American Alison Lee pulled out all the stops on Sunday at the BMW Ladies Championship, carding a final-round, 5-under 67 to put herself in a playoff for the second time in her LPGA Tour career, eventually falling to champion Minjee Lee. Starting the day one shot back of the lead at 11-under, the 28-year-old quickly grabbed a share of the lead with a birdie on the par-4 2nd hole to move to 12-under overall. Fifty-four hole co-leader Minjee Lee extended her advantage to two with a pair of birdies on holes 4 and 5 to get to 14-under, and Alison Lee answered with back-to-back birdies of her own on 7 and 8, tying the lead at 14-under. The Australian stumbled with a bogey on No. 9, dropping back to 13-under and now one back of Alison Lee, but she recovered immediately with a birdie on No. 10 to tie things back up.
Alison Lee bogeyed the 12th hole, quickly erasing her mistake with a birdie on 13 to move back to 14-under, and Minjee Lee also made birdie on the par-4 13th hole to take the outright lead at 15-under. The UCLA alum wasn’t ready to give up just yet and tied the lead with a birdie on the par-5 15th, but she dropped another shot on 16, now sitting at 14-under with two holes to play. A Minjee Lee birdie on 15 moved her to 16-under, giving her a two-shot lead over Alison Lee, and the American came up clutch late, making birdie on 17 and 18 to post the clubhouse lead at 16-under. Minjee Lee parred in to post at 16-under, nearly chipping in on 18 to win outright, but the pair ultimately went back to the 18th tee for a playoff to decide who would be the BMW Ladies Championship winner.
Both players found the fairway with their tee shots, and Alison Lee hit her approach first, knocking her second shot inside 10 feet to put the pressure on Minjee Lee. The Aussie was unfazed, stuffing her approach inside five feet and draining the resulting birdie putt to capture her second title of the 2023 LPGA Tour season and win in a playoff for the second time this year.
While Alison Lee was sad not to be hoisting the trophy Sunday afternoon, she was pleased with how well she played this week at Seowon Valley Country Club and was proud of how hard she fought to give herself another shot at her first LPGA Tour title in the Republic of Korea, especially considering her Korean heritage.
“To put myself in this position is a great accomplishment,” said Lee, who earned just the second runner-up result of her LPGA Tour career in Gyeonggi-do and first since the 2016 LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship. “I lost in a playoff in Korea in (2016), and playing here, it’s a different golf course. It just brought memories back. Obviously, really disappointed but really happy that I was able to put myself in that position and hopefully more to come.”
The solo second is Lee’s third top-10 finish of the 2023 season, joining a tie for ninth at the JM Eagle LA Championship presented by Plastpro and a ninth-place result at the Bank of Hope LPGA Match-Play presented by MGM Rewards. She is now projected to vault up 27 spots in the Race to the CME Globe point standings, moving from 58th and on the bubble for the CME Group Tour Championship to 31st, 29 spots inside the top-60 cutoff for the season-ending event. Her first-round 63 was her lowest score on the LPGA Tour since the 2022 CPKC Women’s Open, and she struck the ball incredibly well, only missing eight greens in 72 holes at the Seowon Hills course.
Though she wasn’t able to come out with the victory this week, Lee can definitely take plenty of positives away from what was an incredibly successful tournament in the Republic of Korea. She knows her game is trending in the right direction, and with just a couple of starts left to capitalize on that momentum, Lee will be focused on cleaning up the little mistakes and maintaining the form she found at the BMW Ladies Championship as she continues to chase that elusive first victory.
“We’re nearing towards the end of the season. I feel really good about my game,” said Lee, whose next scheduled start is The ANNIKA driven by Gainbridge at Pelican. “I feel like I’m hitting it so well, and I had so many putts this week lip out, and I can’t stop thinking about all those small mistakes that I potentially made. Really happy for Minjee. She obviously played really well. It’s disappointing that I couldn’t make my birdie putt and give it another shot playing 18 another time, but it is what it is.”
By Nadeem Faisal Baiga