U.S. Women’s Open returns to Blackwolf Run, where new era began in ’98
BY HERB GOULD firstname.lastname@example.org June 30, 2012 12:46AM
Se Ri Pak created a South Korean golf surge when she won the last Open at Blackwolf Run. | Craig Jones~Allsport
AT A GLANCE
When: Thursday-next Sunday.
Where: Blackwolf Run, Kohler, Wis., near Sheboygan.
Field: 156 players.
Prize money: TBD ($3.25 million with first place of $585,000 in 2011).
Tickets: $15 for practice days (Monday through Wednesday), $45 for tournament days (Thursday through Sunday) and $150 for all seven days. Kids 17 and under admitted free when accompanied by an adult. Special-access upgrades also available. For more information and purchases, visit USGA.org and AmericanClubResort.com.
2011 champion: So Yeon Ryu.
On TV: Thursday and Friday: 3-7 p.m., ESPN2; Saturday and Sunday: 2-5 p.m., Ch. 5.
TOP 10 RANKINGS
1. Yani Tseng, Taiwan
2. Stacy Lewis, United States
3. Shanshan Feng, China
4. Na Yeon Choi, S. Korea
5. Suzann Pettersen, Norway
6. Ai Miyazato, Japan
7. Sun Ju Ahn, S. Korea*
8. Cristie Kerr, United States
9. I.K. Kim, S. Korea
10. Jiyai Shin, S. Korea*
* Not competing in Women’s Open
Updated: August 2, 2012 10:37AM
It will be 6,812 yards of national championship teeth gnashing, including a 16th-hole stress test that has been lengthened to 602 yards.
And that’s from the ladies’ tees.
It’s no wonder, then, that Juli Inkster calls Blackwolf Run, site of this year’s U.S. Women’s Open, the ‘‘toughest course I have ever played for a Women’s Open.’’
It’s safe to say Inkster’s low-aggregate record of 16 under at Old Waverly in 1999, one of her two Women’s Open championships, won’t be challenged when play begins Thursday at Blackwolf Run, in Kohler, Wis., about an hour north of Milwaukee. The only longer Women’s Open course was last year in the thin Colorado air of the Broadmoor.
The first time the Women’s Open came to Blackwolf Run, in 1998, Se Ri Pak beat amateur Jenny Chuasiriporn in a 20-hole playoff after going four rounds at 6 over, the highest winning score since 1983.
Beyond the dramatic overtime finish, that Women’s Open was remarkable for at least two other reasons.
One, it ushered in an era of championship golf in Wisconsin, which hadn’t hosted a golf major in 65 years, since the 1933 PGA. In the last 14 years, Whistling Straits has hosted two men’s PGAs (2004 and 2010) and will be the site of the 2015 PGA and 2020 Ryder Cup. Whistling Straits is the headliner of the four-course Kohler/American Club complex, which includes two courses at Blackwolf Run. Nine holes from each of the Blackwolf Run courses, River and Meadow Valleys, are being used for this Women’s Open.
Two, the 1998 Women’s Open was ground-breaking because the victory by Pak, then a 20-year-old LPGA rookie, triggered a surge in the popularity of golf in her native South Korea. That was the first of five Women’s Open championships won by South Koreans, including four of the last seven, all by different players.
‘‘I feel like Se Ri Pak was born in ’98, on July 6, at Blackwolf Run,’’ Pak said.
Of the three South Koreans who played in that Open, only Pak made the cut. By last year, 35 South Koreans were in the Women’s Open field; six of them finished in the top 10, including defending champion So Yeon Ryu, the third South Korean champion in the last four U.S. Women’s Opens.
“Se Ri is my idol,’’ said Ryu, who was 8 years old in 1998. “She’s the reason I’m here.’’
Considering that four of the top 10 women in the world rankings are from South Korea, a sixth championship wouldn’t be a surprise. And considering that top-ranked Yani Tseng (Taiwan), No. 3 Shanshan Feng (China) and No. 6 Ai Miyazato (Japan) also are competing, American women, who have won only two of the last seven U.S. Women’s Opens, will need to be on their games. Their long games.