Minjee Lee kept the youth movement going in the women’s game Saturday with her victory at the Lotte Championship in Hawaii.
Lee’s triumph marked the third in a row for LPGA teenagers this year.
Lee, 19, won on the heels of back-to-back victories by 18-year-old Lydia Ko.
How young are this year’s LPGA winners through nine events?
If you’re a 21-year-old on tour, you’re old. Well, you’re older than the average winner this season. The average winner is 20.8 years old.
Ha Na Jang was 23 years, 10 months and 4 days old when she won the HSBC Women’s Champions last month. That makes her the oldest winner this season.
“The last couple of years, we’ve seen a lot of the younger girls come out and really play well,” Lee said. “It's a really strong, young group of players coming up. There’s Lydia, Brooke [Henderson], Sei Young [Kim] ... Everyone is, like, under 25. That’s really young.”
Lee said the young players are pushing each other.
“They’re all your rivals, pretty much,” Lee said. “You want to beat each other. We're going to motivate each other that way.”
Four shots behind Burnett making the turn Sunday, Lee played the final eight holes in 6 under par. She birdied the 11th, pitched in for eagle at the 13th and then birdied the 14th, 15th and 17th holes.
“Yesterday I spoke to my coach and he was like, `You're only five back. Just shoot 8 under and you'll be fine,’” Lee said. “And I shot 8 under. So, that was good.”
Lee was part of last year’s dynamic LPGA rookie class, probably the strongest and deepest in the history of the tour. The world No. 1 amateur when she turned pro in September 2014, Lee shared medalist honors at LPGA Q-School three months later. She didn’t take long to notch her first victory last year, winning the Kingsmill Championship four months into her rookie season. A month after winning Kingsmill, Lee moved past Hall of Famer Karrie Webb as the highest ranked Australian in the world. Lee’s expected to move to No. 12 on the Rolex Women’s World Rankings with this victory.
At 26, Burnett was seeking her first LPGA title.
With Lee catching her on the back nine, Burnett three-putted the 16th hole to fall a shot behind. At the 17th, Burnett missed a 6-foot chance for birdie to tie. Burnett had a 45-foot birdie chance at the 18th to force a playoff, but her putt drifted just left of the hole.
“I don't think I gave it away by any means,” Burnett said.
Burnett birdied the 13th and 14th holes in bids to hold off Lee’s charge before making the bogey at the 16th. The tie for second is Burnett’s best LPGA finish, her second top-10 finish in a little more than four years on tour. She tied for ninth at the Lotte two years ago.
“I didn't hit it that great, but I still made some putts coming in,” Burnett said. “Could have made a few more, but that's how golf goes.”
Chun, the reigning U.S. Women’s Open champ, also closed strong but missed a 20-foot birdie chance to force a playoff at the last hole. In this her rookie season, Chun hasn’t finished worse than a tie for third in four starts.