THE beauty of golf is what it can do for you.
Just ask new US Junior Amateur champion Min Woo Lee, brother of Aussie LPGA star Minjee Lee, who now has sponsors queuing up to get a piece of his story and predicted journey to the pro ranks.
Or for a completely different take, ask fellow Western Australian youngster Fred Lee [pictured], a quarter-finalist in the same tournament whose life has taken a dramatic turn for the better after one of the most tragic events in world history.
This month marks the 15th Anniversary of 9/11. Like most people, I can vividly remember where I was on September 11, 2001, when two hijacked commercial airlines rammed into the World Trade Center in New York. Fred has no such recollections. He was still in nappies. But he would one day learn how that sickening day sprouted a silver lining through golf.
Fred’s father, David, was a stockbroker who worked inside the Twin Towers. But in a moment of serendipity, he decided to skip work to play golf with friends the day the world, as we know it, changed forever. Incredibly, it was the second terrorist attack David dodged after a bomb set off in the Trade Center’s underground carpark eight years earlier forced him to flee via a smoke-ridden stairwell.
Lightning wasn’t going to strike for a third time, however – David made the decision to pack up and move his family, including wife Jenny, a two-year-old Freddy and his now 29-year-old brother Jimmy, to Western Australia to start a new life.
One day while David was watching golf on television, something really special happened. The USGA’s David Shefter takes up the story: “A young Fred waddled next to him and began imitating the golf swing. A few days later, his father purchased him a plastic set of clubs. A couple of years later, his dad purchased a kid’s set and took Fred to a nearby park when he was 4. The first few attempts were futile. Fred described it as ‘mis-hits, shanks, tops and duffs.’ But then Fred began hitting shots straight in the air and a passion was born.”
The rest, as they say, is history. But as fate would have it, who would a young Fred beat to win his first junior tournament at Wanneroo Golf Club just two years later? Min Woo Lee, by five shots.
Fred and Min Woo have since gone on to forge a great friendship and fierce rivalry through their membership at Royal Fremantle Golf Club. Both have incredible golf games and even better stories to tell. But Fred’s connection to golf will be hard to top. After saving his father’s life, golf has presented Fred with a new career path on the other side of the world. And while his educated mind wants him to pursue a career in medicine, his heart is set on the sport that has given him everything, with a US college his first port of call in two years’ time.
“Any school with a good facility and program,” says Fred, when asked which university he’d attend. “I’ve looked at ASU (Arizona State) and UCLA, and a few more.”
Before then, Fred has plenty of work to do. His quarter-final finish at the US Junior Amateur has secured him another start in 2017 at Flint Hills National and a chance to join his mate Min Woo on the trophy.
“This is probably the biggest junior event in the world. But the biggest thing for me is I am having a lot of fun.”
And that right there is the universal message of golf we should all be preaching: have fun. In fact, do it this year. If you work, take an annual leave day and just go out and play golf with friends. Who knows, it just may change your life.