As she prepares to defend her individual crown at the Aramco Team Series Sotogrande this month, Alison Lee could hardly be happier with her form.
The US Solheim Cup player, 27, is enjoying the best season of her career since her early days on the LPGA Tour, already topping $500,000 in prize money.
For the first time Lee has made the cut in all five women’s majors, finishing in a share of 15th in the Women’s Open at Muirfield last weekend.
“I would say I’m really happy with how this season’s gone so far, given where I was three or four years ago when I had to go back to Q-school,” she said.
“I feel like I’ve been playing really consistent. Do I feel like I can play a little better? Yes, but I feel like my game is really close and I’m really close to having a good week. I just need a little bit of magic for that one week for everything to fall on place together and for it to work.
“Obviously there are things I need to work on but overall, from a consistency standpoint, I feel really good about where my game is.”
Victory at the inaugural Aramco Team Series Sotogrande last summer was Lee’s first title on any tour since turning professional in late 2014.
She won at a canter, too, storming clear of the field with two rounds of 65 before clinching a five-shot triumph with a steady closing 71.
That result looks even more impressive in light of the fact her closest challenger in southern Spain was golf’s newest major champion, Women’s Open winner Ashleigh Buhai.
Former amateur world No1 Lee credits the win with restoring her confidence and kick-starting her career after something of a lull.
“I would say [the victory] most definitely had a big impact on my mindset going forward. It was massive,” she added.
“I was coming off a couple of tough years on tour and felt I was in the middle of my professional career. I’d gone through some ups and downs and had come really close to winning, but at that point I’d started to struggle and started to get ahead of myself.
“I think that really messed with my head from a mental standpoint and it started to show on the golf course. However, being able to win really gave me confidence and that push I needed to work hard and experience that feeling again and come on top again.”
Holiday feel led to Aramco Team Series win
Lee believes she benefited from treating her last trip to Sotogrande as a holiday of sorts, free from the usual pressure she was putting on herself.
The Aramco Team Series event fell during a busy spell in her schedule, sandwiched in between the Evian Championship and the Women’s Open.
“That week honestly felt like a dream for me. It almost felt like I was on a vacation – it was a great location, great course, my first time in Spain,” she said.
“Going into that week I just told myself to take it easy and not to be too hard on myself. The event was between two majors, typically when I would try and take a week off, so for me I just took the week super easy going and just tried my best to have fun and enjoy the moment. I think that really helped me with my game and allowed me to play well and eventually win the event.
“If you ask a lot of the players, they’ll say they play their best when they’re feeling good, when they’re mentally in a good place, and when they’re feeling confident. I feel like with that week I had all of that going for me. I’ll always remember it.”
Lee also believes she benefited from the unique format of the Aramco Team Series, in which players compete both as individuals and as part of a four-strong team that includes an amateur.
She is relishing the prospect of defending her title next week at La Reserva Club, where she is set to face stiff competition from fellow Americans Nelly and Jessica Korda and multiple major winner Anna Nordqvist.
“I’m really excited. It’s a strong field – even stronger than last year – so I’m really looking forward to it and hoping I can play as well as last year,” she said.
“The Aramco Team Series events always feel like world class events. They’re at great locations, and I know a lot of the girls that are playing this year. We’ve all been talking about it and we’re super excited, because it is more fun and a more laidback format.
“La Reserva is beautiful too, but I do remember it being challenging last year. I think the second and third rounds got really windy, so it was definitely challenging.
“Sometimes when you play in difficult conditions and you’re towards the end of your round you just kind of give up and want to get it over with. But when you play as a team like in the Aramco Team Series, you’re all playing for each other, so there’s an extra bit of motivation.”
Lee’s strong results, including a top-five finish at the Women’s Scottish Open last month, have raised her hopes of another type of team appearance.
Now back on the fringes of the world’s top 50, Lee is a candidate for a second appearance for Team USA at next year’s Solheim Cup which, as fate would have it, is due to be contested at Finca Cortesin, just a few miles to the west in this corner of Andalucia.
“Yeah of course. I haven’t been able to play in the Solheim Cup since 2015, so it’s definitely something I have my eye on, a team I want to be part of again and an experience I want to be part of one more time,” said Lee.
“I’m not stressing so much about it, obviously I want to be on the team, but hopefully if I play good golf everything will take care of itself.”