Youngest LPGA golfer hits 100-yard drive, grasps base instead of ball

Caleb M. Olvera, CNN • Updated 22nd October 2017

( CNN ) — If you’ve ever wished you could go to Saudi Arabia without fear, spare a thought for 13-year-old Minjee Lee.

But not for long — at least according to her golf course.

Once her last month-long lesson is over, Lee, the youngest player in the LPGA Tour, is heading for royal treatment to one of the Kingdom’s best golf resorts.

“I’m excited because I haven’t gone to Saudi Arabia yet,” Lee tells CNN ahead of her appearance at the Saudi Ladies International golf tournament in Jeddah.

Held every October, the Princess Nourah Bint Mohammed bin Abdulaziz Golf Championship sees dozens of world’s best female players compete at Jeddah’s King Abdullah Golf Club.

Every golfer in the field must first score her way through a four-round qualifying round in order to feature in the Oct. 14-17 competition.

To do so, she had to become the youngest participant to complete the difficult Muirfield course at the Travelers Championship in Connecticut earlier this month.

“The $2 million Travelers Championship is also my first experience on a golf course that big,” says Lee.

“The fact that I was one of the youngest players in the tournament meant that I was the only female that played on that golf course.”

Lee’s unorthodox drive sticks in a hole at the Travelers Championship in Connecticut.

Although she missed qualifying for the US Open and said she wanted to postpone her trip to Saudi Arabia by a couple of weeks, she is not one to shy away from a challenge.

“It’s fun to play on the big stage and watch golf legends who are more seasoned, but when they’re younger they still push themselves to their limits.

“On the other hand, being a junior it’s kind of nerve wracking because you’re really going to have to earn the right to play on that big stage.”

Friendly competitors

After a six-year golfing journey, Lee played three exhibition rounds at Prince Nasser LPGA Tournament last October.

But when the chance to face Saudi Arabia’s elite came up, she says she was thrilled.

“The environment was really friendly; everyone was nice and was trying to help each other out,” she said.

“No one was swearing; it was a lot of fun. I was a little bit scared about the weather, but I got used to it.

“In the first round I was nervous because I had never played on the royal tour course before.

“But after I started I kind of calmed down a little bit.”

Trained by Simon Whitlock, the British “fungo” who runs the Imagination Academy Golf Academy in Australia, Lee says she hopes her new talent will extend to other girls in the future.

But first there’s that little matter of her diploma to finish in Indiana.

For the moment, after finishing her first year of university studies, Lee is ready to concentrate on the next step of her golfing career: playing for Great Britain and Ireland in next year’s European Championship.

A course with special challenges

“Because I’m in school and I have my Masters, I’m not really focusing on professional golf. I think after my Masters I’ll definitely try to play on a professional tour or at least try to start at a smaller tour.”

Even after she hits her final tee shot in Jeddah, she won’t be finished playing golf.

“I would love to play at the SSC Caves Course (in Gailes Castle, Scotland),” says Lee.

“It’s probably one of the toughest courses I’ve ever seen in my life, it’s always windy and windy.”

Born in Perth, Western Australia, and raised by her Canadian immigrant father Brian, Lee turned professional in 2013 and has held two of the LPGA’s youngest records.

“I used to get bullied at school because I was so loud because I played golf. I don’t know why they bullied me but it was something,” says Lee.

“They called me a loud girl, ‘go play volleyball!’

“I’ve been known to play volleyball, I’m a really good player. My dad just loves golf, he loves golf.

“He’s a big adrenaline junkie.”

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