22 Feb 2009

NZ amateur golfer wins Johnnie Walker Classic

8:04 pm on 22 February 2009

New Zealand teenager Danny Lee became the youngest player to win a professional European Tour event by winning the Johnnie Walker Classic on Sunday.

The 18-year-old produced a superb finish to win the Perth tournament by a single stroke to enhance his reputation as one of golf's most promising young players.

Lee, who burst onto the world stage by winning last year's US amateur championship, held his nerve in a dramatic finish by making birdies on four of the last six holes.

His late surge gave Lee a final round of five-under-par 67 for a winning total of 17-under 271.

"It feels like I'm dreaming at the moment. I won lots of amateur tournaments before and the US Amateur but this is a totally different feeling," he said at the trophy ceremony.

Britain's Ross McGowan, who had led by two shots with five holes to play, faded away for a 70 to tie for second with Japan's Hiroyuki Fujita (67) and Chile's Felipe Aguiler (68) at 16 under.

Lee, who is 18 years and 213 days old, beat the previous European Tour record of South African Dale Hayes, who won the 1971 Spanish Open at the age of 18 years and 290 days.

Lee was born in South Korea but moved to New Zealand as a young child and made waves last year when he eclipsed Tiger Woods as the youngest US amateur champion.

That victory earned him an automatic place in this year's US Masters and US Open, as long as he retains his amateur status.

By winning the Johnnie Walker Classic, Lee would have been entitled to the first prize of 235,892 euros but he does not plan to turn professional until after his first major appearance.

Although he turned down the cash, Sunday's victory still secured him a three-year exemption to the European, Asian and Australasian tours.