Written by By Tom Watkins, CNN London
Cynthia Catton, CNN Paris, France
South African golfer and sponsor of the Saudi Ladies International, Minjee Lee is in China preparing for the opening round of the US$5 million WGC-HSBC Champions Tournament in China, which starts Friday. She has designed and designed courses in her home country, Sweden and the US, but says she may one day set up a property agency to cater for the boom in wealthy Chinese and South Koreans.
2. Minjee Lee
Born: Maryfield, Cape Town
Won 2016 Women’s Australian Open
1 / 1 Minjee Lee Born Maryfield, Cape TownWon 2016 Women’s Australian Open1 / 1 Minjee LeeNow the 27-year-old South African golfer is a name you will be hearing again, after she became the first ever female golfer to win both the Australian and South African Opens, and now defends her crown at the WGC-HSBC Champions Tournament in Haikou starting Friday. Credit: Lukas Schulze/Getty Images AsiaPac/Getty Images
The daughter of a a hairdresser, she was born into a family of 13 children. So far, so successful. “I’m the youngest,” she said. “I’ve got sisters and brothers, and I’m the only girl.”
Despite being the only female of her family, she said she felt a pressure as a kid to outperform her brothers in order to keep up.
“One boy I was playing with I think once said that I wasn’t golf-level.”
As a growing girl, Lee was inspired by golfing legends Tiger Woods and Lucy Zanin. The inspiration had the opposite effect on the Asian world No 5.
“I was totally different to the way she was, and kind of saw it the other way around.”
Lee’s journey is remarkable, largely down to her fitness.
“I used to be the girl who was really skinny, almost as skinny as I am now, but in the beginning I used to like running around. Just running around,” she said.
She decided to retire from swimming as a junior, as she wasn’t sure she wanted to become a professional athlete.
“I loved swimming so much, but I didn’t want to become a professional in swimming because I thought I’d just give it up, swim for fun and then get bored and then they would come and take me away.”
Instead, Lee reached a career turning point at the age of 18, which saw her step into the world of golf.