It’s the chicken or the egg: does belief produce good results or good results lead to belief?
Or does it takes a river of text messages from Fred Couples to create both.
Alison Lee had reason to doubt herself, her game and her future. After earning her LPGA Tour card by finishing co-medalist in the 2014 Q-School, she was 23rd on the money list in her rookie season.
Then she was 38th.
“I told my coach a couple years ago, I broke down and I said, ‘I don’t think I’ll ever win on tour ever again. I don’t think I have what it takes to win out here,’” Lee told the media on Friday at the CME Group Tour Championship.
It would be three more years until she would again crack the top 100 on the LPGA money list, thus earning full status. But when she did, that started the roller coaster back up: 63rd in 2021, 43rd in 2022, and – currently – 26th in 2023.
If she continues to play the way she has through two days in Naples, Florida, she could crack the top 3. The winner of the season-ender gets $2 million. Lee, after rounds of 66-64, co-leads with Nasa Hataoka at 14 under, one clear of three others.
While the $2 million would be life- and career-altering, what Lee really wants is that first LPGA win. She’s been a pro for nearly nine years, and she doesn’t yet have a ‘W’ on her home tour. She’s got two on the Ladies European Tour, including a few weeks ago in Saudi Arabia.
That victory is sandwiched between two runner-up finishes on the LPGA. As a tour official noted at the start of her Friday post-round presser, Lee’s scoring average over her last 13 rounds [on the LPGA and LET] is 65.12.
“It’s pretty fricking good,” Lee responded when asked for a reaction.
“I feel like the last month everything has fallen into place, which has been really nice. It’s not every day where your entire game is perfect or good, so, yeah, it’s honestly been so much fun.”
Which is not something Lee can say about the entirety of her career. Asked to reflect on the difficult times and the self-doubt, Lee opened up:
“There were moments where I thought maybe I – this isn’t for me anymore. I’m just not good enough. Sometimes, I mean, you can work so hard – with golf, you can practice so hard. You can practice for hours and hours. That doesn’t magically make you a better golfer. That doesn’t magically improve your game,” she said.
“It takes more than those hours of practice. It almost takes a little bit of a mental switch in your brain to be like, Hey, I’m fricking good. I can win. I can make that putt. I can be No. 1 in the world. I didn’t have that for a long time.
“But now looking back at it, it was all a great learning experience and I’m really thankful for all that.”
While Lee credits her team for never letting her give up, there has been another, unexpected source of inspiration.
“So, about a couple months ago now, I played golf with Freddy Couples in a pro-am. It was my first time meeting him,” Lee said. “We played 18 holes. Afterwards he got my number and we have been texting back and forth the last couple months.”
And texting and texting and texting.
“I mean, it was a lot of messages every day from Freddy, not going to lie,” Lee said with a laugh. “Oh, another message from Freddy. But hammering that into me really resonated with me.”
Couples told her, You need to believe you’re the sh*t. He called her, Mrs. Monster. He repeated, You are frickin’ good.
Lee got emotional, tearing up, as she told of Couples’ support. She said that it took her awhile to believe all that the Hall of Famer was preaching. But once she did …
Well, here we are.
Why did Couples make such an effort? “That’s just Freddy,” Brandel Chamblee said Friday evening on “Golf Central.” Lee said that the two didn’t share anything personal that day at the Berenberg Invitational. Couples just took an interest and then took initiative.
And, for all that Lee spoke about it after her second round, it’s meant more than she can ever express.
Now, she just needs that belief and that form to stay intact for two more days to get that trophy.
“That’s definitely the goal for this week,” she said. “I mean, my last three finishes were second, first, second, and I really want that [first LPGA] win really bad.”