Kevin Jun-seok Lee … Q-School Bully
KOTA KINABALU, Malaysia, March 8 – Australian Kevin Jun-seok Lee finished top of the class in emphatic style at OneAsia Q-School on Saturday, posting a final-round three-under-par 68 for a five stroke victory at Sutera Harbour Golf and Country Club in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia.Lee finished 17 under around the 6,293-metre (6,884-yard) course, booking his place in all OneAsia’s minimum million-dollar events in 2014 and earning the chance to test his skills against the likes of of Major winners such as Adam Scott, Rory McIlroy and Charl Schwartzel — who all won on tour last year.
Argentine Martin Kim (67) finished second, while American Tommy Mou (71) was three shots further back in third.
Rounding up the 10 tour cards available from Malaysia were Koreans Bae Woo-lee, Yoshikazu Haku, Seo Jeoung-min, Cho Min-geun and Lee Kyoung-hwan, along with American Jason Kang and Japan’s Achi Sato.
Nearly 200 people signed up for the final stages of Q-School — the first was held in California last month — and the higher a player finishes, the more starts they get.
“I’m really, really pleased,” said Korean-born Lee, 25, who only became an Australian citizen last month after moving “down under” with his parents as a 12-year-old.
“This is such a big opportunity for me. It is going to be a big year. It seems like doors are opening for me.”
Lee, whose wife is pregnant with their first child, is something of a Q-School bully, having won the Korea Tour’s programme as an amateur in 2007 and also the China Tour’s in 2012.
Although he had limited status on OneAsia via the PGA Tour of Australasia — his best finish was 10th at the Charity High1 Resoirt Open in 2012 — Lee entered Q-School with one goal in mind: a win to guarantee him entry to this month’s U.S. $1 million Enjoy Jakarta Indonesian PGA Championship, presented by Indonesia Port Corporation.
The March 27-30 tournament and the Thailand Open later this year are both co-sanctioned by the Japan Tour, while April’s Volvo China Open — at $3.3 million OneAsia’s richest purse — is a joint European Tour event.
“It’s unbelievable … I actually didn’t realise that winning here would get me into China until a mate texted me saying he wanted to caddie for me,” said Lee.
“When I switched my phone on after finishing the round, I got heaps of messages. My wife was nearly in tears!”
Argentine Kim significantly improved on his overall 40th-place finish at last year’s Q-School to guarantee more than the two starts he earned on OneAsia in 2013.
“I don’t know what to say. The first thing I did was call my parents. They worked so hard to support my dreams and this opportunity is fantastic for me.”
Bueons Airies-born to Korean emigres, Kim had based himself in Seoul while he sought a Tour to ply his trade, but now has a home on the Asia-Pacific’s most lucrative regional Tour.
Taiwan-born Muo, 23, a professional for just six months, said he could scarcely believe he would be teeing it up in events such as the Emirates Australian Open and Australian PGA Championship.
“I have only watched those events on TV and now I am going to be playing in them,” he said. “Wow!”
OneAsia was founded in 2009 by the China Golf Association, the Korea Golf Tour, the Korea Golf Association and the PGA of Australia.
It has since doubled in size, and the tour’s elite suite of tournaments now includes the national Opens of Australia, China, Korea and Thailand — as well as numerous other prestigious events.