Each week throughout the year we will spotlight one Symetra Tour player and provide an in depth look into her life - both on and off the course. Up next in "This week is all about..." series is Luciane Lee.
Luciane Lee making an Olympian effort
At first, the dream of making golf a lifelong devotion could have been considered more of a nightmare. Despite successful family golf ties, the last thing teenager Luciane Lee wanted to do was play golf.
“I didn’t really like golf growing up,” Lee said this week. “In high school I had to choose a sport to get out of Physical Education classes. I chose golf because there were no tryouts and I had free clubs at the house.
“Then I started playing, and with my competitive self, something sparked in me.”
Lee’s drive to become a world-class player is guided by a golf-centric family and a focus on returning to her home country, Brazil, when golf is re-introduced at the 2016 Summer Olympic Games.
Brother Lucas, seven years older, first came to the United States and Southern California when he was in high school. He visited his cousin, Angela Park, another native Brazilian of Korean heritage who would become the 2007 LPGA Rookie of the Year. Lucas had promise in the sport also, which encouraged the Lee family to pick up from Sao Paulo, Brazil and move to the United States.
As the youngest of four siblings, Luciane was age 11 in the sixth grade when the move occurred. She enjoyed her golf relatives’ accomplishments despite the early disinterest. Park was the runner-up to Cristie Kerr at the 2007 U.S. Women’s Open. Lucas was a member of UCLA’s 2008 NCAA Men’s National Championship team along with future PGA Tour players Kevin Chappell and Erik Flores.
“We went to the Kraft Nabisco one year on a family pass and got to go backstage and see all the cool things,” Lee said. “It really revealed a whole different level from junior golf. Angela always gives me advice when I’m feeling down. She’s been at the top and knows what it takes to get there.”
Park left the LPGA in 2010 and is now involved in real estate in California, but keeps a close eye on her young cousin.
At about the same time that Lee was developing an interest in golf, the Olympic Committee announced that golf would return as a sport in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro. That pushed Lee to get better and she earned a scholarship to the University of California, Irvine. Halfway through her sophomore year, when qualifying standards were finalized using world rankings as a gauge, Lee left school to turn pro in search of her Olympic dream.
One spot in the 60-person field will be reserved for a host country participant, based on the Rolex Women’s World Rankings as of July 11, 2016. Lee is currently the world’s second-ranked Brazilian woman (ranked 756th) behind Miriam Nagl, a native of Brazil who has lived in Germany most of her life. Nagl, 34, is ranked 610th but has not played in a Ladies European Tour event since last July.
Lucas is also in the mix, currently the third-ranked Brazilian according to the Official World Golf Ranking. After leaving UCLA early in 2008, he has played tours all over the world and is currently a conditional member of the Web.com Tour. He is scheduled to play in the Web.com Tour’s event in Brazil next week.
Luciane, 20, has thrived early in her rookie season on the Symetra Tour. With her father serving as the caddie, she finished tied for fourth two weeks ago at the season-opening Gateway Classic in Arizona and heads to Florida for the resumption of the schedule in late March. She called the finish “the highlight of her career.”
“I really want to play in the Olympics for the Korean-Brazilian community,” she said. “That would really be cool to play in my homeland where my whole family can come out and watch.
“I’ve always been known as Lucas Lee’s little sister or Angela Park’s cousin. So maybe they’ll be known more because of me.”
Be sure to follow Luciane on Instagram>>