Vic Open champion Min Woo Lee has got back to business as he targets a return to the European Tour at the Betfred British Masters starting from July 22.
Refreshed from a COVID-19-induced sabbatical that consisted predominantly of tennis matches with mates and marathon Call of Duty sessions on his PS4, Lee is using a defined start date to fuel his practice at Royal Fremantle Golf Club in Perth.
Starting 2020 with limited status having failed to earn a European Tour card by a single stroke the year prior, Lee’s win at Thirteenth Beach Golf Links ensured better playing opportunities in the larger events on the schedule. That was until the Tour was forced to shut down on March 8 in the wake of the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters and coronavirus outbreak.
Chief Executive Keith Pelley announced last week that the European Tour’s relaunch would come with a six-week UK swing commencing with the British Masters at Close House Golf Club and Lee has every intention of joining the resumption.
A Government order dictates that visitors who arrive in the UK after June 8 must self-isolate for 14 days but as far as Lee is concerned, if he can get there, he’ll play.
“I’m looking forward to those events,” said the 21-year-old.
“I’m not sure what the situation is going to be but at the moment the schedule is set in the UK so I’m looking forward to playing in those.”
Although he missed the cut on the number at last year’s British Masters, Lee has fond memories of playing amateur events in the UK.
He made it through to the third round of the match play section of the British Amateur at Royal St George’s in 2017 and given the ball-striking control he displayed in atrocious conditions on his way to winning the Vic Open in February, Lee is excited to spend six weeks playing in England and Wales.
“I’d never really played in conditions like that before. It was crazy,” Lee recalled.
“The ball would move on the greens and you couldn’t really pull the trigger so it was tough in that sense.
“To win in those conditions was pretty special. You can play in any conditions after winning in that type of extremes.
“I played a few tournaments in the UK last year but I played more as an amateur. I have a little bit of experience over there. I played the US Open qualifier at Walton Heath last year and I like the place.
“Hopefully it’s not too cold and not too windy during that time.”
As a feted amateur, Lee rubbed shoulders with the likes of Tiger Woods and Jason Day, two world No.1s he hopes to emulate in both style and substance.
As the younger brother of LPGA Tour star Minjee Lee, attention was a given yet it’s only been in the past three months that he has had a chance to reflect on his transition to the pro ranks.
Lee made the professional plunge on January 12, 2019 and finished top five in two of his first four events on the European Tour, a miscalculation of his position on the Order of Merit leaving him agonisingly short of full status in 2020.
Top-three finishes at both the AV Jennings NSW Open and Australian PGA Championship last summer displayed his resilience, a three-month hiatus a chance to reflect on a growing maturity that he recognises is still a work in progress.
“It was nice to have a break and just freshen up,” Lee admitted, adding “tennis took up most of my days”.
“I feel like I didn’t have a significant break during that time (since turning professional). Obviously it’s tough when you’re a rookie on tour and you need to get out of the blocks and try and play the best you can.
“I didn’t really get an off-season during Christmas and New Year. I had to go straight to South Africa and play that so it was a pretty hectic year but the hard work pays off.
“My tendency as a golfer in the past was to follow up a bad shot with another bad shot but I think I have improved the mental side.
“Obviously there is still that child version of me but when things get bad and you get down a little bit, I’m more mature about it and it’s not the end of the world.
“When you’re playing with all the best players from the European Tour you learn things.
“Going around the block and around the world you learn a few things.”