Meechai, Andrea Lee, Minjee Lee Share 54-Hole Lead at Lancaster C.C.

By David Shefter, USGA

| Jun 01, 2024 | Lancaster, Pa.

Meechai, Andrea Lee, Minjee Lee Share 54-Hole Lead at Lancaster C.C.

It has already been a week of surprises at Lancaster Country Club for the 79th U.S. Women’s Open Presented by Ally.

It began on Tuesday with the announcement that fan favorite Lexi Thompson would be retiring from the LPGA Tour at year’s end, and this could possibly be her 18th and final U.S. Women’s Open.

Then world No. 1 Nelly Korda, with six victories in eight events this year that includes a major (Chevron Championship), made a 10 on the par-3 12th hole – her third hole of the championship – en route to missing the cut along with a number of heavy hitters from the tour. That group included major champions Lydia Ko, Brooke Henderson, Thompson and In Gee Chun, the 2015 U.S. Women’s Open champ at Lancaster C.C.

So why should anyone be shocked that a 31-year-old journeywoman from Thailand with no LPGA Tour victories – and zero top-10s in 20 previous major-championship starts – has a share of the 54-hole lead with a two-time major champion and a longtime USGA stalwart at the biggest competition in women’s professional golf?

But that’s exactly where Wichanee Meechai, who qualified on May 2 to get into the field, finds herself after posting a third consecutive sub-70 round on a glorious, sun-splashed Saturday in southeastern Pennsylvania.

Following a 1-under-par 69, Meechai will enter Sunday’s final round tied with 2022 U.S. Women’s Open champion Minjee Lee, of Australia, and former Stanford All-American Andrea Lee (no relation), of Hermosa Beach, Calif., at 5-under 205.

Minjee Lee, who also captured the 2021 Amundi Evian Championship among her 10 LPGA Tour titles, matched the best round of the day – and championship – with a 4-under 66. Andrea Lee, the runner-up in the 2016 U.S. Girls’ Junior and a semifinalist in the 2019 U.S. Women’s Amateur, joined Meechai as the only other player with three rounds in the 60s, shooting a 67.

Two other major champions from Japan – 2019 Women’s British Open winner Hinako Shibuno and 2021 U.S. Women’s Open titlist Yuka Saso – are the only other competitors in red figures, sitting two and three strokes back, respectively. Shibuno posted a 66 on Saturday and Saso managed a 69.

After so many close calls in USGA championships, Andrea Lee has a golden chance on Sunday to take home the U.S. Women's Open title. (USGA/Dustin Satloff)

After so many close calls in USGA championships, Andrea Lee has a golden chance on Sunday to take home the U.S. Women's Open title. (USGA/Dustin Satloff)

While it’s no surprise to see Minjee Lee at the top of a U.S. Women’s Open leader board, few would have expected to see Meechai there. All five of her professional wins have come in Asia, including two in her native Thailand. Her best finish in a LPGA Tour event in nine seasons is a share of fifth in the 2021 Pure Silk Championship in Williamsburg, Va. This season in seven starts, she has a tie for seventh in the recent Cognizant Founders Cup in New Jersey, but also three missed cuts and no other placing better than a share of 25th (JM Eagle LA Championship).

But Meechai hasn’t looked like a rank-and-file tour player at Lancaster. She’s tied for third in the always-important fairways hit category (34 of 42) and is tied for first with Andrea Lee in putting, averaging 1.68 per round. The flatstick was solid on Saturday as she rolled in a 22-foot birdie putt on the opening hole to match the 26-footer made by Andrea Lee, her fellow competitor.

There were a couple of hiccups midway through the round with bogeys at 10 and 14, but she bounced back at 15 with an approach from 161 yards to 3 feet, setting up a birdie to get back to 5 under par. Then she drained a clutch 12-footer for par on 16 and got up and down for par from short of the green on 18.

“I think my focus on the game is pretty good today,” said Meechai. “I hit a lot of bad shots, but, you know, like I don't have any bad thoughts about my swing or about the result at all. I'm just staying in my zone and trying to keep going and then be patient.”

Minjee Lee, who turned 28 on Monday, has always loved tough USGA setups going back to the 2012 U.S. Girls’ Junior at Lake Merced Golf Club, where she claimed the title in her first-ever appearance. After beating Alison Lee in the final, she told Golf Channel that she was “coming,” a sign of bigger things on the horizon.

On Saturday, she made six consecutive pars before taking advantage of the tees being moved up on the 470-yard, par-5 seventh. A 280-yard drive led to a 6-iron approach from 188 yards to 18 inches for a tap-in eagle. She then registered consecutive birdies on 11 and 12 before suffering her lone bogey of the round on No. 14. Two holes later, she got that shot back by making a delicate, downhill 17-footer, putting in Sunday’s final pairing with Andrea Lee.

“I thought the golf course was set up really well for moving day,” said Minjee Lee. “There was a lot of opportunities for birdie out there, but obviously if you're not on the fairway, it's a little bit tougher for pars and high scores. I just thought it was a really great job by USGA setting up today.”   

Many have been waiting for Andrea Lee to show the promise as a professional that she did during a highly decorated amateur career that saw her at the top of the World Amateur Golf Ranking® for 17 weeks in 2015 and 2019. Lee, who qualified and made the cut in the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open at Pinehurst at the age of 15, played on Junior Solheim and Junior Ryder Cup teams, advanced to the final of the 2016 U.S. Girls’ Junior at The Ridgewood Country Club in New Jersey and signed with Stanford, where she was the Women’s Golf Coaches Association Freshman of the Year in 2017. She won nine times at Stanford, which was a program record until Rose Zhang shattered it.

