Min Woo Lee wasn’t the winner of the ISPS HANDA Super 6 Perth; Australian golf was.
A reliance on our PGA Tour regulars such as Jason Day, Marc Leishman, Adam Scott and Cameron Smith to carry the torch for the game in this country is now slightly less pronounced after Lee stamped his credentials as a superstar in the making.
A late inclusion into the tournament only after missing the cut on the Web.com Tour Panama Championship, Lee used his fourth start as a professional to record a second top-five finish in just his third European Tour event.
When he finished fourth at the Saudi International a fortnight ago his world ranking rose 610 spots from 970 to 360; he wants to be inside the top-50 by the end of the year.
As a result of his early success, Lee has redirected his sights from the United States momentarily to playing opportunities in Europe, the next of which will be the Oman Open in two weeks’ time by virtue of qualifying for Sunday’s quarter-finals.
While his tie for fifth provides some short-term certainty to his playing schedule, it is the impact the 20-year-old can have on Australian golf long-term that should have golf’s governing bodies in this country most excited.
A bogey on his final hole at Lake Karrinyup Country Club on Saturday meant that Lee missed out on a first-round bye Sunday morning but accounted first for veteran Frenchman Gregory Bourdy at the third trip down the knockout hole and then went extra-time with tournament favourite Thomas Pieters, winning 1-up when the Belgian three-putted the final hole from the back fringe.
Spaniard match play specialist Adrian Otaegui ultimately brought his giant-killing run to an end but his progression to the quarter-finals for the second year running will have left a lasting impression on the gallery that swelled throughout the morning.
Making just his fourth start as a professional in his hometown doesn’t hurt in winning favour but the energy that flowed through the parochial Perth supporters is a rare and powerful attribute; few players in world golf could have created a similar atmosphere on Sunday.
“Nowhere else you go do you have that,” Lee said of the hometown support.
“You have this energy, so it’s really nice to get the home crowd backing me. That was really special.
“Some of the roars I had is just what you play for. It’s an amazing feeling, I can’t really describe it.
“When you hole a putt, you just expect that loud roar.”
When Lee is playing the roars don’t only come from within the gallery.
The Royal Fremantle member greeted a birdie on the second hole against Otaegui with a Lleyton Hewitt-esque “Come on!” and is not afraid to share his emotions rather than hiding them below the surface.
As we squabble over ways to bring the best players – including our own – back to our shores, Lee’s exhilarating style of play attracted galleries three deep to watch him.
And remember, this is a 20-year-old rookie without a card on any of the world tours.
That will soon change and if we are looking for ways to secure the long-term future of this tournament in particular, signing Lee to a 10-year contract to play in it would be an excellent way to start.
With a sister ranked the sixth-best female golfer in the world, Perth people have been saying for a while that he is destined to be great but professional sport is littered with fables of sure things who never were.
Plenty of good players do make the leap and forge a nice living; a rare few capture the public’s imagination as they do it.
In less than two months Lee has shown that his game matches up against the best in the world and given a confident kid the extra belief he may not have even needed to start forging his name.
“I knew I could play,” Lee said of matching it with elite professionals so early in his career.
“Being an amateur last year and coming top five was nice.
“I’m just happy that it’s coming together and I’m proving to myself – and proving to others – that I can actually play.”