My Woo Lee just smashed a drive 350 yards-plus down the middle of the fairway. Launch monitor technology recorded the ball coming off the club face at 193 miles per hour. Seconds later, a clip is uploaded to Instagram. The caption? “Let him cook.” It’s a phrase that not everyone in golf may be familiar with, but for the people who do understand, it’s a ringing endorsement.
Crushing golf balls comes naturally to him, as do serving looks. Ever since Players Championship this year, when he first pulled a mock neck shirt over his head, people can’t get enough of him. Add a mullet, mustache and Flak Jacket Oakley’sand Min Woo is starting to look more like an F1 driver than your average polo and khaki clad PGA TOUR golfer. He’s built for speed, and he has the fastball to prove it.
A 24-year-old born in Australia to Korean immigrants, Min Woo Lee is in the midst of a breakout season on the PGA TOUR. He secured special provisional membership earlier this season with strong performances at The Players and the PGA Championship, and is now on course to secure a permanent spot for next season after top 10 finishes at US Open and Travel Championship. All of this is to say that it doesn’t look like Min Woo will be going anywhere as the final major of the season, the Open Championship, approaches.
In our latest interview, we sat down with Min Woo to learn about his beginnings in golf, why he rocks a mullet and how he views his growing profile.
HB: You grew up in Australia with parents who immigrated from Korea, tell us about your upbringing and how you got into golf.
MWL: My mother was a golf pro and she moved to Australia before my sister and I were born. She met my father in Korea and brought him to Australia and started playing golf. My father played a plus 1 a handicap so he was also a very good golfer. Mom would teach at the park and my sister and I would go to the park and kind of just copy what she was teaching her clients.
Your sister Minjee is an elite player on the LPGA Tour, what was it like growing up with her?
It was motivating in a lot of ways because there was a while where I was kind of in her shadow, and I still am a little bit. And there’s a fine line between being in the shadows and wanting her to do really well. Because she has struggled a little bit this year and I never want to see that from her. I only want to see her succeed.
So it’s nice that I’m playing well and trying to fill the shoes of being a brother who could beat her. And it’s great to have a sister at such an elite level, or any family member that’s really solid at something that I can learn from.
“I just love doing social media and trying to make it fun. I don’t have a social media manager or anything like that. I just do it myself and try to make it fun for everyone who follows me.”
You said in an interview that you almost quit playing around 11-12 years old, why was that?
Yeah, so I really enjoyed doing action sports and fast paced sports. I did Taekwondo, I did soccer, and my sister and I swam. And I love to play basketball. Basketball was one of my favorite sports and still is. I love to watch NBA, and I didn’t think golf was that much fun as a little kid. But I started again when I was 12, 13 and when I turned 15 I was selected to play an event called the Jack Newton International, which was a massive junior tournament.
I thought that was the turning point of my golf career – not that it was golf, I think I played okay – it was more traveling, making friends and making good memories with people. It’s pretty cool to like hanging out with people of different cultures and learning from different countries.
Do you have a favorite basketball team or player?
Have you met Steph yet?
I haven’t met him, but he followed me last week on Instagram, which was a very cool moment in my life. He said if you’re in the Bay Area, maybe we can have a hit. So it’s going to be a great time. I’ve heard he’s a really great person and I’ve obviously seen the highlights of his golf game so it’ll be cool to meet him.
“I’m just a kid who wants to be a great player and a great golfer. So just let him cook and let him do his thing.”
This season you have had top 10 finishes at The Players, US Open and Travelers Championship. As it has evolved, your profile has risen, and we’ve seen it manifest both in real life and online. Is this something you are aware of?
Yes of course. I think social media has a huge impact on how my fans are in real life. You know, a lot of them younger people scream my name and all these slogans at me when I’m out on the golf course. And I definitely think it makes a difference. I have always had a large presence on social media. Ever since I was a little kid, you know, 17, 18, I’ve been hitting clubs around Sahalee Country Club. And every time I go back there, I have a viral video.
