Tragedy for Lee family

News has been circulating in the community about the death of Debbie Lee, the mother of accomplished Kitsap golfers Erynne and Katie Lee. I haven’t talked directly to the family or seen an obituary, so I’ve been hesitant to report the news but after talking to several people I feel confident that what information I have gathered is accurate.

Our thoughts are with Erynne, Katie and their father, Brian. Our staff has had enough interaction with the girls and the family over the years to know how painful this loss must be and our thoughts are with them at his difficult time. Brian and Debbie sacrificed so much for Erynne and Katie, two of the sweetest girls around. You could always tell much much they appreciated the love and direction their parents provided.

When asked about her parents financial committment following an exhibition against the guys in October, 2010, at Kitsap Golf & Country Club, Katie Lee said:

“My sister and I, we always have to keep that in mind. We can’t let ourselves get off track to like fool around. We know our dad and mom are always working hard and we have to pay back for what they’re doing right now.”

Debbie and Brian Lee pushed their daughters to be successful on and off the golf course, but they weren’t pushy. And there’s a difference.

Here’s what I’ve been able to put together about Debbie Lee’s death:

Debbie Lee died last week in South Korea. Her memorial service was held over the weekend in the Los Angeles area, where the Lee family resided before moving to Kitsap County. Debbie was in her mid-40s.

According to golf pro Ted Naff, who has worked with both Lee sisters as a swing coach, Debbie Lee hadn’t been feeling well and she flew to South Korea to get checked out. She had a heart attack, followed by a stroke while in a Korean hospital on Oct. 31 or Nov. 1, and never came out of a coma. Her daughters flew to Korea at one point to be with her.
While her husband, Brian Lee, introduced the girls to golf, Debbie was there for every step of their  journey.
If the girls were playing a practice round at the Kitsap Golf & Country Club, or hitting balls on the range at Gold Mountain, she wasn’t far away.
“She was unbelievably involved and sort of did everything for them,” said Scott Alexander, director of golf at Gold Mountain Golf Club. “It’s a very, very close family. It’s a tragedy.”
“She’d drive them out to the course and was always there for them,” said KG&CC pro Al Patterson, who put together a pair of fund-raising exhibitions for the Lees. (Brian Lee returned the $300 donations that were awarded to both daughters after UCLA’s compliance office ruled that Erynne couldn’t accept hers; Patterson said UCLA told him the club could make a donation to the Lee family, which is OK with NCAA rules).
Naff said he met Debbie Lee when he was teaching a beginning golf class at Olympic College.
“She came up one day and said, ‘I’ve got a couple daughters who have some talent. Would you look at them?'”
Erynne Lee, currently a freshman at UCLA — her mom and dad both graduated from UCLA — is ranked No. 14 among women college players in the country and tied for No. 39 overall among women amateurs by Golfweek Magazine. She qualified for the 2008 and 2011 U.S. Women’s Open. She reached the semifinals of the 2008 U.S. Amateur, and the quarterfinals of that tournament in 2010 and 2011. She’s been the Washington State Golf Association Women’s Player of the Year three of the last four years, and the Pacific Northwest Golf Association’s Women’s Player of the Year twice.
Katie Lee, a junior at Central Kitsap, has already played in a U.S. Women’s Amateur and U.S. Girls.
Both sisters have talked about their desire to eventually play on the LPGA Tour.
Erynne and Katie placed 1-2 at the Washington State Women’s Amateur this summer. Erynne and Katie were first and fifth at the Class 4A state high school tournament last spring, helping Central Kitsap to a second-place finish.
Debbie Lee was there for almost every shot at every one of her daughters’ tournaments.
“She was very involved, no question about it,” Naff said.
Naff, who caddied for Eyrnne Lee at her first U.S. Women’s Open in 2008, said he’s talked to both sisters since their mother’s death.
“It’s very sad of course,” he said. “But they’re pretty well adjusted, stable kids. They are dealing with it as well as anybody possibly could.”


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