U.S. WOMEN'S AMATEUR
Competition More About Revelry than Rivalry for Andrea Lee
August 4, 2016 | Springfield, Pa.
By Lisa D. Mickey
During lunch Thursday between the Round of 32 and the Round of 16 at the 116th U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship, Andrea Lee, Robynn Ree and Eun Jeong Seong shared a table with their parents in the dining area at Rolling Green Golf Club.
That lunch was casual, fun and friendly in spite of the fact that Californians Lee and Ree were getting ready to face each other in the Round of 16, which Lee won, 6 and 4.
That win set up a Friday quarterfinal encounter between Lee and Seong, who defended her title at the U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship two weeks ago by defeating Lee. Seong earned her spot in the quarterfinals by eliminating No. 3 seed Hye-Jin Choi, of the Republic of Korea, 6 and 5, on Thursday afternoon.
Instead of animosity and rivalry, there was friendship and admiration. Seong even quietly visited the back porch while Fox Sports 1 was interviewing Lee. Seong snapped a photo of her friend with her phone and the two smiled.
“We’re all really close and there’s no intimidation factor or anything,” said Lee, 17, of Hermosa Beach, Calif., who will be a freshman at Stanford University this fall. “Lunch is fun, but once we get on the golf course, it’s a whole different story. We want to beat each other.
“But we like each other’s company, It’s just nice to be around them.”
Lee admitted “it’s a little weird,” because she’s still coming off the stinging loss to Seong in the U.S. Girls’ Junior at The Ridgewood Country Club. Lee led that 36-hole championship final 5 up through 13 holes, but Seong came roaring back to win, becoming the first back-to-back champion in 45 years..
“I’m over it,” said Lee. “It was a really good experience. I took a lot of positives from that week.”
And how awkward will it be to face Seong again so soon in Friday’s quarterfinals? Lee says their match won’t change their friendship, in spite of the fact that both of them will do everything possible to win.
“We’re both great players and we respect each other’s games,” said Lee, who defeated Seong in the 2014 U.S. Women’s Amateur quarterfinals at Nassau Country Club. “Anything can happen tomorrow. I’m looking forward to it.”
Lee is also very close to Ree, who lives in Redondo Beach, five minutes from her home in Los Angeles’ South Bay. Once Ree returns home for the summer from the University of Southern California, the two players “hang out, go to the movies and eat dinner together,” Lee said.
“It’s weird getting paired up in such a big national championship like this,” added Lee. “It’s hard, but at the end of the day, it’s about who wants to beat each other more.”
At this week’s championship, Seong’s mother traveled to Pennsylvania from Korea to watch her daughter try to win her second national title of the summer.
The Korean-American players and their parents have welcomed Seong’s Korean parents with open arms, returning what they experienced last year when Lee and her parents traveled to Korea.
“We actually took a vacation to Korea last December and got to meet [Seong’s mother] for the first time in Korea,” said Lee, who speaks both English and Korean. “We’re really close with Eun Jeong’s family.”
So close that – in spite of the fight to win the Girls’ Junior – players and their families all had Korean food together four times during the championship week in Paramus, N.J.
“Everywhere we go, we try to look for Korean food,” said Lee. “Even though I’m from the United States, I take every aspect of Korea as a part of me. It’s my culture.”
There’s one more thing that Lee likes to share with her friends, when given the chance. She displayed her singing talent for karaoke this week when Fox Sports 1 asked for a sample of her vocal ability.
Admittedly, Lee is competitive in that, too. And if she gets the chance, the Californian would like to school Seong behind a microphone.
“I’ll probably do that after I get back home and I’m done with this [championship],” she said. “I win karaoke contests all the time with my friends.”
And whether she’s belting out tunes from pop stars Sam Smith, Bruno Mars, Adele or Maroon 5, Lee is nearly as serious about singing as she is golf. Sing-offs, like playoffs, are never out of the question.
Lisa D. Mickey is a Florida-based freelance writer who frequently contributes to USGA websites.