Lee headed into the final day on a wave of unprecedented first three rounds, hitting 67, 66, 67 and breaking Julie Inkster’s 23-year-old 54-hole record with 13 under par 200.
A brilliant start meant that even a parity of 71 in the final round didn’t stop the 26-year-old from breaking the championship record for scoring at 72 holes, passing Inkster, In Ji Chung and Annika Sorenstam by one stroke with her 13-to-271 finish.
Leading American Mina Harigae by six strokes on the 12th hole and finishing by four strokes, her victory seemed like a procession even before the Australian hit the final target, but not Lee.
“I was nervous as hell,” Lee admitted to CNN World Sport. “But it was pretty cool.
“Walking down that 18th hole… looking at the whole crowd, looking at the finish line, it was just a special moment.”
“This is a great item for women’s play”
Lifting the Harton S. Semple trophy, Lee became the first Australian to do so since Carrie Webb in 2001 and was rewarded for her efforts with a champagne shower courtesy of compatriot Hannah Green.
Runner-up Harige earned the biggest runner-up in women’s golf history, taking home $1.08 million of a record $10 million total prize pool.
“Each time, we aim higher and higher,” Li said. “For the USGA and the US Open to step up and start this is a big step in the right direction.
“This is a great item for the women’s game and the LPGA.”
While Lee admitted that she hadn’t followed the story closely, she was aware of the controversy the new event had created.
“I don’t really know too much about it, obviously it was a bit controversial,” Lee said.
“I think it’s just a look at where you are right now in your life,” she added.
The Southern Pines triumph was the second major achievement of Australia’s career, adding to her Evian Championship triumph last year and her eighth LPGA tour win.
But despite the accolades, Lee is focused not only on prize money and trophies, but also on inspiring the next generation of young golfers.
“Hopefully they can see me on TV and I can be a great role model for all the girls and boys around the world to follow their dreams,” Lee said. “Can you do this. Anyone can do it.
“As long as you stick to your plan and stick to what you love, I think you will always do the right thing.”
Her growth to become No. The 3rd golfer in the world was helped by her family, especially Min Woo Lee’s younger brother, himself a professional golfer on the PGA Tour.
“They were with me every step of the way, and I always received only support from them,” she said.
“If I wanted to train, I could train. If I didn’t do it, I wouldn’t need to do it.