Lee Making His Mark at U.S. Am
He's barely 18 years old. He's the Western Amateur champion. He's a Korean living in New Zealand. And he's playing golf like a young Tiger Woods.
The name is Danny Lee and you'd better remember it. The players he's faced in the 108th U.S. Amateur being played on Pinehurst Resort's No. 2 course definitely will.
Lee will take on Patrick Reed of Augusta, Ga., in the semifinals at 9:15 a.m. Saturday in his continuing attempt to become the youngest player to win the Amateur. Drew Kittleson of Scottsdale, Ariz., will meet Adam Mitchell of Chattanooga, Tenn., in the other match that begins at 9 a.m. The winners play a 36-hole match for the title
Woods was 18 years, seven months and 29 days old when he won his first of three titles in 1994. Lee turned 18 on July 24.
It's been a grueling, yet easy path to the semis for Lee. He's played 10 rounds of competitive golf in nine days. Six of those rounds were stroke play -- four in the PGA Tour's Wyndham Championship in Greensboro where he tied for 20th, and two in qualifying for the Amateur.
The wear and tear may be taking its toll, though. Lee and championship officials were given a scare Friday morning when Lee asked for medical assistance while on the practice range. He was experiencing pain in his left shoulder and Championship Manager Stephen Boyd quickly summoned help.
The shoulder was examined, Lee was given 800 milligrams of Advil and one of the resort's massage therapists worked on the aching joint.
Then he went out and was 3-up on Morgan Hoffmann after four holes. To reach the semis, he defeated David Bartman 4 and 3, Jacob Burger 5 and 4, Connor McHenry 7 and 6 and Hoffmann 4 and 3. He's enjoying match play because the rounds are shorter.
Lee says answering all the phone calls from his family in New Zealand where there's a 16-hour time differential "has been insane." But it's his opponents who have really been driven crazy this week.
"I was hitting my driver on the range and was in my back swing when something in the left shoulder clicked," he said. "It was a little sore for the first five holes, but then the medicine kicked in."
Hoffmann did manage to win a couple of holes on the back nine, but Lee kept coming back.
"It was more Morgan winning than me losing," Lee said. Lee has yet to see the last three holes of No. 2 in match play, but he's not worried about the unfamiliarity.
"When I get to those three holes, I'll just have to keep playing well," he said.
Bob Scheirer, a veteran Pinehurst Resort caddie who was on the bag for Michael Sims the year he won the North and South, is carrying for Lee.
"It was a little bit of a struggle today because he had tweaked his shoulder," Scheirer said, "so he kind of struggled, but he toughed it out. Danny has as strong a short game as I've seen in a while. He hits his putter solid every time so he always has a chance of making the putt."
Scheirer also thought it was fortunate that Lee didn't have to play the final three holes.
"I think it definitely helped him not having to hit driver on 16 and 18," he said. "Now he can get his shoulder iced down and be ready to go Saturday."
Reed, who needed 23 holes to oust Brandon Detweiler on Thursday, had an easier time Friday, beating Graham Hill of Canada 4 and 3.
"I let my nerves get to me and started off shaky," Reed said. "But I hit a wedge from 115 yards on the fourth hole that came off perfectly and from that point on, I basically just hit the ball better. I started putting the pressure on Graham instead of on myself."
Kittleson feels his game has peaked at just the right time, but he knows he has his work cut out against Mitchell. It was Mitchell who knocked off world No. 2 amateur Rickie Fowler on Thursday.
"I'm excited and looking forward to the other matches," Kittleson said. "I feel I might be coming in here a little under the radar because I've gone through some growth spurts and swing changes."
Mitchell, who plays for the University of Georgia, seems to be on a magic carpet ride. He blistered the heavily favored Fowler on Thursday and seemed to be in trouble Friday when he went 2-down to Holland.
"I wasn't panicking just yet, but I was 2-down after six and I wasn't happy with myself," he said. "I hit an awful drive on the seventh hole and hit it out in the fairway about 40 yards short of the green. I told my dad that I was going to land it just short, let it take one hop and roll to the flag. I did it just like I planned and it went right in the middle of the cup. I went from a possible 3-down to 1-down in one instant."
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