He’s been mixing it with the professionals since he was just 14 years of age and now Min Woo Lee is ready to join them.
Lee will begin his professional career at the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship on the European Tour on Wednesday in a field that boasts major champions Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Louis Oosthuizen, Henrik Stenson and Martin Kaymer.
Fellow Australians Wade Ormsby, Sam Brazel, Lucas Herbert, Jason Scrivener and Scott Hend are also in the field along with Kiwi Ryan Fox but most of the focus will be on how the West Australian prodigy handles his elevation to the play-for-pay ranks.
Having narrowly missed a full card on the Web.com Tour, Lee is playing on a sponsor’s invitation this week and with endorsement deals already secured with Callaway Golf and Hugo Boss.
The younger brother of women’s world No.6 Minjee Lee, Lee has regularly tested himself in professional events from a young age and at 20 years old believes he has the experience to transition into the pro ranks.
Lee’s first professional event was the 2012 John Hughes Geely/Nexus Risk Services WA Open Championship and two years later he was tied for 14th at the WA Open Championship.
His best result to date in a professional event was a tie for fifth 12 months ago at the ISPS HANDA World Super 6 Perth and is ready to put his game to the test at Abu Dhabi Golf Club.
“It’s awesome to start out at such a prestigious event,” Lee said following a practice round on Monday.
“I played the course today, I played 14 holes, and they’re awesome.
“You’ve got to drive it really good off the tee and you’ve got to hit a lot of fairways to get a low score.
“I’m pumped for it.”
Lee will tee off from the first tee at 4pm AEDT on Wednesday alongside Englishman Jack Singh Brar and Chinese amateur Yuxin Lin.
He played six professional tournaments last year and is confident that he won’t be overawed by the elite-level company that will surround him.
“I felt I was good enough when I competed in the pro events and got to play with top pros,” Lee told Golfweek.
“I played with Jordan Spieth in the Australian Open, which was an awesome experience, played against other pros and I felt as if I had the ability to be head to head with them.
“I love playing professional events and that made me work even harder to one day turn pro.”
Ormsby will be the first Australian on course in Abu Dhabi when he tees off at 2.40pm AEDT with Scott Hend to follow in the group behind 10 minutes later.
There will likely be some Trans-Tasman banter in the afternoon groups with Fox and Herbert playing in the same group along with England’s Tom Lewis from 7.45pm AEDT.
Hend was the best of the Aussies at this event last year with a tie for 22nd while Englishman Tommy Fleetwood is aiming for a third straight win.
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