A third-round 66 put Australian Minjee Lee into a share of the 54-hole lead and a chance to win a second U.S. Women's Open title. (USGA/Dustin Satloff)

A third-round 66 put Australian Minjee Lee into a share of the 54-hole lead and a chance to win a second U.S. Women's Open title. (USGA/Dustin Satloff)

Lee also represented the USA on two Curtis Cup Teams (2016 and 2018), played on a Women’s World Amateur Team (2016) and was a semifinalist in the 2019 U.S. Women’s Amateur, losing 2 down to eventual champion Gabriela Ruffels. When she turned professional in 2019, everyone thought that same success would follow.

But she’s only managed two victories, both coming two years ago in the Casino del Sol Golf Classic on the Epson Tour and the LPGA Tour’s Portland Classic.

Yet in 22 major-championship starts, there has only been two top-10s (2020 and 2023 AIG Women’s British Open) and 11 missed cuts.

A pair of 69s to start this week’s championship gave Lee some confidence, and she didn’t falter on Saturday while in the final group with Meechai. Despite being one of the shorter hitters, Lee has managed her game beautifully over 54 holes as she ranks second in strokes gained putting (+3.24) and seventh in strokes gained approach (+1.85), while ranking 66th in driving distance.

“Yesterday coming off my round I felt like I was even more nervous than I was today, just knowing that I was going to be in the final group of a U.S. Women's Open,” said Lee, a member of the 2023 U.S. Solheim Cup Team. “But today I walked out on the tee, and a lot of people were kind of saying, ‘Go Andrea.’ It was really nice to hear that and have the support from the crowd. Honestly, I had a blast out there.”

No player has ever won a U.S. Women’s Open with four rounds in the 60s. Andrea Lee and the unheralded Meechai have that chance on Sunday. But Minjee Lee and two other players with major-championship pedigree also figure into the narrative.

It sets up for a possible memorable Sunday at Lancaster C.C.

And that won’t be a shock.


  • Of the 75 golfers who made the 36-hole cut, 24 were qualifiers, including 54-hole co-leader Wichanee Meechai.

  • If Meechai wins on Sunday, she would be the first qualifier to hoist the Harton S. Semple Trophy since Birdie Kim in 2005 at Cherry Hills Country Club. Two years earlier, Hilary Lunke won the title at Pumpkin Ridge coming out of local and final qualifying, which the USGA utilized for two years.

  • A total of 21 different countries were represented on the weekend led by the USA with 16. Japan and the Republic of Korea each had 14 players, followed by Australia with 4, and the People’s Republic of China, Germany and Thailand with three apiece. England, France, South Africa and Sweden each had two, while Canada, Chinese Taipei, Denmark, India, Mexico, New Zealand, Paraguay, Slovenia, Spain and Switzerland each had one.

  • Due to an odd number of players making the cut (75), Meaghan Francella, a teaching professional at Philadelphia Cricket Club, was the non-competitive marker for Sofia Garcia in the third round. Philly Cricket Club just hosted the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship. Francella, a two-time LPGA Tour winner, qualified for five U.S. Women’s Opens with a best finish of T-17 in 2009 at Saucon Valley Country Club in Bethlehem, Pa.

  • A Lim Kim, the 2020 champion, had a birdie-eagle finish to post an even-par 70 and a 5-over total of 2015 thru 54 holes. Her 2 on the par-4 18th came from 149 yards out. It was one of two eagles on par-4 during Round 3. Fellow Korean Min Byeol Kim holed out from 114 yards on the second hole.

  • University of Southern California rising junior Catherine Park has a three-stroke lead over 2024 NCAA champion Adela Cernousek for low-amateur honors. Park sits at 4-over 2014 after a second consecutive 2-over-par 72.


“It's an incredible feeling. It's something that I've always dreamed of, vying for major championship wins. [2014 champion] Michelle Wie West texted me last night, and she told me just whatever the outcome is, just put your 100 percent effort into it. No matter what happens it's a privilege to be in this moment, to have this opportunity. I really took that to heart, and today I just tried to have fun out there and just play the golf course and not try to play against the field, just me and the golf course.” – Andrea Lee

“To be honest, yesterday I thought about missing the cut because I used to be in this position. Like the first day I shot pretty good, and then the second day I just like 80s and missed the cut by one. I cried a lot. I never think that I'm going to be on the leader board or something like that. But it's great. It feels really good.” – Wichanee Meechai

“My brain just stops working. It just like go outside and then just flat. I don't know how to stay it in English, but it's like blank.It's like when you have a lot of pressure you cannot think about anything. You cannot feel your body. You cannot feel your brain. You cannot feel your hands. But you're not going to be able to get rid of it. I think the best part for the three rounds for me, it's like I kind of managed to get along with the pressure.  I think that's the best part of the three rounds.” – Meechai on dealing with pressure

“I just really try to embrace all the moments today. There were a lot of fans out there, a lot of supporters. They were pretty much talking to me the whole day out there. I pretty much just tried to acknowledge them in some way or say thank you or just have a good time. Especially playing with Yuka [Saso] today, I was quite comfortable.” – Minjee Lee

“I've done it for 10 years now, so just kind of try to get a coffee in the morning, just have a bit of a stretch. I feel like time kind of goes by pretty quickly. Come in, maybe have some lunch. I'm pretty chill, so I don't really do anything too much.” – Minjee Lee on preparing for a late-afternoon Sunday tee time

“So very difficult, but I heard some of the players saying that this course is similar to some of the Japanese courses, so that might be it. Also there are players that [hit shots] straight, and so that is good. And many of the Japanese players are patient, and so maybe those things contributed how well Japanese players are doing here.” – Hinako Shibuno

David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at dshefter@usga.org.