Australia’s Minjee Lee co-leads U.S. Women’s Open at site where mentor, Karrie Webb, once won

SOUTHERN PINES, N.C.  — The first time Minjee Lee came to the U.S. Women’s Open, she was a guest of LPGA and World Golf Hall of Famer Karrie Webb. But the young Aussie wasn’t just a fan outside the ropes. Lee actually stayed the week at Webb’s rental house, as a perk for winning the Karrie Webb Scholarship. That was nine years ago at Sebonack Golf Club in Southampton, New York.

The next year, Lee qualified for her first U.S. Women’s Open at Pinehurst No. 2, just down the road from this week’s venue in Southern Pines, where Lee happens to pace the field at 9-under 133 along with American Mina Harigae.

Webb happened to win her second consecutive U.S. Women’s Open at Pine Needles in 2001. Lee didn’t get a chance to pick her brain about the place but has enjoyed seeing Webb’s picture around.

Karrie Webb (L) and Minjee Lee of Australia walk to the 4th green during round one of the International Crown on July 24, 2014, in Owings Mills, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Lee, 26, won her first major title last summer at the Amundi Evian Championship and has seven career LPGA victories overall. She liked getting an up-close look at Webb’s strict routine that summer. A young Lee was already quite disciplined and felt like Webb’s example let her know she was on the track.

“We ate with her every day,” said Lee. “It was just very chill. She’s super cool, you know, when she’s not on the golf course. And she knows that.”

It was after a young Webb watched her hero, Greg Norman, compete in the 1986 Queensland Open that she came home and told her parents that she wanted to play professionally. She even stayed at Norman’s Florida estate as a bonus for being the overall girls champion in his junior golf foundation.

Webb never forgot the experience, and in 2008 brought the first winner of the Karrie Webb Scholarship to the U.S. Women’s Open at Interlachen. In 2019, Webb was on hand at Hazeltine National when another one of her scholarship winners, Hannah Green, won the KPMG Women’s PGA championship.

Green was a two-time scholarship recipient, attending her first professional golf tournament at the 2015 U.S. Women’s Open in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. She enjoyed it so much that in 2017, she went on her own to stay with Webb at the Women’s Open at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, while competing on the Epson Tour.

Lee won the Cognizant Founders Cup three weeks ago. She’s especially pleased with her putting at Pine Needles, having worked in recent weeks on her speed. Through two rounds, she ranks fifth in the field in Strokes Gained: Putting.