There were tears in her father’s eyes when Erynne Lee lifted her replica LPGA Tour membership card at the conclusion of the Symetra Tour’s 2017 season in early October.
Tears, because a family goal had been achieved with Lee’s sixth-place finish on the Symetra Tour’s 2017 money list, earning her full 2018 LPGA Tour status.
Tears, because Brian Lee had carried his older daughter’s golf bag for 15 weeks during the season, helping her record six top-10 finishes that included a pair of victories.
Tears, because when mother Debbie Lee died suddenly in 2011 of a brain aneurysm at 52 during Erynne’s freshman year at UCLA, Erynne was able to fight through the grief, perform at a high level on the golf course and earn a psychology degree in 2015.
With three wins in two seasons (2016-2017) on the Symetra Tour, Erynne Lee, 24, earned the LPGA Tour membership her parents hoped she would attain after they watched countrywoman Se Ri Pak, of the Republic of Korea, win the 1998 U.S. Women’s Open Championship.
While Pak undoubtedly lit the fire for their big family dream, it was Debbie Lee who gladly fanned the flames.
“I know my wife … would be really, really excited,” said Brian Lee, dabbing his eyes prior to the Symetra Tour’s awards ceremony. “My [two] kids had a hard time losing their mother, but time goes by and it helps.”
That healing time was important as Erynne ultimately turned her mother’s dream into her own. Debbie would drive daughters Erynne and Katie, who is three years younger than Erynne, to golf lessons, practices and tournaments. The sisters also competed together for Central Kitsap High School in Silverdale, Wash., one hour west of Seattle.
A former Washington State Golf Association and Pacific Northwest Golf Association Women’s Player of the Year, Erynne qualified for the 2008 U.S. Women’s Open and reached the semifinals of the 2008 U.S. Women’s Amateur at age 15.
She also advanced to the quarterfinals of the 2010 and 2011 U.S. Women’s Amateurs and qualified for the 2011 U.S. Women’s Open. Those accomplishments helped earn Lee a place on the victorious 2014 USA Curtis Cup Team, to which she contributed two foursomes victories. She helped the USA finish eighth in the 2012 World Amateur Team Championship in Turkey, and as a member of the 2013 USA Copa de las Americas Team, she posted the low individual score.