Bedminster, N.J.– Hee Kyung Seo and Jinyoung Pak both said that Monday's U.S. Women's Open sectional qualifier was the first time either of them had played 36 holes in a day.
Maybe they should do it more often.
The two Koreans, along with Belen Mozo of Spain, earned the three available spots in the 2011 U.S. Women's Open after an arduous day on the rain-soaked Forest Course at Fiddler's Elbow Country Club.
"This is my first experience [playing 36 holes]. I had to have my caddie help keep me awake," said Seo, who earned medalist honors with a 3-under-par total of 141.
Whatever her caddie did to keep her alert and focused helped the 24-year-old Seo play relatively stress-free in the afternoon after firing a brilliant 4-under-par 68 in the morning, when the course yielded few low rounds. In fact, the only under-par scores recorded by the 69-player field in the morning session were by the three eventual qualifiers.
The wet conditions made the 6,514-yard Forest Course play much longer.
"We never had a chance to go at the par 5s in two," said Mozo. "But the course was in perfect shape and the fairways were in really good shape."
Because of the difficult conditions, play extended well into the evening and finished minutes before the qualifier would have been halted for darkness. The last group of the day finished around 8:10 p.m. EDT. Noticeable during the long wait to the end of the day was Mozo, who wasn't sure if her 1-under 143 would be good enough to get her a spot in the U.S. Women's Open, which will be played July 7-10 at the Broadmoor’s East Course in Colorado Springs, Colo.
"I played wonderful golf, but I did so many silly things that I may regret, I think," said the 22-year-old Mozo before she found out she had qualified. Mozo also qualified for last year’s Women’s Open at Oakmont Country Club outside of Pittsburgh after completing her college eligibility at the University of Southern California.
The field at Fiddler's Elbow featured several LPGA Tour players, some of whom competed at last week’s Sybase Match Play Championship at nearby Hamilton Farm Golf Club. Seo and Mozo, both rookies on the LPGA Tour, played in the event, but each player viewed their time at Sybase differently in respect to how it affected them in Monday's qualifier.
"The weather was similar [at both events], so I knew that I had to hang in through the bad weather and know that everyone had to play under the same conditions. I knew I had to keep on battling," said Mozo, who lost in the second round after defeating countrywoman and good friend Azahara Munoz in the opening round of the Sybase.
Seo, who has qualified for the last two U.S. Women's Opens, viewed her time at the Sybase as secondary to her preparations for the sectional qualifier. After losing in the second round, Seo stuck around and practiced at Hamilton Farm to keep her game sharp.
"This qualifying is more important to me [than the Sybase Match Play Championship], so I was focused on Monday," said the 24-year-old Seo.
Pak, who debuted on the LPGA Tour in 2007, fought through a tough ball-striking day with a solid short game to finish tied with Mozo at 1-under-par 143.
"My up and downs were good, but I didn’t like my [full] shots at all," said Pak with a laugh as she recalled her two rounds. "I didn't make any long putts today, but I played pretty solid."
The biggest name at the qualifier was Grace Park, winner of six LPGA events, including the 2004 Kraft Nabisco Championship. She also won the 1998 U.S. Women’s Amateur. After a disappointing 7-over-par 79 in the morning, Park came storming back with a 5-under 67, which was the lowest round of the day. But Park was unable to overcome the rough start and settled for the second and final alternate spot at 146.
Jennifer Song, the 2009 U.S. Women’s Amateur and U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links champion as well as a 2010 USA Curtis Cup Team member, earned first-alternate status at 1-over 145.
While Song and Park were disappointed not to qualify, Mozo was thrilled that the marathon day had a happy ending for her.
"It means the world to play in the U.S. Women's Open," said Mozo when asked about playing in Colorado Springs. "It would be great. It is one of my big goals."
Alex Urban is the USGA’s communications intern. E-mail questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.