Andrea Lee’s very fine drive on the 17th hole came to a halt in a divot. There’s never a good time to find a divot, but this was a particularly horrendous time as Lee competed for her first LPGA title on the 71st hole of the AmazingCre Portland Classic.
She pulled her 6 iron to the left and finally went up and down with a beautiful bunker shot, as if the divot had never happened.
The former No. 1 amateur lost her tour ticket last season and played on the Epson Tour earlier this year. The low came last April when she felt so lost on the golf course that she wanted to withdraw and go home. Of course she didn’t, because Lee is a fighter. And that bad luck wouldn’t stop her either.
“It’s more than I could have imagined,” Lee said of her one-stroke win in Portland. “I can not believe it.”
Lee took part of the lead on the last lap, but a couple of bogeys on Nos. 2 and 3 gave her a shaky start. She bounced back with three straight birdies to Nos. 5-7, and the former Stanford star joined a long list of players who had a chance at Columbia Edgewater late in the day.
Lee, a nine-time winner at Stanford, finished with a 6-under 66 to finish at 19 under, beating former Miami player Daniela Darquea by one strike. Darquea finished Week 108 on the CME points list with just four starts on the LPGA this season, including the US Women’s Open and Dow team event. She had played most of the season on the Epson Tour, but made the most of her time in Portland, birdies the last three holes and finish second.
Likewise, Esther Henseleit revived her season with a share of third place. The German player entered the 103rd week on the CME list. The top 100 will keep their card for the 2023 season.
Like Lee, UCLA’s Lilia Vu won a bunch in the Pac-12 and spent time as the top-ranked amateur in the world. Both are shortlisted as rookies for next year’s US Solheim Cup team. Vu joined Henseleit in a share of third place with Narin An, Hannah Green and Ayake Furue.
“Andrea played great,” said Vu. “She literally hits every shot like a foot, and I just knew it’s fun to play today. I play with the right-most batters and I struggle all week to find a fairway.”
Swedish Maja Stark made her debut as an LPGA member this week, finishing eighth solo. The Ladies European Tour star won the ISPS Handa World Invitational to earn LPGA membership. Stark was less than happy with her closing 66.
“My driver was a bit everywhere,” Stark said. “Usually drawn on the left, but then my irons weren’t very good and my wedges were terrible all week.
“So I’m just glad I managed to go below par to be honest.”
Andrea Lee poses with the trophy and her father James Lee after winning the AmazingCre Portland Classic in 2022 at the Columbia Edgewater Country Club in Portland, Oregon. (Photo: Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
Lee burst into tears during her post-round interview with the Golf Channel as she dedicated the win to her late grandfather, who passed away last November. He always called her a champion.
“My grandfather loved golf,” Lee said. “I’m a little sad I haven’t been able to play more rounds with him or just go to the range together, but we were close and he helped us a lot when we were going through some tough times in junior golf. It’s a very expensive sport and he was a huge supporter and he was my number 1 fan next to my mom and dad.”
She was also emotional over the loss of her dog, Toki, who passed away earlier this year and would have turned 14 yesterday.
Lee melted even more in her father’s arms, who told her he was proud.
“My dad isn’t a man of many words,” Lee said, “so it was just a nice moment to be with him.”
Her next big goal: to win a major.
Story originally appeared on GolfWeek