Lee shines at fabled Oakmont

NORTHEAST GLENDALE — While walking down each of the 18 fairways at Oakmont Country Club on a warm Wednesday, Donny Lee could hear the cheers from the hometown crowd echoing.

Suddenly, Lee, the assistant professional at Oakmont, felt like he had been elevated to rock-star status with the polite roar from the club members after making a clutch shot for a birdie or par during the third and final round of the Southern California PGA Sectional Professional Championship. Lee, who turned 34 last Friday, appreciated the ovation, but didn't want to disappoint the throng.

"It was great to have them follow me," said Lee, who carded an even-par 71 on Wednesday to finish third with a 214 and advance to the PGA Professional Championship in Hershey, Pa., next June. "But, I knew I couldn't get caught up in it.

"I felt like a rock star. It's exciting to do well on my home course. It's pretty special."

Lee netted $6,000 from the estimated $80,000 purse and provided Oakmont with another shining moment in the club's illustrious 88-year history. He also earned exemption into the California State Open, which will be held in November in Beaumont.

After completing his round with a par on the 18th hole in front of members lined up under a pair of large oak trees, Lee accepted one last round of applause.

"I don't know how often you get into a situation like this when you are playing for a championship," said Lee, who entered Wednesday's round in second with a 143. "I'll take what I was able to do out there."

Lee finished third behind Chris Starkjohann of Torrey Pines Golf Club & Outings (209) and Tim Parun of Sail Ho Golf Club (213).

Starkjohann, who won his third championship, was paired with Lee and Grant Strobel in the final group of the day. Starkjohann said he sensed the anticipation from the crowd with each move made by Lee, who finished with 14 pars, two birdies and two bogeys.

"I thought Donny played real well," said Starkjohann, who won the event in 1991 and 2004. "It's the first time I've played with him and he's a great guy.

"I'm normally a fast player and he slowed me down. That forced me not to rush my shots."

A pair of veteran club members, Bob Hopper and Scott Keys of La Cañada Flintridge, watched the majority of Lee's round Wednesday. Numerous club members also followed him Monday and Tuesday.

Hopper, a 12-year member, watched Lee complete his final five holes on the 7,015-yard course.

"He's very steady out there and he went out and made a lot of good puts," Hopper said. "It's a great field that he played in against some of the top pros in the state.

"For him to finish third is a feather in his cap. He took his time and kept his composure the whole way through."

Keys said he joined the audience on the fourth hole before watching Lee finish his round.

"I thought he kept his composure very nicely," said Keys, who joined Oakmont eight years ago. "He had a nice turnout all three rounds and we are proud of him.

"Starkjohann just played a great round. It's a good learning experience for [Lee]. He made some putts and gained more tournament experience."

An experience Lee will remember when participating in future tournaments.

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