Teen Aussie sensation sets sights on Olympics

Last Updated: Thursday, March 13, 2014 - 11:18

Teenage sensation Minjee Lee said she is in no rush to follow New Zealand`s Lydia Ko by turning professional as she plots a path to the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

The 17-year-old Australian has assumed Ko`s former crown by becoming the world`s top-ranked amateur and making waves with her performances at professional events.

Last month, Lee won the Victorian Open by six strokes and was runner-up to Tiger Woods`s niece Cheyenne at the Australian Ladies Masters.

She tied for fourth in a star-studded field at last week`s World Ladies Championship in China -- and was then invited to her first major, next month`s Kraft Nabisco Championship in California.

It`s a run which, together with warm praise from the likes of world number one Park In-Bee, could tempt Lee to leap into the professional ranks at the first opportunity.

But the level-headed Lee, who comes from Perth, said she is not about to abandon her plan to turn professional late this year and build towards the next Olympics.

"There`s no rush," she said at Mission Hills Haikou, during the World Ladies Championship.

"I am happy with my game but I still feel I have a lot to learn. The aim is to get my card at the end of the year and turn pro then."

Ko has started her first professional season in solid if unspectacular fashion as she makes the big adjustment to life on tour and a new coaching and management set-up.

And Lee said this year, she plans to restrict herself to a handful of professional events and the top amateur tournaments before taking the plunge into full-time golf.

She said the ultimate goal is Rio 2016, where golf will return to the Olympic programme for the first time in more than 100 years.

"Well, you`d be representing your country and what else could you hope for as an athlete?" said Lee.

"Going to the Olympics, playing for your country and playing the sport that you love -- it doesn`t get better than that."

At the $600,000 World Ladies Championship, Lee was only out-scored by three women, all top 10 players and major-winners: Park, Suzann Pettersen and Ryu So-Yeon.

Paired with Park over the first two days on Mission Hills`s Blackstone course, she was a study in concentration, following the world number one`s every move.

"(This event) definitely gives me confidence that I can mix it with the pros and compete with them," said Lee, who learned the game at the Royal Fremantle Golf Club.

"I feel like I have got a chance in any tournament I play now."

She added: "I want to keep learning and gaining experience and tournament such as this are giving me the opportunity to do that. I am learning every round I play.

"I think I can keep up with my long game, it`s just my short game that needs to keep improving."

Lee`s talent and composure wasn`t missed by eventual winner Park, who predicted great things ahead for the teenager.

"She has the game, there`s no doubt about that," said the 25-year-old South Korean. "And the way she handles herself shows she is doing all the right things.

"She has a big future in the game for sure."

AFP


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