CHAMPIONS
USGA Champions Spotlight: Minjee's Win, Bryson's Pro Debut April 18, 2016 By David Shefter, USGA

Minjee Lee is already a two-time winner on the LPGA Tour, less than four years removed from her U.S. Girls' Junior victory. (USGA/Matt Sullivan)

A few days before returning to the site of her 2012 U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship victory, Minjee Lee carded an 8-under-par 64 to win the Lotte Championship in Hawaii on Saturday by a stroke over reigning U.S. Women’s Open champion In Gee Chun and Katie Burnett.

Lee, 19, produced a 6-under 30 on the inward nine of Ko Olina Golf Club to edge past 54-hole leader Burnett and notch her second LPGA Tour title. She claimed the Kingsmill Championship last May by two strokes over 2011 U.S. Women’s Open champion So Yeon Ryu and by three over Alison Lee, whom Minjee defeated in the 2012 U.S. Girls’ Junior final at Lake Merced Golf Club in Daly City, Calif. 

This week, the LPGA Tour stops at Lake Merced for the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic.

“Well, [on Friday] I spoke to my coach and he was like: ‘You’re only five back. Just shoot 8 under and you’ll be fine,’” Lee said. “And I shot 8 under, so that was good.”

Lee tallied six birdies and an eagle in her bogey-free final round. The key stretch was Nos. 13-15 when she holed out a 35-yard pitch for eagle on the par-5 13th and followed with consecutive birdies to pull into a tie with Burnett. Burnett birdied the par-5 14th, but then Lee holed a birdie putt on 17 to again tie for the lead at 16 under par.

Burnett, however, three-putted for bogey on the par-3 16th to fall one back and then missed a 7-foot birdie putt on 17. Chun, who will defend her U.S. Women’s Open title in July at CordeValle, also failed on two birdie chances from inside 20 feet at 17 and 18.

“Definitely a big confidence boost,” Lee said of the win. “The last couple of weeks I was there, but not quite there. Now my game seems to be coming together really well.”

DeChambeau Ties for Fourth in Pro Debut

Bryson DeChambeau said prior to the RBC Heritage that it was “just another tournament.”

Perhaps that was the right attitude to take for the reigning U.S. Amateur champion.

Making his professional debut a week after earning low-amateur honors in the Masters, DeChambeau, 22, tied for fourth with Kevin Na at Harbour Town Golf Links in Hilton Head Island, S.C. The 2015 USA Walker Cup Team competitor carded a 3-under 68 in the final round to finish four strokes behind winner Branden Grace.

More importantly, the top-10 finish allowed DeChambeau to avoid using a sponsor’s exemption for next week’s Valero Texas Open in San Antonio, Texas. Non-members of the PGA Tour are only permitted seven sponsor’s exemptions in an attempt to make enough money to earn temporary PGA Tour status, which would give him unlimited sponsor’s exemptions and a clearer path to a PGA Tour card for the 2016-17 season.

The Texas Open had previously granted DeChambeau a sponsor’s exemption, but now he won’t need to use it. He also plans to play in the Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte, N.C., the Memorial in Dublin, Ohio, and the Quicken Loans National in suburban Washington, D.C. Although he forfeited his exemption to the U.S. Open and The Open Championship, conducted by The R&A, by turning pro, he hopes to qualify to play at Oakmont Country Club in June by going through 36-hole sectional qualifying on June 6 in Powell, Ohio.

David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at dshefter@usga.org.

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