Something about Columbia Edgewater Country Club appeals to first-timers. When you look back at recent history, the AmazingCre Portland Classic has been the jumpstart event for more than a few successful LPGA Tour players.
Brooke Henderson won her first event at Columbia Edgewater as a 17-year-old Monday qualifier. Her career has turned out pretty well.
Also, after a grinding career that looked as if it might never produce a victory, Marina Alex broke through in Portland in 2018. She then played on a Solheim Cup team and won again this year.
In 2020, Georgia Hall, who had never won anything in America, outdueled Ashleigh Buhai, who, at that time, had never won anything, for a victory in Portland.
Something similar happened this time. Deep into the back nine on Sunday, there were nine players with a chance to take the title. Seven of them had never won before. One of those was Andrea Lee, the California native and former Stanford All-American who took some time adjusting to professional golf before finding her footing.
Lee closed with a 66 in Portland to finish 19-under par, one shot clear of Epson Tour player Daniela Darquea and two clear of (winless) German Esther Henseleit, (winless) Californian Lilia Vu, (winless) rookie Narin An, Ayaka Furue and 2019 Portland Classic winner Hannah Green.
“I still can’t believe it. It’s been such a long time.”
A lot was expected of Lee. She was the No. 1-ranked amateur in the world and at a school that has produced a who’s-who of women over the years. Lee currently holds the Stanford record with nine collegiate victories.
But she missed 10 LPGA Tour cuts a year ago and lost her card. Then she failed to advance through Q Series, being relegated to the Epson Tour for 2022. Lee won on that tour in March. Then in April, she got a sponsor’s invitation into the Palos Verdes Championship presented by Bank of America and finished T5, which kept her playing. Through one reshuffle after another, Lee kept playing well. She posted two more top-5 finishes and another couple of top-15s.
Early on Sunday, it looked as if this would be another good finish but not a win. Lee bogeyed two of her first three holes. Then a switch flipped, and she didn’t mis-hit a shot. Three consecutive birdies on the front nine put Lee out in 35. On the back, she birdied five of seven holes to take a two-shot lead.
That lead looked to be in peril after she hit a perfect tee shot on 17 that ended up in a deep divot. The 6-iron she dug out of that hole came out left and found a greenside bunker. But Lee showed a lot of heart, hitting a perfect sand shot to a foot. She then hit two perfect shots into 18 for a routine two-putt win.
“I still can’t believe it,” Lee said through tears immediately afterward. “It’s been such a long time.”