By Bill Fields
If you see Christopher Lee at a golf course in the vicinity of his family’s home in Loxahatchee, Fla., chances are you will also see his sister, Christiana Marcellus. Christopher, whose nickname is “Poppy,” is 13, a golfer for nearly a decade. Christiana, “Mouse” to her friends, is 9 and has been playing for almost half her young life.
“She started playing when she was about 4,” says their father, Ira Lee. “She has pretty much followed in his footsteps and looked up to him as big brother. She copied his swing, wanted to hit the ball as far as him. She’s very competitive, and so is he.”
Christiana’s competitiveness—and golf talent—was evident in the 2017 Drive, Chip and Putt local qualifier at PGA National Resort & Spa in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., on July 5. Competing in the Girls 10-11 division, Marcellus ran away with the title, scoring 119 points to defeat the second-place finisher by 56 points.
Christopher was a contestant in the Boys 14-15 division, but his score in the chipping portion hurt his chances, and the rising eighth-grader at Morningside Academy was not one of the three boys to advance in his age group.
Two years ago, Christopher advanced through local Drive, Chip and Putt qualifying but his PGA Junior League team had a competition on the same day as the DCP subregional.
“There was a conflict, and I told him he couldn’t be in St. Augustine and Orlando on the same day and that he would have to make a decision,” Ira says. “He said, ‘I’ve got to be with my team.’ He gave up a potential shot to make it to Augusta National to be with his team, which was pretty cool.”
This summer, Christopher also pulled for Christiana when she competed in the in the Subregional at PGA Center for Learning & Performance in Port St. Lucie, Fla., on Aug. 13.
“There’s some good-natured sibling competition there,” says Bob Baldassari, Director of Youth Golf Development for the PGA of America, who has known the family since Christopher was enrolled at age 6 for junior lessons at PGA Golf Club when Baldassari was the facility’s general manager. “She’s doing well, and so is Chris. They both work hard at the game, but Chris is a little more serious on the course because that’s his personality. Christiana always has a smile, always enjoys being out there.”
Ira, produce manager for a food services distribution company, and his wife, Marie, don’t play golf, but Christopher and Christiana got hooked soon after being exposed to the game. Christopher formerly played baseball, and Christiana participated in gymnastics before deciding they wanted to concentrate on golf. “She turned to me one day and said, ‘I want to play more golf. Golf is more fun than gymnastics,’ ” Ira Lee recalled.
“It was really fun,” Christiana, who will be in fourth grade this year, said of her introduction to golf. “Winning and having fun are the best parts.”
Christiana’s early golf swings left no doubt about her passion and potential.
“She was always a natural at it, but we were afraid she was going to swing so hard she would hurt herself,” says her father. “She would come around so fast with the club that it she would hit herself in the back of the head. It’s going to be interesting to see what she does in the future because she has a great fearless attitude. She loves to compete and has a great attitude. She’s not afraid to hit a putt in the back of the cup. She could go far because she’s not afraid.”
Baldassari agrees that the “proverbial sky is the limit” for both children.
“It’s neat to see all Christopher has accomplished and that his younger sister has joined him in the game,” Baldassari says. “It’s a really neat family in how they embrace the game. I get questions from a lot of parents, who will say, ‘My kid’s the next T.W. [Tiger Woods]. I try to remind them that it’s not your wishes but what the kid wants. Parents need to keep making it fun, so that the kids are eager and anxious to be on the golf course.”
That’s certainly the case now for Christopher and Christiana—not that golf is all-consuming for the younger sibling whose favorite school subject is math.
“My daughter called me the other day,” Irs said, “saying, ‘Daddy, I want to re-do my room. I want to paint it teal.’ ”