Minjee Lee looks a little past her years in comparison to the Saudi Arabian women golfers. While many are pretty active, friendly and willing to throw down on the course, their male colleagues are distinctly robotic and aggressive. “The guys sometimes get agitated,” Lee says as she plays a round of her own — on her car radio. “Some of them hate to lose. The rules might also help some of the guys relax.”
Lee, 22, is trying out for the PGA Tour at the Saudi Ladies International in Riyadh. At last year’s inaugural Saudi Ladies event, she finished 13th among the women participants. This year she’s going for second place. Here, she breaks down why she’s getting the chance.
What has playing the Saudi Ladies Open been like this year?
I played last year in the inaugural tournament, which is the first time for a woman to participate. So I’m hoping to do better than last year. I played against some other top women golfers like Ayesha Ramzan, and myself, the highest ranked player in the world at the time, was playing against her.
What does it mean to play on the PGA Tour?
Playing in the PGA Tour has definitely been a dream of mine since I was a little girl. I was surprised to find out that the Saudi Arabian Ladies Open was in the running for the tour. There have only been five or six of us there who have made it through the qualifying. It is a nice opportunity to play, as is playing with the top female golfers in the world. This will probably be the first time in history that we will have female golfers playing with the top men in the world in Saudi Arabia.
Are there any good male players in Saudi Arabia?
There are actually a lot of other players on the Saudi men’s tours. They compete in the British Open every year in a specific division.
How do you try to make yourself a woman golfer?
There is a lot of advice for women in general in this sport. We look up to male golfers, so we have to prepare and train harder than them to get their techniques. I’ve been working with a professional golf coach, and I’ve got to be really dedicated and patient in my workouts, so I can prepare for a professional golf career.
For example, if you’re a female player and you hit a driver, you would go and put on a long tights because the ladies never do. The men go for their spikes, which is sometimes more comfortable for women. I’ve tried to look at what they do and do more of it.
Have you found Saudi men’s golfers to be friendly to the women?
It’s different on the men’s tour, as opposed to in Saudi Arabia. The men can be aggressive sometimes, but the way they treat me I’m always quite good with them. That’s a good thing that I have. The men can be very competitive, but they treat the ladies quite well.