It takes a lot of practice and dedication to the sport to make a living on the LPGA Tour. For 17-year-old Alison Lee of Valencia, that point was driven home on Thursday.
Just two days after she blistered Mission Hills CC with a 4-under-par 68 to win the fresh&easy-Kraft Foods Legacy Junior Classic and earn a sponsor’s invitation to the Kraft Nabisco Championship, she stepped onto the LPGA stage and didn't enjoy quite the same amount of success. Lee, who carded a 7-over-par 79 that included three bogeys, a double and a triple, wasn't thrilled with the way she played.
“I’m not too happy today,” she said. “Even though I came out here to have fun, I still want to be able to play well, because I’m going to play in this event, hopefully, as a professional someday.”
Did she gain a better appreciation of just how much tougher it is to play a round of golf when names like Tseng, Creamer, Lewis and Gal are alongside you on the pairings sheet? “It’s a good experience, because it tells me what it’s really like out here,” Lee said. “It will probably give me more of a drive to practice hard and to try to get better, because I still have a lot to learn, a long way to go.”
There’s no doubting Lee’s determination. In fact, after finishing her round at midday, she wanted to go straight to the driving range, and had to be urged to at least take a break for lunch.
She was disappointed by how poorly she hit her driver Thursday, a club she said she has been struggling with lately. Lee hit only three of 14 fairways on the day, and “was scrambling all throughout the course,” she said.
“That’s unusual for her,” said her caddie, Esther Lee (no relation), the Los Alamitos golfer who also competed in the Legacy Junior Classic this week (the two are pictured above). “She’s usually 14 for 14.”
Jitters, however,are understandable, given the novelty of a junior amateur being given a chance to compete at this level. Alison’s mom, Sung Lee, said, “She told me this morning, ‘Mom, I’m so nervous.’ I told her it’s OK to be nervous.”
In the face of the difficulties on the course, Lee said she received a lot of encouraging words from her playing partner, Louis Friberg of Sweden (photo at left), and added that Esther Lee “tried to make me laugh and cheer me up.”
Well before the round began, Lee got a similar show of support from two legends of women’s golf, Meg Mallon and Beth Daniel. They had played in the Legacy Junior Classic on Tuesday, and a day later took Lee on a walking tour of the back nine “to tell me where to hit, where to lay up. They were very kind to do that.”
Thurday’s round ended on a positive note when Lee rolled in a 20-foot, slightly downhill putt on No. 9 for par.
“She is very emotional,” Sung Lee said of her daughter. “She’s very hard on herself. I just want her to come out tomorrow and have a good time.”
For her part, Alison Lee said, “Tomorrow I’m not expecting anything. I’m just going to try to do my best again – not to be too aggressive with anything. I’ll try to enjoy tomorrow rather than, hopefully, beating myself.”
Follow Lee's second round here.