Tour Pro Jaclyn Lee is Set to Rejoin the LPGA Upon Resumption
Professional golfer Jaclyn Lee's rookie season was one of mixed emotions as the joy of realizing her dream to play professional golf turned to hurt, disappointment and frustration.
After joining Canada's national developmental team in 2014, Jaclyn Lee continued progressing through the ranks.
She graduated to the National Amateur team in 2016, remaining a core member until 2018, when she qualified for the LPGA. She remains a member of the Canadian National team program as a member of the "Young Professionals" squad.
During this Covid-19 slowdown, we're speaking with various LPGA and Symetra Tour players about the unprecedented start to the season. In this interview, we are speaking with sophomore Jaclyn Lee, who talks with us from her home in Calgary, Alberta where she has sequestered herself during this layoff.
Getting to the LPGA
Jaclyn Lee's introduction to golf came when her family traveled to the Okanagan region for their annual summer holidays. "I was 10 years old and my dad took the whole family to Kelowna and he thought we should all learn golf because if me and my sister learned, we could all play together (Lee's parents and her sister)." It was after she started to play some competitive junior golf events that she became serious about the sport.
Naturally, being a competitive individual, Lee's junior golf exploits led to her being selected for Canada's National Developmental team, before graduating to the National Amateur team and on to the "Young Professional" team. In a sense, the national teams became another family of sorts for Lee; it seems to be a recurring theme for Lee.
Upon graduating from high school in her hometown of Calgary, Lee moved on to a career in collegiate golf, accepting a scholarship to play for the women's team at Ohio State University in Columbus. Her time with the Buckeyes was marked with periods of excellence; at the 2018 Big 10 Conference Championship, Lee posted a total score of -9 (207) for the event, winning individual player honours while tying the conference record for low score. During her time with the team, Ohio State were perennial conference contenders and in the semester that she turned pro, the team won the conference championship.
While Lee contributed to the rich traditions of the OSU golf program, there is one name that stands out amongst the alumni, "(No) I never had the chance to meet Jack and Barbara (Nicklaus), but I did get the chance to meet John Cook. Jack comes back regularly to visit, mostly with the men's team. I would love to meet them one day – they continue to be great influences in the game."
Lee attended LPGA Q–School when she was in her junior year. She advanced through the qualifying events to earn her LPGA tour card. Throughout the entire qualifying series, Lee continually improved her standings, eventually qualifying for the tour after finishing a solo 6th in the final event. She also placed second amongst the amateurs in the field, ahead of fellow rookies Lauren Stephenson and Kristen Gillman, and behind only Jennifer Kupcho.
2019 – A Roller Coaster Rookie Season
Shortly after qualifying for the LPGA, Lee took some time to consider her next move. Her instinct was to turn professional immediately, but she was concerned about the void that would be left with her beloved OSU Women's Golf Team before the season finished.
Her first event as a full fledged professional and member of the LPGA tour was the ISPS Handa Vic Open in Australia. While she missed the cut for the final round, she rebounded well in her next event – the ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open, finishing the event at - 6 (under par), shooting a 68 on the final day to put her into a tie for 22nd. After returning to North America, she played in the Bank of Hope Founder's Cup, the KIA Classic, the LOTTE Championship and a handful of other events.
It was during this time that Lee learned what life on the road was like as a touring golf professional, "2019, my rookie year was not a year that I expected ... I loved traveling to new places, meeting new people all over the world and having a family with competitors and caddies while on the road ... you get really close to people when you're on the road."
"It was an emotional time, I talked with my caddie about it; he was going through the same thing too as he was on my bag when it happened..."
After missing the cut at the LA Open (HUGEL-AIR Premia), she traveled north to San Francisco and the course at Lake Merced Golf Club – host for the LPGA MEDIHEAL Championship. It was here that she experienced a major setback. Lee played well, standing at -1 (under par) after two rounds, posting scores of 72 and 71. She made the cut for the weekend and she was playing well.
South Korean player, Sei Young Kim, eventually went on to win the event with a final score of -7. For Lee though, her tournament started unravelling in warm up on Saturday, "I was warming up on the range and I felt this pain in my right wrist for the first time – I never experienced it before ... I went inside to see the physiotherapist, they did some work on my forearm and taped me up, I thought it might be tendonitis."
With her forearm taped and thinking that she was going to have to play with tendonitis, Lee headed out to the first tee to start her round. It was on her very second shot of the round when she knew that something was dreadfully wrong with her wrist. "I had a 9-iron from the fairway ... I felt that I broke my wrist. The pain was so sharp ... it hurt so bad that I thought that I broke my wrist. Obviously, I didn't, but I played a few more holes waiting for the physios to come out and reassess my injury."
She was forced to withdraw, the injury turning out to be a condition known as "extensor carpi ulnaris tendon subluxation" or "ECU tendon subluxation". She had damaged some of the connective tissue in her right wrist and although surgery was avoided, it took several months for her wrist to properly heal. As she focused on an eventual return to tour golf, the time off and being away from the tour challenged Lee to summon the courage and the patience to get through this difficult period. "It was an emotional time, I talked with my caddie about it; he was going through the same thing too as he was on my bag when it happened, but it was hard the second time because I had to sit out the rest of the season. It was definitely an emotional roller coaster."
