Jeong Eun Lee6 claimed medalist honours at the LPGA’s Q-Series at Pinehurst, but who is she, and what should we expect from her in the coming years?
Prior to Q-Series, only the most devoted of golf fans would have been familiar with Lee6, the 22-year-old from South Korea.
Despite currently being ranked as the 19th best player in the world, Lee6 has made a name for herself on the LPGA of Korea Tour and has only played a handful of times outside of Asia.
But first, let’s address the elephant in the room – why does her name include a number six?
Simply, she is the sixth player with the name Jeong Eun Lee to have appeared on the KLPGA Tour.
It’s something that the youngster has come to embrace. Her nickname is Lucky6, she wears custom-made clothing labelled with the number six, she marks her golf balls with the number six, and she’ll never have trouble working out which suitcase is hers at baggage claim because, you guessed it…
It was a difficult journey to get onto the KLPGA. When Lee6 was just four years old, her father, working as truck driver, was involved in an accident which left his lower body paralysed. But still he continued to support his daughter in her golf career, often travelling to tournaments across the country despite the family’s financial hardship.
It became clear within a few months of her rookie season in 2016 that Lee6 was a special talent, finishing inside of the top-10 seven times while missing just two cuts to take the Rookie of the Year award.
But last year proved to be the season where Lee6 began to take things to a new level. She won her first title at the Lotte Rent-a-Car Ladies Open in April and then, in her first start outside of Asia, she found herself in contention at the US Women’s Open at Bedminster. While her compatriot Sung Hyun Park took the title, edging out another young Korean star in Hye-Jin Choi, Lee6 settled for tied 5th alongside Carlota Ciganda and Shanshan Feng. It was at this point that many began to believe that Lee6 was a phenom – a player that was undoubtedly heading to the very top of the sport.
Fresh off US Open exploits and with confidence soaring, Lee6 went on to win a further three times on the KLPGA that year as she swept the end-of-year awards.
After a short spell in the spotlight, it became clear that Lee6 possessed an all-round complete game. Last year in Korea she ranked third in greens in regulation, 11th in driving distance, 12th in driving accuracy, and, perhaps most importantly, the best player on the tour for scoring average, a stat in which she beat current LPGA Tour player Jin Young Ko.
Her unique way of reading putts hadn’t gone unnoticed, too. Positioned behind the ball, Lee6 crouches down perpendicular to the line of her putt before angling her head sideways to assess the break. Ranked fifth in putting average last year, it’s a method that clearly she has down to an art form.
In June this year, Lee6 held the first-round lead at the US Open at Shoal Creek before finishing 17th, and two months ago she won her first KLPGA major, the Hanwha Classic, where the Korda sisters were in the field. More recently she contended at the Evian Championship, making birdie at the final hole on Sunday to finish tied for 6th on her tournament debut at the season’s final major.
Lee6 entered Q-Series off the back of another win at the KB Financial Group Star Championship – what proved to be her sixth win in the space of 18 months – and now she will enter the 2019 season with hopes of emulating many of her fellow countrywomen who made the seamless switch to the LPGA from the KLPGA.
Jin Young Ko has already locked up this year’s Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year award, Sung Hyun Park claimed the honour last year, and In Gee Chun and Sei Young Kim won the previous two years.
This is no coincidence, and Lee6 will inevitably be the odds-on favourite to pick up the award next season.
That is, of course, if she decides to take up her LPGA Tour card that she won at Pinehurst. She hasn’t yet made that decision, and there will no doubt be plenty of discussions in the coming weeks but, like with many other Korean players in the past, the lure of the LPGA Tour will surely be too strong.
However, judging by Lee6’s previous two years, the current players on the LPGA Tour may well be hoping she stays right where she is.