New Zealand can now claim teen golf sensation Danny Lee as its own after the US Amateur Golf champion was awarded his citizenship at a ceremony yesterday.
New Zealand Golf high performance manager David Graham said this would enable South Korean-born Lee - who has played for his adopted country since he was 15 - to travel on a New Zealand passport.
Newstalk ZB reported that about 50 people gathered at Rotorua's Springfield Golf Course to support the 18-year-old.
Lee came to New Zealand with his family nine years ago and has previously travelled on a Korean passport.
"He had been granted his citizenship some time ago but it could not be conferred until the ceremony. We would have had the ceremony done three months ago but his playing schedule in the US didn't allow it.
"It had always been his intention to become a New Zealand citizen," Mr Graham said.
Lee will now be available to play for New Zealand in the Eisenhower Trophy next month.
The golfer turned knowledgeable heads in the United States last month when he marked his PGA Tour debut by finishing in a tie for 20th in the Wyndham Championship in North Carolina.
Either side of that standout effort he won the Western Amateur, then elbowed Tiger Woods from at least one record book by becoming the youngest US Amateur champion since 1895.
Aside from the Eisenhower Trophy world amateur teams championship in Adelaide on October 16-19, Lee's short- to medium-term playing schedule would predominantly feature professional events, Mr Graham said.
"He will concentrate on playing professional events so he can gain good experience," Graham said.
"Quite clearly his progression is to play primarily professional events as an amateur, and gain experience before he turns professional some time next year.
"It's great for him because he can learn his trade without some of the pressures some people go into it with."