Open a coming-out party for Lee

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 7:49 AM ET

OAKMONT, PA. -- Richard Lee is in rare territory as a 16-year-old walking the narrow fairways the U.S. Open.

The Toronto native, who grew up in Vancouver and now calls Chandler, Ariz., home, will try and continue to buck a trend when he turns pro next week.

The stocky teenager (5-foot-7, 190 pounds) said yesterday he plans to turn pro right after the U.S. Open and will try to avoid the pitfalls that have befallen other teens who have decided to go the pro route, such as Ty Tryon or Michelle Wie.

"I'm going to turn pro for sure after this tournament. It doesn't matter if I play bad or good (here)," said Lee after a practice round yesterday at Oakmont Country Club in a group that included K.J. Choi.

Lee is a prodigy who shot 62 in the B.C. Junior when he was 12. He's the second-ranked junior in the States, according to Golfweek rankings.

Now he and his father, Jeff, a teaching pro, say they think he's ready to take the next big step.

Richard said yesterday he has been offered a sponsor's exemption into the Canadian Open next month and plans to try to Monday qualify for the PGA Tour and play a couple of Nationwide Tour events.

He qualified for the 107th U.S. Open -- becoming the second-youngest player after 15-year-old Tadd Fujikawa played at Winged Foot last year -- by shooting 69-71 and finishing second in his sectional qualifer in California.

Jeff Lee, a native of Korea, moved from Toronto to Vancouver when Richard was one. He ran a health food store and taught golf before he sold the business and moved the family to Chandler (near Phoenix) so Richard could play year round.

Jeff, a roommate of Choi's when they went to qualifying school together in Korea, said he's confident they are making the right decision to have Richard turn pro.

"All we're trying to do is play with the big boys and get to know their tricks, get to know more about golf and meet the good people," he said. "Richard has got to learn so many things."

Richard Lee is trying to treat the U.S. Open as just another junior tournament.

"I know my game out there and I know what I can do," he said. "I just want to try my best and make the cut."

U.S.OPEN GLANCE

Site: Oakmont, Pa.

Course: Oakmont Country Club (7,230 yards, par 70.

Television: TSN (Tomorrow 10 a.m.-7 p.m., Friday, 9:30 a.m.-7 p.m.) and NBC (Thursday-Friday, 3-5 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday, 1-7 p.m).

Last year: Australia's Geoff Ogilvy won at Winged Foot when Phil Mickelson made a double-bogey 6 on the final hole. Tiger Woods missed the cut for the first time in a major since he turned pro.

Notes: Foreign-born players have won the past three U.S. Opens, the longest streak since World War I.


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