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Saturday, May 30, 2020

Birdie, bogey or par, Lee keeps it cool

Men’s Golfer Jordan Lee helps the Vikings make some noise in his first year. // Photo courtesy of Western Athletics

By Andrew McClain

Even-keeled. Collected. Unflappable. These are just a few of the terms that people who know Portland born first-year golfer Jordan Lee use to best describe him.

“Before I step on the course, I try to get all my nervousness out of the way,” Lee said.

To help him do that, Lee said he tries to go into every round with a game plan.

Lee’s mother, Maryanne Lee, said he’s always been that way and described him as being a kind, mellow person at heart.

“He was never they type of kid to get in trouble or be rowdy,” Maryanne Lee said.

But that brand of quiet maturity is only half the picture with Lee. According to his mom, what makes Lee such a force on the golf course is the combination of his calm demeanor and the competitive nature that drives his work ethic.

“Oh, yes,” Maryanne Lee said with a laugh when asked if Lee has a competitive streak. “He’s very competitive.”

She illustrated the point by telling a story about when Lee would golf with his grandmother as a child, and how he would make her “putt it out” on the green instead of letting her use the 12-inch “gimmie” putting rule that many people use in friendly rounds of golf.

That’s the kind of mentality that drives Lee to do his best every time he steps onto the golf course. Whether he’s playing in a tournament for Western, or competing against his older brother Justin on their home course at the Tacoma Country & Golf Club, Lee stoically works to take home the win.

Steve George, head coach of the boy’s golf team at Bellarmine Prep School, said those attributes served Lee well in high school.

“Jordan’s quiet, calm and never upset on the course,” George said. “He’s the kind of guy that leads by example.”

As a coach with 10 state championships under his belt, George has an eye for talent, and he was unequivocal in his praise for Lee.

“Jordan’s always had the talent, but once he gained confidence [as a golfer], he really broke out,” George said. “He didn’t have to talk, he just showed you how good he was.”

Despite the universal praise for Lee’s poise, Lee paints himself as a fairly typical first-year.

“I didn’t really expect it, or have high expectations,” Lee said of the success he’s had so far this year, including one tournament win and five top-5 finishes in nine tournaments so far. “Honestly, I was really nervous [about playing collegiate golf].”

Maryanne Lee compared Lee’s brand of nervousness to strong underwater currents.

“There might be turbulence under the surface, but he’ll never show it to you,” Maryanne Lee said. “The most emotion you’ll see out of him on the golf course might be a little slap on his putter if he didn’t putt as well as he wanted to.”

According to Western men’s golf coach Luke Bennett, those times when Lee struggles on the course come down to the mental aspect of the game.

“His demeanor is second-to-none,” Bennett said. “His game is really strong all around. He drives well and has a ton of control. And I really like the simplicity of his putting stroke; it’s very repeatable, which is important. I think when he struggles or shoots poorly, it’s mental.”

Lee agreed with that sentiment.

“For me, golf is 80% mental, 20% motions and practice,” Lee said. “I feel like in the rounds that I played well I did a good job controlling my emotions.”

Cody Roth, a fourth-year on the Western golf team, said Lee’s demeanor is impressive for someone so young.

“You don’t expect that [from a first-year], but he doesn’t really get worked up,” Roth said. “He never gets too high or too low, he just goes out there and does his thing.”

Roth praised Lee’s practice habits as well.

“He’s always looking for ways to get better,” Roth said. “He’s got talent and a strong work ethic. That’s a deadly combination.”

Bennett also mentioned Lee’s work ethic as one of his strong points, and it’s a part of his personality that Lee partially attributes to his time at Bellarmine Prep.

“Going to school at Bellarmine was harder than what I expected, but it helped me establish my work and practice habits,” Lee said.

Lee gave credit to the upperclassmen that helped mentor him at Bellarmine, and singled out RJ Manke, who now plays golf for Pepperdine University, for being a strong role model for him to follow.

In terms of his education goals, Lee said he hasn’t picked a major yet, but is leaning toward something like sports psychology. He said focusing on the mental aspect of the game would help him reach his eventual goal of becoming a golf coach, either as a private tutor or as a school coach like Bennett and George.

Of course, that’s only if his goal of playing in the pros doesn’t pan out.

“It would be a dream come true to play at Augusta National,” Lee said. “And the only way I can get there is by playing in the Masters.”

That goal didn’t surprise Bennett when he heard it.

“Jordan has a deep passion for the game. We’re lucky to have him because of what he brings to the team, on and off the course,” Bennett said. “If he keeps his passion high, he’s got a bright future in front of him.”

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