It’s Jeehae Lee, the hottest rookie on the LPGA! Her story is especially unique – It’s one of those Cinderella stories that you can’t help but find inspiring. I mean, let’s be real, how many Yale (or Ivy League for that matter) grads pursue a career as a pro golfer? Very few.
Jeehae spent a few years battling it out on the Futures Tour with the ultimate goal of reaching her desired destination, the LPGA. And, this past December, her efforts and determination were rewarded. She finished T-12 in the final stage of Q-school. No easy feat!
I caught up with Jeehae recently about her experience and road to the Tour. Take a lil’ gander at what she had to say:
What was the experience like going through LPGA Q-school?
After I had made it through the first stage of the 2008 q-school on the number(that was a miracle in itself, because with 5-6 groups left to come in, +3 looked like the number. Those 5-6 groups were at even or better before the final round began…I was at +5. I had pretty much given up! But two girls that were at even par after round 3 shot +6 in their final rounds(one of which doubled the last hole)! So I got in at the last minute. I worked so so so hard for two and a half months at ChampionsGate. When I arrived at LPGA international for final stage of q-school, I felt totally calm and confident. I spent enough time away from the Futures Tour and those other players and I stopped comparing my game to others. It didn’t matter what my scoring average was for 2008. It didn’t matter that I finished 78th on the futures tour money list and that I was up against the strongest field LPGA has seen at q-school. I felt like a new player with a blank slate.
How do you feel about your game and how has it progressed over the past few years?
I’ve come a long way especially in my short game area since last year. Before I turned professional, I had never spent more than 10 minutes working on my short game. Being able to hit many different shots around the greens is key to scoring. I’ve also gained close to 30 yards with my driver. I’ve always been a pretty good ball-striker, because of my natural athleticism and hand-eye coordination.
What’s your rookie season been like so far?
Not too startlingly different than the past two years. The traveling is still hard on the body, and golf is still golf. We just play in nicer places and for more money. I’m also wearing nicer clothes. I thought I’d be more startstruck than I was. The only time I felt nervous was when I met Lorena [Ochoa] and Karrie [Webb]. Lorena said “Congratulations” for making the Tour!
What’s your favorite part about being on Tour? And, least favorite?
People. And people. I love meeting different people and making new friends, and for the most part players are friendly and normal. Some are exceptionally great and down to earth. However, there are some people that are unbelievably sheltered and selfish. Some are completely devoid of respect and common decency that I used to take for granted from others. It’s like their motto in life is “For oneself. For money. For attention.” If it doesn’t fall under one of these, it’s not worth doing.
Any funny anecdotes over the past few years?
My first time going into private housing on the Futures Tour, I broke the toilet and the bed I was sleeping on within the first 4 hours of getting there. I snuck out to Wal-Mart to get a plunger after dinner, and my friend who was in the same housing that week helped me fix the toilet. The bed was just broken. The wooden frame had shattered and there was no way to fix it or cover it up. I found out later that the bed has been in the family for three generations. I swear I didn’t do anything except to turn over gently to my side!
What’s in your bag?
Driver: TaylorMade R9 with Mitsubishi Bassara Stiff shaft, 2degrees open3wood: TourEdge Exotics with Diamana Stiff blue board shaftHybrids (18 & 22 degrees): Adams with Fujikura Fit-on stiff shafts 4 iron: Callaway FT, KB Steel shaftIrons (5-PW): Mizuno MP57, Dynamic Gold Lite S300Wedges (52 & 28 degrees): Callaway x-forged, KB Steel shaftsPutter: Scotty Cameron Squareback No.1 Ball: Callaway Tour ix
Who are your closest friends?
I’m fortunate to have my boyfriend with me on Tour. It’s so important to have people that truly care about your well-being out here. I’m also fortunate to have a good friend, Seol-An Jeon, as my caddy. Last year, I became very good friends with Sunny Oh throughout the season on the Futures Tour, and we happened to make it onto the LPGA together through Q-school.
What do you do when you’re not playing golf?
I enjoy cooking. As I get older (wow, I’m 26 in a month), I enjoy spending time with a few special friends at home with good food and drinks more than rowdy nights out. I still love dancing all night with friends at clubs in NYC when I have time to visit, but these days, I’m more of a homebody.
Without a doubt, Jeehae took a risk after graduating, which is quite respectable given that many of her peers take the “safe” route (you know, banking, law, or saving the world). She turned down an investment banking job in Hong Kong, no less! (On second thought, I don’t blame her; 100 hour work weeks in a stuffy office crunching numbers isn’t exactly fun. Trust me.)
Not only is Jeehae a talented golfer, she’s also an incredible person – inside and out. She’s fiery, classy, honest, humble, witty, super intelligent, and beautiful. She has a laugh that’s simply contagious. And, she’s sporting some of PUMA’s hottest Golf gear (way to go by securing one of the games most likeable rising stars)!
Last I spoke with Jeehae, she said that she feels great about her game. And, confidence goes a long way – as does experience. I’d watch for her to continue to progress over the season. Plus, how can you not want to cheer for her??
Good luck this week! I’ll be out at Sybase Classic in the Dirty Jerz, and I can’t wait to break out those pom-poms and root for her in real life!
By the way, you should follow her on Twitter.