After opening the 2008-09 season with a disappointing 12th-place finish at the Fighting Illini Invitational last month, the UCLA men's team suffered another set back in their bid to repeat as NCAA champions when the school announced Oct. 14 that Lucas Lee was turning pro, forgoing the rest of his senior season. Lee is scheduled to play in the first stage of PGA Tour Qualifying School later this month, but makes his pro debut Oct. 15 in a tournament on the Golden State Tour.
"I would like to thank everyone at UCLA for helping me during my college career," Lee (right) said in a statement. "I will miss my teammates, the coaches and UCLA, but this has been my dream and it's time to pursue it."
UCLA coach Derek Freeman admitted that losing the 21-year-old, a starter on last year's national championship team, with the season already underway would be tough on the Bruins program. "We are disappointed that he is leaving UCLA," Freeman said. "He feels that he is ready to pursue professional golf, and we wish him great success. Our team will move on and is focused on becoming the best team in the country."
Lee, who failed to get through the first stage of PGA Tour Q school last year while competing as an amateur, had won five college tournaments during his career while posting a 72.7 stroke average. He was a third-team All-American as a sophomore. This past summer he finished fourth in the Porter Cup and advanced to match play at the Western Amateur.
UCLA started the season ranked No. 1 in the Golf World/Nike Golf coaches' poll but fell No. 13 in the latest edition of the poll, released this week. The Bruins' next varsity start is at the Isleworth-UCF Collegiate Invitational Oct. 26-28.