New Zealand’s Danny Lee, who has been amateur golf’s leading player for 28 consecutive weeks, won the Johnnie Walker Classic by one shot yesterday. In doing so Lee not only becomes the second amateur golfer to win on the PGA European Tour, but the youngest ever winner, amateur or professional, at the age of 18 years 213 days.
Lee and Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy, 19, are evidence of the continued success of the World Amateur Golf Ranking in identifying the world’s top amateur players and, perhaps more significantly, those amateurs who can make an early impact in the professional game. Both have topped the Ranking and in September last year, Lee became the second winner of the McCormack Medal having finished the season as world number one.
The New Zealander birdied the final two holes to card a final-round 67 (five under-par) to finish a stroke ahead of Japan’s Hiroyuki Fujita and Chile’s Felipe Aguilar. Though the Lee was ineligible to receive the prize-money, his transition into the professional game will be eased by a three-year exemption to include all events on the PGA’s European, Asian and Australasian Tours.
Lee has publicly stated his intention to turn professional after this April’s Masters Tournament – his invitation to compete coming as a result of a victory in the 2008 US Amateur Championship – and in preparation, he will play continue to play in Tour events including the Moonah Classic and the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
The 18-year-old will also find time to contest the Georgia Cup with the Netherland’s Reinier Saxton. The 36-hole match is played annually between the winners of the US Amateur and The Amateur Championship.