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Originally published April 13, 2013 at 8:00 PM | Page modified April 13, 2013 at 8:08 PM

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Former UW star Richard Lee finds success in his second year on PGA Tour

Lee is enjoying his second year on the PGA Tour and has had three top-13 finishes.

Seattle Times staff

Local players on pro tours

PGA Tour
Fred Couples (O'Dea HS)
Andres Gonzales (Capital HS of Olympia)
Jeff Gove (Inglemoor HS)
Troy Kelly (Central Kitsap HS, UW)
Richard H. Lee (Newport HS, Bellevue College, UW)
Ryan Moore (Cascade Christian HS of Puyallup)
Kyle Stanley (Bellarmine Prep)

Champions Tour
Fred Couples (O'Dea HS)
Rick Fehr (Hale HS)
Kirk Triplett (Pullman HS)

Buy.com Tour
Alex Prugh (Ferris HS of Spokane, UW)
Andrew Putnam (Life Christian Academy of Tacoma)
Michael Putnam (Life Christian Academy of Tacoma)

Canadian Tour
Zach Bixler (Richland HS, UW)
Chris Killmer (Bellingham HS, UW)
James Lepp (UW)
Brock Mackenzie (Eisenhower HS of Yakima, UW)
Nick Taylor (UW)

LPGA Tour
Jimin Kang (King's HS)
Paige Mackenzie (Eisenhower HS of Yakima, UW)
Wendy Ward (lives outside Spokane)
Kim Welch (WSU)

LPGA Legends
JoAnne Carner (Lake Washington HS of Kirkland)
Semetra Tour
Anya Alvarez (UW)
Molly Aaronson (UW)
Renee Skidmore (Cascade-Everett HS)

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The awe factor is gone.

And this time around, Richard H. Lee knows what to expect.

The former University of Washington star is enjoying his second year on the PGA Tour, and buoyed by three top-13 finishes, he is in 90th place on the FedEx points list.

One of Lee's goals for the season is to stay in the top 125 on the points list, which will allow him to retain his Tour card. Last year, Lee finished 138th on the money list but got his Tour card back by finishing in a tie for fourth at Qualifying School.

"I am happy with the start I've had, but I want more," said Lee, 25. "Obviously, I am not content. I want more, but I feel like I am making good progress, and the results are coming."

Lee said his second year on the Tour is easier because he knows the courses now, and knows what to prepare for during his practice rounds.

He also has made changes in his routine at the driving range, hitting fewer balls but being more exact at what he wants to work on.

"I used to spend a lot of time on the range, but it wasn't really productive," he said. "It's not the same as playing, but you want to make it as real as possible to tournament conditions. You want your practice designed as close as you can to that. I am spending less time practicing. but the time I do spend is a lot more quality."

Washington coach Matt Thurmond recruited Lee out of Bellevue College. What struck Thurmond from the start was how single-minded Lee was about becoming a pro golfer.

"He always knew exactly what he wanted, and everything he did was with that in mind," Thurmond said.

It was that passion that led Lee to leave Newport High School in Bellevue after his sophomore year and go to the Philippines to train under a friend on the Asian Tour.

After a couple of years, Lee was homesick and came home.

At Washington, Lee was one of the Pac-12's best players. He was the medalist as a senior at the NCAA regional in Bremerton in 2010, his lone win as a Husky while his wife, Kristin, and daughter Israella, then 4, followed him.

"That was my biggest win to that point," said Lee, who closely follows how UW is doing. "That last round, I didn't have my best game. I struggled with my ball-striking but my mental focus was tough. That allowed me to pull through."

That mental toughness came through in 2011 Q School, when he seemed out of contention with two rounds left after shooting a 78. But he followed with a 68 and 65 to tie for 24th, putting him among the top 25 who earned Tour cards.

He didn't have to sweat it out as much this past winter as he was always among the leaders at Q School. He hit his best shots when it mattered most, and he said that is the key to success on the PGA Tour.

"Everyone out here has all the shots, but the guys like Rory (McIlroy) and Tiger (Woods), they are able to hit great shots when they really need to," he said.

Lee and his family have settled in Scottsdale, Ariz., but he still lists his residence as Bellevue, "because I wanted to be introduced from Bellevue. That's my home."

The family is on the move much of the year as Kristin and Israella, who is being home-schooled, travel with Richard. He wouldn't want it any other way.

"It's the best thing to have them with me every week," he said.

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