Inkster in 1999 and In Gee Chun in 2015, however nobody has been capable of go decrease than Sorenstam did at Pine Needles in 1996.
A lot has modified about Pine Needles since Sorenstam introduced it to its knees. Kyle Franz led a serious restoration venture in 2017, and this week the course seemed so much like what Donald Ross envisioned when he constructed the place within the Nineteen Twenties. Sandy native areas line the fairways, and the bunkers are jagged and scrambled across the edges.
The greens have modified, too. The floor at 18 was a specific focus for Franz and his staff. As part of the venture, he prolonged the back-right portion, connecting two mounds to create probably the most devilish pin areas you will ever see.
As destiny would have it, that location was in play for the ultimate 18 holes of this Open. To interrupt the scoring file, Lee must navigate it — and card no worse than bogey.
Her tee shot couldn’t have been positioned in a greater spot to entry the pin location — left facet of the green — and her strategy landed in the course of the inexperienced. Finally, she may take a deep breathe and benefit from the stroll.
“I simply stated to myself, ‘That is fairly wonderful,’” Lee stated. “That is fairly cool, simply trying on the complete crowd and simply everyone down the fairways.”
The gang showered her in reward as she made the ultimate stroll — there have been even just a few “Aussie Aussie Aussie!” chants — and the solar dipped beneath the towering pines.
After Harigae tapped in for her par, the stage was set for the coronation. Lee, maybe because of the adrenaline and emotion pumping via her, wanted three putts to complete the job, however the consequence was all the identical.
She was a serious champion as soon as once more, and the US Girls’s Open scoring file was hers alone.
“I am unable to consider it proper now,” Lee stated. “It has been my dream since I used to be a bit woman. It is the one which I at all times needed to win on; now I’ve performed it, and simply feels wonderful.”
With the trophy ceremony full, and her neon shirt however soaked in champagne, Lee walked into the interview space, trophy in hand. Her smile beamed as she scrolled via her cellphone and ready to be peppered with questions.
“I simply can’t consider it,” she stated.
Karrie Webb had already texted a message congratulating Lee on the win.
Lee’s recreation had answered many questions over 72 holes within the Sandhills, however at the very least one query nonetheless stays: Had she but mirrored on her particular place in her nation’s golf historical past?
“I have not been capable of even suppose correctly in the intervening time,” she stated.
Here is a method to consider it: From at the present time ahead, when the topic of biggest Australian girls’s golfers is broached, three names will come to thoughts.
Karrie Webb, Jan Stephenson and Minjee Lee.