Andrea Lee’s very fine drive on the 17th hole came to rest in a divot. There’s never a good time to find a divot, but this was an especially terrible time, given that Lee was vying for her first LPGA title on the 71st hole of the AmazingCre Portland Classic.
She tugged her 6-iron to the left and ultimately got up-and-down with a beautiful bunker shot, as if the divot never happened.
The former No. 1-ranked amateur lost her tour card last season and played on the Epson Tour earlier this year. Rock bottom came last April when she felt so lost on the golf course that she wanted to withdraw and go home. She didn’t, of course, because Lee is a fighter. And that bad luck divot wasn’t going to stop her either.
“It’s more than anything I could have imagined,” said Lee of her one-stroke victory in Portland. “I cannot believe it.”
An unforgettable moment
— LPGA (@LPGA) September 18, 2022
Lee came into the final round with a share of the lead, but a pair of bogeys on Nos. 2 and 3 got her off to a sluggish start. She rebounded with three consecutive birdies on Nos. 5-7, and the former Stanford star joined a long list of players who had a chance late in the day at Columbia Edgewater.
Lee, a nine-time winner at Stanford, closed with a 6-under 66 to finish at 19 under and edge former Miami player Daniela Darquea by one stroke. Darquea came into the week 108th on the CME points list with only four starts on the LPGA this season, including the U.S. Women’s Open and Dow team event. She’d played most of the season on the Epson Tour, but made the most of her time in Portland, birdieing the last three holes to finish second.
Similarly, Esther Henseleit revitalized her season with a share of third. The German player came into the week 103rd on the CME list. The top 100 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 on the short list as rookie for next year’s U.S. Solheim Cup team. Vu joined Henseleit in a share of third with Narin An, Hannah Green and Ayake Furue.
“Andrea played amazing,” said Vu. “She literally hits every single shot like a foot, and I just knew like playing today, I’m playing with like the straightest hitters, and, me, I’m struggling all week to find a fairway.”
Sweden’s Maja Stark made her debut as an LPGA member this week and finished solo eighth. The Ladies European Tour star won the ISPS Handa World Invitational to earn LPGA membership. Stark was less than satisfied with her closing 66.
“My driver was kind of everywhere,” said Stark. “Pulled mostly left, but and then my irons weren’t very good and my wedges have been terrible all week.
“So I’m just happy that I managed to go under par to be honest.”
Lee broke down in tears during her post-round interview with the Golf Channel as she dedicated the victory to her late grandfather, who died last November. He always called her a champion.
“My grandpa loved golf,” said Lee. “I’m kind of sad that I didn’t get to play more rounds of golf with him or just go to the range together, but we were close and he helped us out a lot when we were in tough times during junior golf. It’s a very expensive sport and he was a huge supporter and he was my No. 1 fan besides my mom and dad.”
She was also emotional about the loss of her dog, Toki, who died earlier this year and would’ve turned 14 yesterday.
Lee melted even more in the arms of her father, who told her he was proud.
“My dad is not a man of many words,” said Lee, “so it was just a nice moment to have with him.”
Her next big goal: win a major.