Hermosa Beach golfer Andrea Lee makes drive to the top
One year ago, Andrea Lee had just completed her freshman year at Mira Costa High school, yet a dilemma loomed large over the young talented golfer from Hermosa Beach.
Should she return to play one more season on the Mustang’s golf team or focus on tournaments in the American Junior Golf Association (AJGA)?
Lee opted for the latter and it appears her decision has paid off. At the time, she was ranked 12th in the Polo Golf Rankings, the system used by the AJGA to identify and rank the top junior player who have competed in the premier junior golf tournament in U.S.
Playing against many of the top junior golfers in the nation, Lee won the CIF State Championship in the final tournament of her prep career. The high level of competition seems to have prepared Lee to make a strong run for the Rolex Junior Player of the Year.
“It felt amazing to end my high school golf career that way,” Lee added. “There are so many great players in California.”
Five weeks ago, Lee became the No. 1-ranked player on the girls circuit and continues to prove the ranking is no fluke, capturing two straight championships. Her latest title came at the inaugural Yani Tseng Invitational presented by the Swinging Skirts held at The Farms Golf Club in Rancho Santa Fe June 29-July 1.
Lee entered the final round trailing Diamond Bar’s Bethany Wu by one stroke. Making the turn, Lee had gained a one-stroke lead and didn’t look back.
She recorded four birdies on a bogey-free back nine to finish the round with a 6-under-par 66 completing the tournament with a 12-under-par 204 and a five-stroke victory.
The field was made up of 72 girls ranging from ages 12-18, including 11 Rolex All-Americans and 27 AJGA Champions.
“I was trying to stay calm throughout the whole round,” Lee said after the win. “I knew it wasn’t over until the last hole, so I just tried to stay calm and stay positive.
“It was really hard playing against [Bethany] today knowing only one of us would win. I always love playing with her, she’s a great friend of mine. We both made a lot of putts and I had a lot of fun out there with her.”
Wu finished with a 7-under-par 209, ahead of Yu Ju Chen, of Kaohsiung City, Taiwan who shot a 212.
Former Bay League adversary Robynn Ree, of Redondo Beach, finished even at 216 and is No. 11 in the Polo Golf Rankings.
Lee, a three-time Rolex Junior-All American, recently made the cut at the U.S. Women’s Open and won her first invitational on June 27 at the Rolex Tournament of Champions held in Nashville, TN.
The Rolex Tournament of Champions is one of the two longest-running AJGA events and included nine of the top 20 girls in the Polo Golf Rankings and 10 of the top 20 boys competed.
Lee, who had previously recorded 12 top-10 finishes at AJGA Invitationals and finished second in the 2013 Rolex tournament, maintained her 7-stroke lead heading into the third round and finished the tournament with an 11-under-par 277 and an eight-stroke lead.
She posted four birdies during the final 18 holes of play, including back-to-back on Nos. 10 and 11.
“It’s amazing and I’m so happy,” Lee said. “There were a lot of bittersweet moments for me at all of the other AJGA Invitationals. I’ve come up runner-up so many times and to finally be able to win is just an amazing feeling.”
Lee believes that achieving her goal of winning an Invitational will help her to continue to advance her golf career.
“My goal this year or next is to try and get Rolex Junior Player of the Year, so to win this one, it’s possible for me to do it as long as I keep doing what I’m doing.”
Alice Jo of Shanghai, China, and Ree tied for second at 3-under-par 285.
“This is my highest finish in a tournament as big as the Rolex Tournament of Champions, so I am really proud of my accomplishment,” said Ree, who will playing for six straight weeks before beginning her senior year at Redondo Union High School where she will compete for the Sea Hawk’s golf team.
Ree, Lee and Wu will join Amy Lee (Brea) and Elizabeth Wang (San Marino) as representatives from California on the West Team roster when the 25h Wyndham Cup takes place July 7-10 at Old Sandwich Golf Club in Plymouth, MA.
The Wyndham Cup brings together 40 of the nation’s top juniors in an East-versus-West team match play tournament. With the Mississippi River as the division separating East from West, 10 boys and 10 girls from each side are selected based on the Polo Golf Rankings.
Other members of the West Team include: Lakareber Abe (Angleton, TX), Kristen Gillman (Austin, TX), Hannah O’Sullivan (Paradise Valley, AZ), Kaitlyn Papp, Austin, TX) and Maddie Szeryk (Allen, TX).
After going undefeated in all 2013 matches, Lee returns for her third Wyndham Cup with a 7-1-0 record.