HAYES: Lee's golden step to belonging


Min Woo Lee
Min Woo Lee watches his ball during his brilliant third round at 13th Beach. Photo: Paul Shire

It would be patently stupid to predict Min Woo Lee’s career trajectory.

No forecast of world rankings, major championship victories or comparisons to legends will likely hold any water and is a trap of some traditional media outlets.

So in trying to find the right context to assign the 21-year-old’s breakthrough ISPS Handa Vic Open victory today, let’s try to keep to the here and now.

Many in the know who have watched Lee rise through the amateur ranks predicted big things for the Royal Fremantle member.

Anyone who watched him dominate a windswept 13th Beach in the past 48 hours will be more confident in that assessment.

So just what does this first professional victory mean for Lee?

Money? Tick.

European Tour card? Absolutely critical, yes.

Increased spotlight? Sure, he loves it.

But there’s so much more – and we’ll only truly learn what that all is as the next few years progress.

Lee may or may not end up being the player to lead Australian golf into the next generation, as many experts have prognosticated since before he won the US Junior Amateur in 2016 to spark global interest.

But what’s for sure is that the winning step he took today will give him a belief that no amount of practice ever could.

He will awaken tomorrow in 11th on the European Tour’s Race to Dubai rankings and approximately 127th in the world rankings, up almost 100 spots from his previous best position.

Way more importantly, when next he pegs it up in Europe, he will own something money can never buy any emerging athlete: a sense of belonging.

He knows his best will get it done. He knows he can compete even when his A-game wobbles a little. He knows the fight that he waged last year to earn a place to play is already complete for 2020 and that it’s all gravy from here.

Those familiar with the real Lee know he’s a modest yet confident young man, well versed with public life, particularly having seen his sister Minjee’s surge through the women’s world rankings.

But the freedom he’ll gain mentally from victory today will be immeasurably important.

He has every shot in the book, some that haven’t even been given a chapter yet.

He hits it a country mile.

He has great vision and, just as importantly, the hands to bring that to life.

He now has the fuel to power what could become a unique golfing machine.

That fuel is today’s big prize.

Should he choose to seek it – and no athlete should ever be pushed into that step by a public longing to see it – Lee is made for the bright spotlight of world golf.

But if he does ultimately want to be that person, you cannot help but feel that today was the day he put his first foot on the big stage.

So rather than go with mindless projections from those outside his camp, let’s leave it to the man himself to sum up this day and its potential impact.

“I always knew I had the ability to be one of the top players in the world and I think I've shown this week that, for myself as well, that I could play under pressure and play pretty comfortably and shoot a low score,” Lee said.

“So, you know, I'm not going to say what I can be and who I can be, but I'm really excited for the next year and next few years.

“Hopefully I'm playing on the big stage and playing some majors and contending in them.”

Now that’s a prediction we can all endorse.