Covid-19 and a Family Reunion
As the injury healed, Lee turned her attention to her physical fitness and sharpening her golf skills for a return to the tour. Her day usually starts with a short workout and then off to the golf course for practice. Some days it's an early start; others later in the day though she prefers mornings. While based in Arizona during the golf season, she often partnered up with fellow tour players for practice rounds. Her playing partners include Jennifer Kupcho, Carlota Ciganda, Minae Harigae, Lindsay Weaver, Dana Finklestein and Charlotte Thomas.
Entering the new 2020 LPGA season, Lee was targeting the KIA Classic to kick off her season, "I was excited to play again ... the last time I had played was in July 2019 (at the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational) and I was getting my competitiveness going before things came to a stop."
While driving to one of the "Superstition" golf courses in Gold Canyon, Lee received an email message from the LPGA; the tour leadership was informing its players that events were going to be cancelled or postponed in light of the developing Covid-19 situation. She says it was the topic of discussion with her fellow tour pros. "Everyone's itching to get going (playing golf ), but we support the decision ( to suspend the tour ) ... Everyone needs to stay safe and self-isolate; let's flatten the curve" says Lee of the tour's decision to suspend play.
Our conversation turns to how Lee is keeping herself busy and ready for a resumption in play, telling me that her fitness and gym routine is limited to doing "body weight exercises" such as push ups, stretches and similar exercises, as she is without free weights. Otherwise, the majority of her work is "mirror work" honing things like her set up, takeaway, and indoor putting, using mirrors to check her positions. As a result of her wrist injury, Lee has had to look at making some changes to her swing, "I've made some adjustments in my swing and it will take some time to get my body used to moving in a new way ... so I have been working on that during this quarantine and I'm taking advantage of this time that I've been given so that I can solidify these changes."
As we discuss her life on tour, it becomes evident that she longs for her return to competition, "Being away from them ( her tour 'family' ), it was not only that I was not competing, it was being away from my second family; not seeing them at breakfast or see them at dinner ... I enjoyed that" says Lee. Players like Alena Sharp, AC Tanguay, Brittany Marchand and Brooke Henderson served as extended family for Lee, "it was great having such support from my 'inner family' ... it's not just the players but their friends and connections that I was introduced to" before adding "Sarah Baumann (caddie to Alena Sharp), has been a big help. My caddie Dale and another caddie, Chris became close friends, and JH (Trahan - AC Tanguay's husband ) was helpful too and of course Brittany (Henderson)."
In my brief time interviewing Jaclyn Lee, I find myself very impressed with her. She is not only very intelligent – her degree in Finance is a testament to that, but she is also both gregarious and passionate. She has softened the transition from collegiate amateur to LPGA professional with the support of her 'golf family' and it is clearly something that she misses in addition to the competition.
I am also impressed with her passion for the game and desire to be the best that she can be; it's not an overconfidence but, rather a "quiet confidence" – she works hard and it shows. At five feet tall (152 cm), she most certainly is not the tallest player on tour, yet, her strength and understanding of her swing "mechanics", how her body moves throughout the swing, allows her to develop terrific swing speed, resulting in tee shots that allow her to compete on tour. That ability was honed through hours of practice on the range, practice greens and in the gym. That kind of dedication is fuelled by passion – her passion. Here's to hoping that the Covid-19 situation does not have a long and devastating effect and that Jaclyn Lee gets to enjoy her 'family reunion'.
Q1: What is your “hometown”?
A. — Calgary, AB
Q2: What University/College did you attend?
A. — Ohio State University - Finance
Q3: What is your best golf memory?
A. — (Winning) Low Amateur at the 2016 CP Women’s Open
Q4: What is your favourite fitness activity? (gym or training wise)
A. — Weightlifting
Q5: What is your favourite course that you have played?
A. — Karsten Creek (Stillwater, Oklahoma)
Q6: Who is your favourite person to play a round of golf with?
A. — No particular favourite – lots of friends I love to play with and compete with! During this past off season though, I’ve been having a good time playing with Jennifer Kupcho
Q7: Who is the toughest competitor in women’s golf today?
A. — I think you could pick any of the women in the top 10 of the Rolex World Rankings and argue a case for each of them. I think Brooke is an amazing competitor and I have a lot of respect for her!
Q8: What is your most memorable golf shot or putt?
A. — My final putt at the 2018 BIG 10 Championship to tie the all-time low total score for the tournament’s history
Q9: If you could win one event – which would it be?
A. — I would love to win the CP Women’s Open
Q10: You get to form a foursome for a round of golf. Besides you, who would you like to play with?
A. — Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Annika Sorenstam
WITB – What’s in your bag for 2020?
G410 9.0 w/ Tour AD TP-6 SR
PING G410 14.5 w/ Project X 6.0 S 65G
PING G410 20.5 w/ TourAD IZ-6 S
PING i500 w/ Aero Steelfiber I95 R
50 ᵒ 54 ᵒ 58 ᵒ — PING Glide 3.0 w/ NSPro 850GH R
PING PLD Prime Tyne
Ball: Titleist PRO V1
#LPGA #GolfCanada #Titleist #PING #CutterandBuck #RBC #OSUW_Golf #Ohio State Golf #MediHeal #Seiyoungkim #LPGA_Tour #TitliestCanada #TheGolfCanada #JackNicklaus #JohnCook #CPWomensOpen #JenniferKupcho #CarlotaCiganda #MinaeHarigae #AlenaSharp #ACTanguay #Brooke #sarah #BrittanyMarchand