Minjee and Min Woo Lee have had their first wish for the week granted as they have been placed on the same side of the draw for the ISPS HANDA Australian Open.
Australia’s best sporting siblings will begin their quests for national glory at Victoria Golf Club on Thursday afternoon roughly half an hour apart and much to the delight of the Lee clan.
Their parents, Soonam and Clara, along with their grandmother are in attendance this week and had flagged their concerns about the possibility of Minjee and Min Woo being on separate sides of the draw but the family’s plans have been simplified.
“They already talked about it. There’s a few with me first and then to Min Woo,” Minjee said.
“Whoever’s playing better I guess,” Min Woo responded with a laugh.
Strong crowds are expected on the opening afternoon at Victoria – and again on Friday morning at Kingston Heath Golf Club – with the 150th Open champion and Fortinet Australian PGA Championship winner Cameron Smith teeing off in the group in front of Minjee.
The US Women’s Open champion forms a power-packed group with Australian rising LPGA star Steph Kyriacou and the Chevron Championship winner Jennifer Kupcho, while Min Woo will tee it up alongside highly regarded 21-year-old Dane Nicolai Hojgaard and three-time Japan Golf Tour winner Takumi Kanaya.
“It is cool. We were looking at the draw and hoping we weren’t on the other side,” Min Woo said.
“It’s easier obviously for the parents to walk around and people who want to see both of us. But it will be nice when the fans finish with her, they can come see me for three holes.”
The Lees had the rare chance to grace the fairways together alongside Adam Scott and rookie West Australian professional Hayden Hopewell at Kingston Heath on Tuesday, and they stuck to only trash talking one another off the golf course.
“I thought that was really fun,” Minjee said. “I actually haven’t played that much golf with Min Woo, to be fair, so just seeing him play and seeing him about his business, I think it’s really cool just to experience that with him.
“He’s grown up a lot since the last time I played with him.”
The younger of the Lee siblings has gained a lot of experience from a rollercoaster year.
The 24-year-old grew his reputation as a big stage player by equalling the front nine record at The Masters by reaching the turn in 30 on Sunday on his way to a tied 14th finish and he also impressed at St Andrews by coming tied 21st at The 150th Open Championship.
Min Woo will arguably learn more from his inability to make the cut in any of his starts on the PGA Tour and not gaining his card on the premier US tour at the Korn Ferry Tour Finals.
He has enjoyed a strong run of form on the DP World Tour in the past two months with back-to-back third place finishes in Spain, a tied eighth in South Africa, a tied 12th at the Tour Championship in Dubai and a tied fourth at the Fortinet Australian PGA Championship last week.
Those results have brought with them a lot of travel, but the high stakes of the national open is helping Min Woo ward off any fatigue.
“Any time having home cooking and in front of hundreds and thousands of people, it’s pretty special and the energy levels just rise up somehow,” he said.
“It is a really good atmosphere, which I love playing in front of. You can’t really be tired or down when there’s a lot of people watching. You get a bit of adrenalin just from that.”
Minjee has also endured a gruelling season and her form has fallen away in recent months – her best result since finishing tied fourth at the AIG Women’s Open in August was tied 33rd at this month’s CME Group Tour Championship.
Although, the Rolex Annika Major Award winner for the best player in the five women’s majors this year feels she has one last big week for the year in her.
“I had a pretty chill last couple of days, so I feel okay,” Minjee said. “The end of the season, you’re going to be tired but I guess all of us girls who have come down from America are all kind of tired.
“It’s still my national open. It may not be LPGA right now but I think it always has a special place in my heart and I always love coming back to Australia and playing. We don’t get too many opportunities to do that, so whenever I get the chance, I do like coming back.”