Oakmont, Pa. - The 2010 U.S Women’s Open could ultimately come down to what transpires on Oakmont’s 17th hole.
The last four holes at Oakmont all are challenging and could be a factor in determining the next champion. The 15th has a treacherous green, while holes 16 and 18 are fairly straight-forward.
But it’s the short par-4 17th that can taunt and torture the pretender. The 276-yard hole can be reached off the tee, but drives must carry six fairway bunkers and then scoot up a narrow opening. Wayward shots can be swallowed by Big Mouth, the enormous greenside bunker.
Beyond that, this treacherous green is exciting to read. In the heat of it, par may be the best score before a triumphant march up the 72nd fairway.
Remember, this is the hole that ultimately led to Jim Furyk’s demise at the 2007 U.S. Open. He made a bogey-5 and tied for second with Tiger Woods, a stroke back of champion Angel Cabrera.
The last time the USGA conducted the U.S. Women’s Open at Oakmont was 18 years ago, when Patty Sheehan registered a
|Patty Sheehan won the last U.S. Women's Open held at Oakmont in 1992. (USGA Museum)|
Not only did she outlast Juli Inkster in an 18-hole playoff, she made a dramatic birdie putt on the 72nd green to forge a tie. Sheehan’s heroism came after her inexplicable loss of an 11-stroke lead during the final 36 holes of the 1990 Women’s Open at Atlanta Athletic Club. Sheehan was devastated but determined to win the championship. Two years later, she did. Sheehan added a second title in 1994.
Inkster, a three-time U.S. Women’s Amateur champion, waited until 1999 to collect her first Women’s Open title. Three years later, she held off Annika Sorenstam at Prairie Dunes Country Club for her second Women’s Open triumph.
When the 1992 Women’s Open was played at Oakmont, players competed on a course that had previously hosted six U.S. Opens (Oakmont has since hosted two more U.S. Opens in 1994 and 2007).
Until ’92, the Women’s Open had only been played at three U.S. Open sites; the Upper and Lower Courses at Baltusrol and Colonial Country Club. At a couple of Women’s Open sites, players were at the same club but not the same course, such as Winged Foot, where the women played the East Course while the men had played the West Course.
The Highlands Course of Atlanta Athletic Club hosted the 1976 U.S. Open but the 1990 Women’s Open was played on the adjacent Riverside Course.
After Oakmont in 1992, U.S. Open sites Cherry Hills Country Club, Newport Country Club and Interlachen Country Club have been host venues for the Women’s Open.
Conversely, the women played Hazeltine C.C. in 1966 before the men played the U.S. Open there in 1970.
One of the great shots in Women’s Open history the past 35 years came in 1983 at Cedar Ridge Country Club in Tulsa, Okla. It’s remembered for its difficulty and the impact it had on the championship. JoAnne Carner opened that Women’s Open with an 81, which put her in 101st place. Incredibly, by Sunday afternoon she was in the thick of it. Jan Stephenson was in the clubhouse at six over par.
Carner struggled up the final hole, needing a birdie to tie. Big Mama, as she was affectionately called, lost her drive to the right and her ball sat in the face of a deep bunker, some 180 yards from the green, impeded by an overhanging lip. Carner pulled a 5-wood, gave it a few wristy little flicks and climbed down into the sand. Her right foot was far below her left but she took the club back in that smooth, short takeaway, made a mighty swing, and then fell back, off balance.
The ball soared toward the green, ending 12 feet from the hole. Carner, however,narrowly missed the putt and finished tied for second, a stroke behind Stephenson. Nevertheless, that brilliant shot gave her a chance to force a playoff. It was one of many in the career of the eight-time USGA champion, but Carner says that was her best.
Looking Back Eight Years
The 2002 Women’s Open at Prairie Dunes was special. Nancy Lopez, who popularized modern women’s golf, played with the great champions Patty Sheehan and Betsy King. Lopez had just lost her father, Domingo Lopez, who had guided her through her career. In the Media Center she cried about her loss, and then encountered former USGA president Judy Bell, who had returned to the Women’s Open after a torturous battle with cancer. The two great figures of the game shared an emotional reunion. And when Inkster won, she walked past Bell near the 72nd green, This one’s for you, Judy, said Inkster.
Heat Of The Moment
The USGA’s summer championships are, at times, played in brutal weather. Temperatures were extreme at the 1991 Women’s Open at famed Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas. The bentgrass greens suffered in the heat. They turned brown and were almost dead. Colonial’s superintendent devised a unique solution, packing the greens overnight with crushed ice. Meg Mallon stayed cool, winning by two strokes over Pat Bradley. Mallon waited 13 years to collect a second Women’s Open title at The Orchards in South Hadley, Mass., but the weather was a little less sticky.
