American Alison Lee has won her first event as a professional, triumphing on Saturday at the Aramco Team Series – Sotogrande by five shots.
Lee, who began the final round at La Reserva Club with a seven-stroke lead, carded a one-under-par 71 in extremely windy conditions in southern Spain to seal the victory on 15-under. South African Ashleigh Buhai was second.
In the team format that runs simultaneously in the Golf Saudi-owned series, the side captained by Buhai prevailed by in a play-off against Linnea Strom’s fourball. The two teams had finished on 35-under.
Lee, a former amateur world No 1, turned professional in December 2014 and quickly blazed a trail on the LPGA Tour to rise to No 21 in the pro ranks less than two years later. She competed in the Solheim Cup in 2015, her rookie year.
However, Lee’s form then deserted her to such an extent that she lost her LPGA Tour card in 2018.
Speaking following her first pro win, an emotional Lee said: “It didn’t really sink in until after when my friend came over and congratulated me. It still doesn’t feel right thinking that I’ve won my first event as a pro.
“I’m so glad I came here. This is my first time in Spain, playing on the [Ladies European Tour]. I’m so happy I made that decision.”
Lee, 26, began to cry when she added: “I can’t wait to call my parents. The last three weeks I’ve been overseas and I’ve known they’ve been up all night watching me play, which is so heart-warming.
“I’ve been through a lot with golf. There were times I just thought about giving up, having been years I’ve lost my card and had to go back to Q-school. My parents have supported me so much and I can’t wait to call them.”
Although world No 124 Lee was rarely troubled en route to victory – her lead on Saturday never dropped below five shots – the team competition provided superb drama in the closing stages.
In the end, the side made up of Buhai, Stacy Lee Bregman, Hayley Davis and amateur Ignacio Morillo sealed the trophy on the first play-off hole when their captain made a par against Strom’s bogey.
Buhai said: “It was a team effort this week. We all played our part. Being relaxed this week and playing with a team helped me a lot.”
The Sotogrande event represented the second in the new four-tournament series on the Ladies European Tour. Having teed off in London last month, the competition will move to New York in October before concluding in Jeddah the following month. Each event, all comprising 54 holes, carries a prize fund of $1 million: $800,000 for the teams and $200,000 for the individual format.