The 156 players at Sebonack are united by the dream of winning the U.S. Women’s Open June 25, 2013 By Hunki Yun, USGA

Despite winning 48 LPGA Tour events, Nancy Lopez never fulfilled her dream of winning the U.S. Open. (USGA/J.D. Cuban)

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – The competitors of the 2013 U.S. Women’s Open at Sebonack Golf Club are a diverse group. They range in age from two-time U.S. Women’s Open champion Juli Inkster, who turned 53 on Monday, to 14-year-old Nelly Korda.

Representing 23 countries, the players have come from halfway around the world and just down the road. Two-time champion Karrie Webb grew up in Queensland, Australia, 9,600 miles from Sebonack, while amateur Annie Park hails from Levittown on Long Island.

No matter where they are from or how old they are, whether they are professionals or amateurs, the bond that the 156 players in the field share is the elite position that the U.S. Women’s Open holds in their hearts and minds.

Winning the U.S. Open has always been my dream, said Yani Tseng, of Chinese Taipei, the top-ranked player in the Rolex Rankings from February 2011 to March 2013.
Honestly, playing in the U.S. Open was my dream when I was an amateur. Now, I can not just play, but I can think about winning this tournament. It’s huge for me. I really appreciate it and I’m very, very happy to be here just playing this tournament.

Stacy Lewis succeeded Tseng as the No. 1 player in the world earlier this year and held the mantle for four weeks. Both players have won multiple LPGA tournaments, including majors. But a win in the most demanding, most prestigious championship in women’s golf would be an unmatched career highlight for either player.

If you’re a U.S. player, this is your national championship, said Lewis, who tied for third in 2008 but hasn’t been in contention since. This is the tournament you want to win. It’s definitely been my nemesis the last few years.

In addition to being the championship that everyone wants to win most, the U.S. Women’s Open usually provides the toughest test. For winners, having overcome these obstacles adds to the sense of accomplishment.

When you walk out of the clubhouse, you know that the golf course is going to be a great test of golf, said 2010 U.S. Women’s Open champion Paula Creamer. You know it’s going to challenge you in so many ways.

The course and setup are at the heart of what distinguishes the U.S. Women’s Open from other championships. Designed by Tom Doak and eight-time USGA champion Jack Nicklaus, Sebonack Golf Club is the latest addition to a roster of memorable championship venues, ranging from modern gems such as Blackwolf Run and Pumpkin Ridge to historic courses such as Oakmont and Newport.

The primary importance in the U.S. Women’s Open is the golf course, said Tom O’Toole, a USGA vice president and chairman of the Championship Committee. That is paramount to everything: Can the golf course test the greatest players in the world?

Not surprisingly, the game’s best players have been best equipped to handle these challenges and win the championship over the years. Among the multiple U.S. Women’s Open champions are Betsy Rawls, Mickey Wright, Babe Didrikson Zaharias, JoAnne Carner and Annika Sorenstam.

Thanks largely to its champions, the U.S. Women’s Open possesses a rich history, which is an integral characteristic that adds to both its prestige and difficulties.

I think for the U.S. Open, it’s just not about a course, said Tseng. I think it’s the pressure. The U.S. Open pressure is going to make courses harder.

Tseng, 24, and Lewis, 28, will have additional opportunities to fulfill their dreams. But just as a U.S. Women’s Open victory can be a capstone, not winning can also define a career, the way it has for six-time U.S. Open runner-up Phil Mickelson.

Two of the greatest players in history, Kathy Whitworth and Nancy Lopez, have won 136 LPGA Tour events between them. But none of the titles has been the most prestigious in women’s golf.

In 1975, Lopez tied for second as an amateur in her second U.S. Women’s Open, then added three more runner-up finishes in 24 subsequent starts.

I think four seconds should equal a first, said Lopez at her final U.S. Women’s Open, in 2002. Winning the U.S. Open would have been a thrill for me. I would love to have won it, but if you’re not meant to win the U.S. Open, you’re not going to win it no matter how hard you try.

If I would have won the U.S. Open, I would have brought my sleeping bag and camped out on 18 and stayed there all night long. I swore I would do that.

The winner of the 2013 U.S. Open probably won’t pitch a tent outside the Sebonack clubhouse, but she will leave with an indelible place in golf history as well as the most coveted trophy in women’s golf.

Hunki Yun is the USGA’s digital publisher and web content manager. Email him at hyun@usga.org