Golf: Lee will remain a Kiwi, says Graham

Danny Lee watches the flight of his tee shot during the New Zealand Golf open, played at The...
Danny Lee watches the flight of his tee shot during the New Zealand Golf open, played at The Hills course in Arrowtown last year. Photo by Gerard O'Brien.
Rising world golf star Danny Lee has pledged to remain as a New Zealand player when he turns professional, says one of his closest confidants.

Korean-born Lee, who stormed into the golf headlines with a crushing victory in the US Amateur championships on Monday, is set to become one of the hottest players in the game.

The early indications are that the 18-year-old from Rotorua, who is the world's top ranked amateur, can rise to the highest echelons of world golf.

Lee came to New Zealand with his family aged 9 and precedents set by other Korean players schooled here have raised questions about whether he would continue as a Kiwi.

But NZ Golf's high performance manager, David Graham, who speaks to Lee almost daily and has spent the past two weeks with him in America, said the teenager had pledged to remain a New Zealand player.

Lee had been listed as a Korean in a professional tournament in his native land two years ago but Graham said that was down to the tournament organisers and Lee was upset by it.

"It was before my time at New Zealand Golf but I understand Danny sent emails here saying he was horrified by that and wanted to know if we could do something to get it changed.

"He regards himself as a New Zealander and wants to represent the country.

"People need to be careful not to generalise just because situations have arisen with other Korean players. Danny is an individual and needs to be treated as such.

"I didn't speak to him about it over the past few weeks because I wanted him to be able to concentrate on golf without distractions like that.

"Danny is very up-front and that is what he has told us. It has never been a concern to me because I know what he thinks about it, although I know there has been a bit of talk about it. Danny always acts with integrity."

Another Kiwi golf product, Sharon Ahn, has returned to Korea, to much consternation in some quarters.

There have also been suggestions that Eddie Lee now plays as a Korean, although the Asian circuit website still lists him as a New Zealander.

Graham said influences, such as extended family overseas, came into play and the youngsters did not always have control over the decision.

Danny Lee shapes as a rare case of a New Zealander with the potential to star in a global sport, and has an appetite for work to match his talent.

Graham gave a further insight into Lee's remarkable work ethic.

Even on tournament days, he treats golf as a nine-hour work day.

That includes a two-hour warm-up regime, playing his round, and then hitting the practice range and greens for another two hours.

"Others might warm up for 10 minutes or half an hour, and after playing it's time to talk to their mates.

"Danny has shown the other young players around the country what it takes to get to the top."


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