Lee headed into the final day riding the tide of unprecedented first three rounds, shooting 67, 66, 67 to break Juli Inkster’s 23-year 54-hole record with a par 200 of less than 13.
The sparkling start meant that even a level par 71 in the final round didn’t stop the 26-year-old from breaking the championship scoring record of 72 holes, beating Inkster, In Gee Chun and Annika Sorenstam by one stroke with her 13 – under 271 arrival.
With a six-stroke lead on the 12th hole and finishing four strokes ahead of American Mina Harigae, her victory seemed to be a procession even before the Aussie took the final tee, but not for Lee.
“I was nervous as hell,” Lee admitted to CNN’s World Sport. “But it was very nice.
“Going through that 18th hole … watching the whole crowd, watching the finish line, was a very special moment”.
“It’s a great thing for women’s football”
Lifting the Harton S. Semple trophy, Lee became the first Australian to do so by Karrie Webb in 2001 and was rewarded for her efforts with a champagne shower courtesy of compatriot Hannah Green.
Runner-up Harigae earned the biggest sum for second place in women’s golf history, taking home $ 1.08 million of a record $ 10 million prize pool.
“We aim higher every time,” Lee said. “For the USGA and the US Open to come forward and get started is a big step in the right direction.
“That’s a great thing for women’s play and the LPGA.”
Though Lee admitted he didn’t follow the story closely, he understood the controversy the new event had drawn.
“I don’t know much, obviously it was a little controversial,” Lee said.
“I guess it’s just a perspective on where you are in your life right now,” he added.
The triumph at Southern Pines marked the second major of the Australian’s career, adding to her victory at the Evian Championship last year and her eighth LPGA Tour win.
But despite the accolades, Lee points to a legacy that extends beyond cash prizes and trophies, inspiring the next generation of young golfers.
“We hope they can watch me on TV and I can be a great role model for all girls and boys around the world to follow your dreams,” said Lee. “You can do it. 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.”
Its rise to become the No. 3 golfers around the world have been helped by the encouragement of their family, none more so than younger brother Min Woo Lee, himself a golf pro on the PGA Tour.
“They have been with me every step of the way and I have always only received encouragement from them,” he said.
“If I wanted to practice, I could go practice. If I didn’t, I shouldn’t have. They’ve always been a great support and still are and it’s been a really great journey so far.”