Aussie amateur in the hunt with a round to play

Jun. 21, 2014 @ 08:56 PM

Australian amateur Minjee Lee is tied for third entering Sunday's final round of the U.S. Women's Open Championship and one of the main ideas she took away from hanging in the fight with a 2-over par 72 Saturday was, "there's always room for improvement."

"I don't think I drove it how I really wanted to today. I was kind of spraying it a bit," she said. "But I recovered quite well some of the holes. Yeah, I'm happy with that. Yeah, I think there's always room for improvement."

Lee, Na Yeon Choi, who will be one pair in the second-to-last group to begin this afternoon, along with Stephanie Meadow - herself in her first professional tournament this week - and Juli Inkster, are each four shots behind co-leaders Michelle Wie and Amy Yang.

Lee, the No. 1 ranked amateur in the world in the Women's World Amateur Golf Rankings, would be the first amateur to win the U.S. Women's Open since Catherine Lacoste did it, still the only amateur ever to win, in 1967.

Lee went to the past champions dinner as a guest of fellow Australian Karrie Webb on Tuesday evening. She got to meet and speak with Lacoste.

"So I got to meet most of the past champions," Lee said following her round Saturday evening. "And I met the actual amateur who won. Yeah, that was pretty cool."

Lee was cool, even while absorbing a few tough holes, around Pinehurst No. 2 Saturday after starting her first U.S. Women's Open with rounds of 69 and 71.

After a bogey five on No. 16, a par four playing longer than the par-five No. 10 did, Lee hit a perfect iron to five feet from the pin on the 161-yard No. 17 and made birdie. She made another bogey on 18 but a 2-over 72 keeps her among the final groups today.

Earlier in the round, Lee bounced back from bogeys on Nos. 1 and 4 with a birdie three on No. 7 and a birdie four on No. 10.

Being in contention in a major tournament, at least on Saturday, didn't rattle the 18-year-old. She said her first Australian Open, "when I hit my first shot, that was quite awhile ago, I think," made her more nervous.

Lee tied for 24th at this spring's Kraft Nabisco Championship, a major for the LPGA Tour. Lee qualified for the U.S. Women's Open Championship via sectional qualifying in Minnesota in May. This afternoon she'll be right in the thick of the last day of a major.

"I've been in this position, but not in a big tournament like this, obviously," she said. "Yeah, I think it will be different and I'll just try my best."