By Ward Clayton
Se Ri Pak's impactful moment
This week's U.S. Women's Open at Blackwolf Run in Kohler, Wis., will bring back memories of one of the most dramatic finishes in the history of the tournament.
In 1998, two 20-year-olds with Asian heritage battled through Monday to determine the winner of the tournament. South Korea's Se Ri Pak, who would become the LPGA Rookie of the Year, faced off against Duke University amateur Jenny Chuasiriporn. Pak is largely credited with starting the South Korean focus on women's golf which has 28 natives in this week's Women's Open field and four champions since her victory, including defending champion So Yeon Ryu. Ryu, age 8 in 1998, was considering becoming a violinist before watching Pak's win and turned her interest to golf. Chuasiriporn, whose family emigrated from Thailand and owned a restaurant in Baltimore, drew attention because of her smile and amateur golf innocence. Another former Blue Devil, Brittany Lang, became the first former Duke player to win on the LPGA two weeks ago at the Manulife Financial LPGA Classic.
Chuasiriporn, a rising senior at Duke, holed a 45-foot birdie putt across the 72nd green - holding her mouth in disbelief and hugging older brother and caddie Joey - to tie Pak and set up an 18-hole playoff the next day. In the playoff, they were tied coming to the 18th hole. Pak made a spectacular bogey after playing out of the water on her drive and Chuasiriporn also made bogey. Pak won with a birdie on the 20th hole. Today, the United States Golf Association has a three-hole playoff instead of an 18-hole playoff the following day.
Pak has gone on to win 25 times on the LPGA and is a World Golf Hall of Fame member. She is the field for this week's event.
Chuasiriporn made a brief try at professional golf after her collegiate career. She now goes by her given first name and married last name, Wanalee Betts, as a nurse in Richmond, Va., and hasn't played golf in five years.
"So that's why that day - so much grateful for that moment - because I love it a lot for a whole week," Pak said recently. "That's why I think that time gets all of my career to begin."
South Korean impact
A South Korean player has finished either first or second in the last five U.S. Women's Opens. Inbee Park (2008), Eun-Hee Ji (2009) and So Yeon Ryu (2011) have won three of the last four.
Here is the South Korean connection in the last five U.S. Women's Opens:
|2007||Angela Park||T2||Born in Brazil to Korean parents; American citizen now|
|2008||Inbee Park||1||Rookie winner and youngest winner ever at age 19|
|2009||Eun-Hee Ji||1||Has recorded two LPGA wins, including one major|
|2010||Na Yeon Choi||T2||Season marked by two wins, tops in stroke average and money|
|2011||So Yeon Ryu||1||Beat another South Korean, Hee Kyung Seo, in playoff|
Blackwolf Run, Part II
Expect par to be a good score this week at Blackwolf Run. The Pete Dye-designed course in Kohler, Wis., was difficult in 1998, with Se Ri Pak and Jenny Chuasiriporn tying at 6-over-par 290, the highest winning 72-hole total in 35 years. In the third round that year, with the wind blowing out of the northeast, only five women broke 75.
Blackwolf Run will play 500 yards longer and one shot higher to par this year than it did in 1998. The par-72 course can measure 6,984 yards, but is more likely to play no longer than 6,850 yards. The Broadmoor measured 7,047 yards and played to par 71 last year to become the longest Women's Open course in history; however, that event was played at altitude in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Blackwolf Run's par-4 14th hole will likely be played as a drivable par 4 at least one day. The seventh hole will play as a par 5 this year after being a 415-yard par 4 in 1998.
Neighboring Whistling Straits, the site of the 2004 and 2010 PGA Championships, will host the 2015 PGA and 2020 Ryder Cup.
Future sites for the U.S. Women's Open include: 2013, June 27-30, Sebonak Golf Club, Southampton, N.Y.; 2014, June 19-22, Pinehurst (N.C.) No. 2 (week after U.S. Open on same course); and 2015, July 9-12, Lancaster (Pa.) CC.
U.S. Women's Open bits
There are 19 teenagers who qualified for the 2012 U.S. Women's Open. Hannah O'Sullivan, 14, of Cupertino, Calif., is the championship's youngest competitor, six months younger than fellow 14-year-old Megan Khang, of Rockland, Mass. … The field includes players from 25 countries … The 1:58 p.m., CDT tee time is sure to get a lot of attention this week. Off No. 1 on Thursday are World No. 1 Yani Tseng, No. 5 Na Yeon Choi and No. 6 Suzann Pettersen. Off No. 10 are World No. 2 Stacy Lewis, No. 8 Cristie Kerr and reigning Kraft Nabisco Championship winner Sun Young Yoo of South Korea. … Three women have captured the tournament the week before the U.S. Women's Open and then won the national championship. They include Mickey Wright in 1964 (Waldemar Open), Carol Mann in 1965 (Carling Open) and Amy Alcott in 1980 (Mayflower Classic). Japan's Ai Miyazato, the winner of the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship last week, is aiming for that double this week. … The record for most aces in one U.S. Women's Open, three, occurred at Blackwolf Run in 1998. Two came on the eighth hole and one on the 13th. … This week's U.S. Women's Open is the first time mobile devices will be allowed on course for any United States Golf Association event.
Relations and No Relation
There were some close relationships faring well at different places last weekend in professional golf.
On the Web.com Tour, Martin Piller led for a while during Saturday's third round before a final-round 76 resulted in a T21 at the United Leasing Championship in Indiana. At the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship, Martin's wife, Gerina, mimicked her husband with a final-round 76 (both had nines of 39-37) and finished T43.
Also on the Web.com Tour, Nicholas Thompson shot a third-round 65 on the way to a T9 finish while his younger sister, Lexi, finished T43 in Rogers, Ark.
Venezuela had the unusual double golf notoriety also. Veronica Felibert was the first- and second-round leader at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship. Felibert, a Caracas native who turned 27 last Saturday, finished a career-best T4 and recorded the best-ever LPGA finish by a Venezuelan golfer. Chela Quintana and Maru Martinez are other Venezuelan golfers with LPGA experience. On the PGA TOUR, Venezuela's Jhonattan Vegas, the first Venezuelan to win on that Tour, also finished T4 at the AT&T National.
Not related but often deemed to be, Japan's Ai Miyazato birdied the final hole at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship to beat Mika Miyazato by one stroke. Both are from Okinawa and have known each for other for 10 years but aren't related. Mika's runner-up finish was her third consecutive top-three finish.