His 6’3” frame and booming drives aren’t the only things that set Won Joon Lee apart from the rest of the players on the Nationwide Tour range. Probably the most startling fact about this 23-year old Tour sophomore is that he never hit a golf ball until August of 2000.
Won Joon Lee
A Korean-born Australian, Lee was always tall for his age and naturally gravitated toward basketball. It was on that court where he focused his athletic energy until just before the Sydney Summer Olympic Games, when his father introduced him to golf. It wasn’t love at first stroke, but it did not take long for Lee to be smitten with golf.
“I practiced and played for a few weeks and didn’t really like it. So I went back to focusing on basketball. But a couple of months later, I was playing and made a birdie on the hardest hole of the course and that felt great.”
It was clearly the tipping point for Won Joon, as he spent more and more time and effort determined to improve his golf. !--more-->
“When you are just starting out you shave 3 or 4 shots off your score in short order, it becomes addictive.”
For the past two years, Lee’s U.S. base has been in Las Vegas. In addition to the terrific weather, Las Vegas offers tournament caliber courses, is close to the Butch Harmon School of Golf, home of Won Joon’s instructors Butch Harmon and Matt Kilgariff, and features a nightlife suitable for a 20-something bachelor.
Lee was quick to point out that it’s not a party all the time when he has an off week, though. He is currently working toward a degree at Hanyang University in Korea. The academic schedule works out well for him.
“The times of year I need to be at school in Korea fit my Tour schedule, and I can do much of my work independently and on-line," he said. "The weeks I play Tour events are all golf though, so I have to work hard on my studies when I have off weeks.”
The strength to Lee’s game is his driving prowess. In fact, his 300.8 average in 2009 is sandwiched between fellow Titleist Brand Ambassadors Andrew Buckle (303.6) and Michael Sim (299.3) at the top of the Nationwide Tour's Driving Distance category. Lee averages about 180 mph ball speed. To put that into perspective, the PGA TOUR average is about 165. He knows there is more to scoring well and winning tournaments than out-driving the universe, however, but he sure does enjoy doing it.
“I’m trying to temper the aggressiveness - at least on Thursday and Friday," said Lee, who will test his newfound patience on the 7,004-yard Jennings Mill CC course at this week's Athens Regional Foundation Classic in Georgia. “The course sets up to get attacked from the fairway, and the greens are soft from the rain. They should be receptive to approach shots. I'm looking forward to the week.”
Round 1 update: Lee shot an even par 72 in the first round that included three birdies and 14 pars, with his only blemish being a triple bogey on the par 4 - 15th hole. He averaged 318 yards per drive.