Home » ‘It took me a while to love golf’: Inside Min Woo Lee’s unexpected path to the PGA Tour – Australian Golf Digest

‘It took me a while to love golf’: Inside Min Woo Lee’s unexpected path to the PGA Tour – Australian Golf Digest

My mom was a golf professional and started teaching at the local range when my older sister, Minjee, was born. Minjee and I grew up following Mom around at the range. My dad started playing golf when he met my mom and became a plus-handicap. I didn’t love golf as a kid, but since we’re a golfing family, it’s always been a part of my life. Minjee has won multiple major championships, and it was always clear growing up that she was going to be great. It took me longer to fall in love with golf.

I was a bit of a rascal as a kid. I had a lot of energy, and it was hard to focus on golf. I gravitated toward sports with more action. I liked playing basketball, and I was a competitive swimmer, too. I don’t remember any specific golf lessons my parents taught me. It’s hard to listen to your parents when you’re young, but they did keep me around golf enough to help me get pretty good—in spite of myself.

Photograph by Dom Furore

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Looking back, I’m glad golf didn’t click for me right away. I credit my strong chipping and putting to having good hand-eye coordination, which I was able to develop by playing other sports. As I got older, I realized I could hit it farther than just about anybody, and that was fun. When I was 15, I was selected to represent my state in a junior tournament in Australia. I loved the social aspect of it; that’s what really made me start to enjoy golf.

I started playing and practicing more, even though I still hate all the boring stuff. My sister, who is now a U.S. Women’s Open champion, has always been good about hitting hundreds of balls at the range. I would hit like 30 and get tired of it. She would do putting drills for hours; I would get bored and start messing around, putting balls in impossible places, trying to get up and down, and seeing if I could get a reaction from other people.

When I was 17, I won the U.S. Junior Amateur. My sister and I are the only sibling duo to have both won it. When I was 19, I wanted to turn pro, but my parents, coach and agent convinced me to stay an amateur. They told me I wasn’t emotionally mature enough. They were right. I spent another year playing in Australia, where I matured by watching the older pros. When you’re young, a bogey feels like the end of the world. The pros aren’t like that. I played alongside guys who made mistakes and then kept bouncing back. I tried to copy those composed demeanors I saw around me, and I got better.

I turned pro when I was 20 and played events on the DP World Tour and the Korean Tour, as well as in Australia. In 2021, I broke through and won the Scottish Open, one of the bigger events on the DP World Tour. Suddenly I knew for certain that I could play against the best players in the world. That win got me into the Open Championship the following week. I missed the cut but got some more starts on the PGA Tour. Traveling all the time and being away from friends gets hard, but I’m a gamer; I like Call of Duty. I travel with my gaming laptop so that I can play wherever I am. It’s a way to keep in touch with my friends from around the world.

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Daniel Pockett

Seeing Minjee succeed helped me transition to pro golf, even though we go about the game completely differently. She plays in a straight line, but I play in a crooked line and am always scrambling. I’m trying to be more like her in my practice, spending long, focused hours on the range. In 2023, I earned special temporary PGA Tour status, finished T-5 at the U.S. Open and officially got my card for 2024.

I’m a rookie, but I’ve already picked up a following on social media. I like to make golf fun and am trying to give it a better image on Instagram and TikTok. Not everyone thinks highly of social media, but I grew up with it, so it feels natural to me. I work with a team that films my life inside the ropes and edits videos of me doing everything from messing around in pro-ams to signing autographs. The response has been great.

There is this phrase, Let him cook, which basically means, “Let him do his thing,” that people started posting about me after I finished T-6 at the 2023 Players. It took off, and the next thing I knew, there were huge groups in the galleries wearing chef hats and cheering for me. I get energy from that stuff, so I embrace it. I like being in the spotlight and trying to make things go viral. The fans love it, too.

I’ve known since I was a teenager that I was going to be pretty good at golf—I just didn’t know when I would get there. I feel like I’m very close. When players get really good, they stop trying to make huge changes to get better. They know their swings, and they are working on the same things over and over. Once you get to that place, you start to get great results. My first few years as a pro were about getting to this level of comfort. Now I’m really going to start cooking out there.

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This article was originally published on golfdigest.com