Min Woo Lee Takes Command With Closing Eagle

WELLINGTON, New Zealand – Australia’s Min Woo Lee – younger brother of LPGA star Minjee Lee – holed a 60-foot eagle putt on the 18th hole of Royal Wellington Golf Club to take a one-stroke lead over China’s Lin Yuxin after the second round of the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship.

Lin, 17, had earlier eagled his last hole, the ninth, to card a four-under-par 67 and post the clubhouse lead, but the 19-year-old Lee leapfrogged him late to record a 68 and move to seven-under.

First-round leader Australian Shae Wools-Cobb (74) – Lee’s roommate for the week – is at five-under, two shots ahead of New Zealanders Nick Voke (72) and Kerry Mountcastle (70), China’s Andy Zhang (70), Japan’s Sean Maruyama (72) and Lloyd Jefferson Go (72) of the Philippines.

At the event’s halfway mark, the cut fell at six-over-par, with 62 players advancing to the weekend.

The youthful Lee is the longest hitter on the six-strong Australian team, but it was his putter that caught fire with birdies on 16 and 17 before his dramatic closing shot put him in the lead at the ninth AAC, which rewards the champion with spots in the 2018 Masters Tournament and The 147th Open at Carnoustie next summer.

“It has been a while since I’ve holed a putt that long. It just happened at the right time,” said Lee, who won last year’s U.S. Junior Amateur and was runner-up in this year’s Australian Amateur.

“I was feeling pretty low on the back nine and not pumped up, then I got a kick-on from Ritchie [Smith],” said Lee of his coach handling caddie duties this week. “I was one-over after 15, then we looked at the leader board and realised I was only two or three shots back, so just a couple of birdies would get me closer.”

Lee, whose drive on the par-four ninth was recorded at 374 yards, said he’d also received some advice from his sister: “I spoke to Minjee last night. She’s pretty boring and just told me to hit every fairway, every green and hole your putts. I guess she’s right, really.”

Lin, who teed off on hole 10 in the morning, had posted the early fireworks after closing with an eagle on the 442-yard, par-four ninth. The strongly built left-hander boomed a 360-yard drive before holing out from the right rough with an 82-yard chip.

“It was a really good way to finish, with an eagle, and I actually saw the ball drop. I was actually pretty calm because last week I had an albatross and an eagle in Macau,” said Lin, who has verbally committed to play golf collegiately in the United States at the University of Southern California, beginning in 2019. “I’m not sure why I keep holing those shots from the fairway or the rough, but it’s pretty good.”

Lin, who only turned 17 on October 12, is playing in his second AAC after a tie for 21st in Korea last year. “I’m pretty confident. I’m hitting it pretty well and putting well, and my chipping is also pretty good, so I’m looking forward to the last two rounds,” said Lin who is based in Beijing.

Wools-Cobb will join Lee and Lin in the final group. “Min Woo and I will have a good chat tonight and hopefully we can boost each other around the golf course. I’ve grown up playing golf with him since I was 13,” Wools-Cobb said.

“Pound for pound, he’s one of the strongest,” Wools-Cobb said regarding on Lee. “He hits it a mile, has always got short irons into the green and he’s pretty aggressive. My strength is usually my putting and he putts pretty well, too, so if we both get them rolling tomorrow that would be awesome.”

Hong Kong’s Wong Shuai-ming and China’s Yuan Yechun both shot 66 to share ninth place at two-under with Japan’s Keita Nakajima (68), Hsieh Ting-wei (70) of Chinese Taipei and Australians Dylan Perry (69) and James Anstiss (70).

Australians Travis Smyth and Harrison Endycott, the tournament’s top two ranked players, share 15th place at one-under, just six shots off the lead.

The third round will begin Saturday at 8:05 a.m. off the first and 10th tees at Royal Wellington. Spectators are encouraged to watch the drama unfold and entry is free of charge.

The AAC is organised by three Founding Partners – Asia Pacific Golf Confederation, the Masters Tournament and The R&A. This week’s event features 116 players from 38 APGC member associations. Television coverage includes three hours of live broadcast on each of the four days and a 30-minute highlights show, and will be aired in more than 160 countries, once again making it the world’s most televised amateur golf tournament.