I just love doing social media and trying to make it fun. I don’t have a social media manager or anything like that. I just do it myself and try to make it fun for everyone who follows me. But the fans have been amazing since The Players. I think that’s when it really started to take off on Instagram and TikTok.
If you deviate from that, you’ve become golf’s poster boy for the “let him cook” meme. How did you first start using it?
I think it was on a TikTok. I said it once and then I put it on my TikTok and since literally half of my comments are “let him cook.” So I started doing it on Instagram and then I think those fans from TikTok came over to Instagram and now Instagram has a lot of that stuff. And yeah, I don’t know, I just saw it somewhere and I just did it, and then everyone started doing it, so now I say “let him cook” almost every time I post.
What does the phrase mean to you?
I’m just a kid who wants to be a great player and a great golfer. So just let him cook and let him do his thing.
When it comes to your game, one thing that immediately stands out is your distance. How have you learned to hit the ball so far?
I think the best way I can describe it is when I was a little kid I was always good for my age so I was always playing with people who were older than me and obviously they hit it off the further. So I learned to always try to keep up with them and had the natural ability to just hit the cr*p out of it.
It’s just naturally built in and I just had the given talent with a certain speed. So yeah, it’s nice to bomb the ball and also hit it a little straight, and that’s definitely a big part of why I’ve done so well. I try to be giddy out there and enjoy myself unlike a lot of the pros who are there to just do their business. I’ve always had the motto that whether you play well or badly, just try to have fun.
We would love to hear about your new look this season. People seem to agree that you’re on to something with the mullet, mock neck shirt and sunglasses. Let’s start with the hair.
Yes, I think over the last year or so the mullet has been so popular around the world, but especially in Australia. If you go to Australia, three quarters of the people you see have mullets, especially my age. I’ve always loved having long hair and a bit of flow, so it sort of worked out well.
It’s a little different from the same hairstyle that everyone else in golf has. So yeah, it’s pretty nice to rock the mullet and try to get sharp at the edges and fluid at the back.
And what about mock-neck shirt?
I think it’s the same as the hair. Probably not even 1% of PGA TOUR pros wear fake necks. I was kind of weirded out about it when my clothing company gave it to me and I thought, ‘oh, I’m never going to wear this.’ But then I wore it for a practice round and I was like, ‘oh, this actually feels really good.’ And people started to recognize that I was just wearing it for a practice round. And they said “it looks really good on you.” So I thought, you know, I’ll try it at a tournament.
When I brought it up on The Players, people really hyped me up on social media and said, ‘where did you get this fake neck? This fake neck looks great on you.’ So it definitely took off and I try to wear it once in a tournament, especially the last round, just so I can get the hype and the crowd going, which definitely helps. I have the motto that you want to look good and feel good so you can play good.
Is there any inspiration behind the look as a whole?
I’m not necessarily trying to change the tide. I just try to be a little different and try to enjoy it. I think it’s definitely been fun and like I said a bit of a breath of fresh air for the fans because there are always the common people who say golf is an old man’s sport.
I try to inspire as much as I can and try to do it in ways where I’m not just asking them to be inspired. I try to do it in ways where it’s “this guy looks cool” and “golf can be cool and fun.” And I think it’s slowly starting to work.
We saw a picture of you at Bad golf‘s new store in LA. Were you there during US Open week?
Yes, I went over there during US Open Week I met Stephen [Malbon] and got some things for myself. I’m wearing it right now. I actually thought it was really cool, you know, cool design and cool look. Right now I’m wearing the hoodie and it’s swaggy, which is great because I try to be like that.
Have you been following this new movement around fashion and streetwear in golf?
I definitely think it’s starting right now. I think people are starting to look for ways to make golf look cool. So many people are playing it, so why not? And some people will catch, others won’t. But I think if you’re open-minded and if you want to look cool, you can definitely do it. And I think it is slowly becoming so.
Finally, what has been the highlight of your season so far?
I definitely think The Players was a big eye opener for myself and a lot of the fans. I play for the fans and to be the man of the people. It was a tournament where I played well, but also messed up on a few holes. And sometimes golf and life are like that, and that’s how you bounce back.