It seems to have come out of nowhere. Min Lee, the 26-year-old from Taiwan, has been with us for a long time. She made 21 cuts in her 2015 rookie year and finished 12th in the US Women’s Open that summer, a promising start to a potentially long and meaningful career. But six years later, after jumping back and forth between the LPGA Tour and the Symetra Tour, where she won three times, Lee finally had the breakthrough her talent had promised.
A runner-up in the LPGA MEDIHEAL Championship on a difficult Lake Merced course, followed by an excellent 6-under-par opening round at the Meijer Classic for Simply Give, has people crawling to their nearest search engine to find out more about this sociable player . In fact, their opening round at Grand Rapids on Thursday had several people jumping. Every time you’re 8-under by 13 holes with a couple of par-5s left, eager fans extrapolate into insanity and face all sorts of crazy expectations, including a possible 59.
Lee giggled at that. “This is golf and you’re going to do a couple of bogeys and a couple of birdies,” she said. “It’s still early, only the first lap, so I’m not really asking too much. The only number I think about is how far to hit my next shot. I’m not really thinking about breaking my personal record, someone else’s record, or the course record. I just play my game, try to do my best. “
She has an interesting way of staying calm and balanced during her rounds. If you get close enough, you can hear her hum and sometimes sing a note or two as she walks down the fairways. “I just play music in my head so I don’t think about a lot of things that I don’t have to think about,” she said. “That’s the most important thing for me.”
You could catch her humming everything from Mozart to Bruno Mars. Both of these are great distractions on the pitch. Off course, music is a way to keep your life balanced.
Lee spent the 2020 pandemic at home in Taiwan, working on her short game and making some long-needed tweaks to her swing. “In the last few years I haven’t had a chance to adjust because we play all the time,” she said. “So finally we had a full year last year and I was able to spend time working on it.
“I also gained some distance through physical training. I’ve been working really hard on my body and that has helped me get tougher both physically and mentally. The harder you work, the harder you get. That helped a lot last week [at Mediheal] which was very stressful. [Conditioning] helped me hold it together and not get too crazy.
“I felt like the driver has always been one of the strongest parts of my game. I don’t get too wild. I still hit the fairways even though I hit them longer, which really helps because I have shorter irons in the greens. “
But she didn’t spend all year in the gym and on the shooting range. Lee made the most of the COVID lockdown by broadening her musical horizons.
“I’ve been playing the piano since I was six,” she said. “Then my father took me to play golf. When it came time to go to middle school, I had to choose. I would either go to music class or to physical education class. I chose sports. My mother wasn’t happy about it. I think as a woman they all want you to sit down and be quiet. “
After that, she paused to get the laugh she wanted.
“I started playing guitar about two years ago,” said Lee. “In the first year I went to YouTube and studied on my own. But last year when I was home I was able to take classes. My father used to play the guitar and I like to listen to music all the time. Traveling with the guitar is easier than the piano and I can do more. I like country, classical, pop, blues, jazz. When I (compose) songs, they are slow songs, a mixture of jazz and blues.
“I’m still learning. If I do [get to the point where I can] Playing in front of people, that’s gonna be cool. Right now I sing when no one is around to listen. But I really enjoy when I play the guitar and someone sings with me. My boyfriend and I were listening to Jason Mraz and I started learning the song ‘Be Honest’. Not long after that we went to the guitar shop and I took a really good guitar and started playing with it and it started singing. That was so cool. “
One day she hopes to record her own songs, even though she giggles and says, “This is far away. I still have a lot to do before I can jam with anyone. “
In the meantime, Lee has the opportunity to put together another solid week on the LPGA tour that would make her job a lot easier.