It’s A Crocodile
French amateur Catherine Lacoste won the 1967 Women’s Open and remains the only amateur to have won this championship. Her victory also called attention to Lacoste sports clothing. Catherine’s father, tennis champion Rene Lacoste, founded the brand. By the way, the logo isn’t an alligator. It’s a crocodile. When he competed, Rene Lacoste was known as the crocodile, because of his crocodile skin luggage.
One of the loudest ovations ever heard at a Women’s Open came two years ago at Interlachen Country Club when Hall of Famer Annika Sorenstam, competing in her last Women’s Open, holed out a 6-iron for an eagle at the 72nd hole. The echo could be heard all the way from Edina, Minn., to downtown Minneapolis.
Amateur Jenny Chuasiriporn also created a stir when she converted a 45-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole at Blackwolf Run in Kohler, Wis., to tie Se Ri Pak in 1998. Pak won a 19-hole playoff the following day for the title.
JoAnne Carner’s walk-up to the 72nd green in 1987 at Plainfield (N.J.) Country Club was quite emotional. Carner led by a stroke at the time and the Hall of Famer said the ovation so rattled her that she three-putted from the fringe, fell into a tie, and lost the three-way playoff to Laura Davies (Ayaka Okamoto was also involved). At the time, only about 700 people were in the grandstands, but the din had to have generated more decibels-per-person, and the video replay doesn’t provide the full effect.
That was also the year women’s professional golf became global. Not only did you have Carner (USA), Okamoto (Japan) and Davies (England) playing off for the Women’s Open, but Japan’s Chako Higuchi won the LPGA Championship. Since 1987, the U.S. Women’s Open has had 11 foreign-born champions, including three by Sorenstam (Sweden).
Hall of Famer KathyWhitworth never won the U.S. Women’s Open, but in 1981 at LaGrange (Ill.) Country Club she shared the lead after 36 holes, and had a one-stroke lead through 54 holes. But she finished five strokes behind winner Pat Bradley. Whitworth knew on Saturday night that she couldn’t win. I woke up and it was raining, she said. I knew the course would play too long for me. Her $9,500 third-place check made her the first woman with $1-million in career earnings.
Thanks a million! she said.
Looking Back At 1982 Open
At the 1982 U.S. Women’s Open at Del Paso C.C. in Sacramento, Calif., few gave Janet Alex a chance. Attention was focused on past champions Sandra Haynie and Carner as well as rising star Beth Daniel. Working as an on-course ABC television announcer assigned to Alex’s group, you could see Alex clearly had something going. By the 13th hole of the final round, she had the lead. A birdie at 15 gave her a cushion. From our vantage point, she was swinging so well, with a noticeably unhurried rhythm that no one was going to beat her. Alex easily won by five strokes, ahead of Daniel, Haynie, Carner and
Donna Horton White.
The 1982 Women’s Open also offered a heroic moment. Daniel was tied with Alex at five under par. Suddenly, Daniel wasn’t tied. While addressing her ball on the eighth green, Daniel backed off. She had caused the ball to move, she said. No one else saw it. Daniel, who wanted so badly to win this championship and yet never did during her illustrious career, called a one-stroke penalty on herself. She eventually finished five strokes behind Alex, but what might have happened had Daniel not inadvertently moved herball?
Stars Come Out
In 1940, the Women’s Open didn’t exist and the most important women’s championship in this country was the U.S. Women’s Amateur. That’s where two famous film stars played in a USGA championship at Pebble Beach. The contestants included dancer and actress Ruby Keeler, who starred in films such as 42nd Street, and silent film star Vilma Banky, who co-starred in films with Rudolph Valentino. Keeler missed the cut in qualifying, but Banky, (Mrs. Rod LaRocque) qualified, only to lose in the first round to Curtis Cup star Dot Kirby.
Odds And Ends
Fred Corcoran, agent of Babe Zaharias and Sam Snead, first devised using red numbers for birdies in the 1920s while working the U.S. Amateur scoreboard. And that famous quote about the yips, Once you’ve had ‘em, you’ve got ‘em, originated with Tommy Armour… Funny to read some of the old words used by journalists long ago to describe women golfers. Distaff golfers. Proettes, and from a 1940 Time magazine article about the U.S. Women’s Amateur, golferines.
Four-time Women’s Open champion Mickey Wright to a friend considering strength training, Strong? You want to be strong? Hit a hundred drivers a day and you’ll be strong!
Rhonda Glenn is a manager of communications for the USGA. E-mail her with questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.