Tough Open Luck Hasn't Fazed Sorenstam
By Ken Klavon, USGA
South Hadley, Mass. - It's hard to believe that it has been eight years since Annika Sorenstam won the U.S. Women's Open.
That's not to say she hasn't come close. Who could forget the meltdown on the 72nd hole in last year's championship at Pumpkin Ridge in North Plains, Ore., where she all but had the title in the palms of her hands? Or the runner-up finish in 2002 at Prairie Dunes Country Club in Hutchinson, Kan., where Juli Inkster fired a blistering 66 on the final day?
Sorenstam said Tuesday she still thinks about those near-misses.
"I think about [last year] quite a bit, especially the last shot, the second shot on 18," said Sorenstam, who had been battling the flu that day. "It was a par 5 and I was playing aggressive. I was going for the green, figured a birdie would do it and then just hit a bad shot at the wrong moment."
That "bad" shot ended up nestled among trees, near a fence and ultimately cost her when she couldn't get up and down. But she has moved on. It's a trait she learned early in her career as she strived to become the best player on the LPGA Tour. To say she's intense and driven would be an understatement.
There have been challenges, too. For two years, 1999 and 2000, Karrie Webb stole the spotlight away from her. It made Sorenstam more determined to get better. She hired a trainer, underwent a vigorous workout regimen to get stronger and worked extensively on her game.
Last year she made headlines when she became the first woman since 1945 to compete in a PGA Tour event. Even though she missed the cut at the Colonial, carding a 71-75, she took nothing but positives away from the experience.
"I do think the Colonial opened a lot of doors for me," said Sorenstam. "And I think a lot of people recognized me after that."
And she remains a big draw. The gallery swarmed on the driving range and then later again when she hit the course for a practice round on Tuesday. In fact, she and Michelle Wie are the only two players accompanied by guards while trying to get around The Orchards.
Someone asked her if winning back-to-back Women's Opens in 1995 and 1996 gave her a false sense that it would always be so easy. (The victory in 1995, incidentally, was her first career victory in a hall-of-fame career). Sorenstam paused.
"Well, it's never easy to win a tournament, but winning in '95 kind of caught me by surprise," she said. "I didn't even think I could win a tournament coming out on tour, and suddenly I won the U.S. Open.
"It is really hard to win this championship. A lot of time I get in my own way because I want it so badly."
Making A Name For Herself
Fourteen-year-old Michelle Wie seems to be the media darling for the teen-age golfing generation, but 15-year-old In-Bee Park of Korea has etched a name for herself, albeit quietly.
Park, coming off a semifinal loss to eventual winner Ya-Ni Tseng in the U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links (WAPL), has a burgeoning resume.
After winning the 2002 Girls' Junior championship at 14, she nearly became the first player since Hollis Stacy in 1970 to repeat. But she lost in the final to Sukjin-Lee Weusthoff despite leading 5 up with 10 holes to go. Also in 2002, she advanced to the second round of her first Women's Amateur, following that with an appearance in the semifinals last August (lost to champion Virada Nirapathpongporn).
This year she took another stride toward forward, tying for eighth place at the LPGA Takefuji Classic in Las Vegas, Nev. Now she finds herself in her first Women's Open after going through sectional qualifying at The Country Club At Heathrow (Fla.).
"To finish in the top-10," said Park, who drove all day Sunday from The Golden Horseshoe Golf Club in Williamsburg, Va., to South Hadley. "I don't want to be qualifying next year."
When the 15-year-old Tseng won the WAPL this past weekend she became just the second player from Chinese Taipei to ever win the championship. The other player: that would be 22-year-old Candie Kung, who won it in 2001.
Now established on the LPGA Tour, she found out Monday that Tseng had won and said she was pleased for her. She doesn't know Tseng but planned on sending her a message through an intermediary contact they share.
Chinese Taipei, formerly known as Taiwan and once a dominant force in Little League Baseball, isn't exactly known for producing golfers.
"No one really cares about golf there, but it is growing," said Kung. "People might understand her win more because I won it."
Pass On Pepper
Since 2000, Dottie Pepper has battled a litany of injuries. It's also the reason why she's played in just one Women's Open the past four years. After withdrawing in 2000, she placed third at Pine Needles Resort and Golf Club in 2001 only to miss 2002 and withdraw last year.
The pattern continued when Pepper was forced to withdraw Monday from the Open. This year it's a neck injury preventing from competing.
In any event, one person's loss is another's gain. Twenty-seven-year-old Jennifer Greggain of Puyallup, Wash., who became the first female player on the Puyallup High School boys' golf team, will take her place. She was an alternate after competing in sectional qualifying at West Knollwood Country Club in West Bloomfield, Mich., on June 14.
Greggain appeared in one other Women's Open, in 2001 at Pine Needles Resort and Golf Club in Southern Pines, N.C. Five months pregnant at the time, she shot 79-74-153 to miss the cut.
There are 29 USGA champions in the field this week. . Thirteen players have combined to win 32 of the previous 58 Women's Opens. . The Orchards was designed by Donald Ross and opened in 1922 as a nine-hole course. The other nine holes were completed in 1927.. The first-place prize for this year's championship is $560,000, the largest winner's check in women's golf.. Speaking of money, Inkster holds the distinction as the all-time leader in Open earnings with $1,167,143.28. And who is second? Webb with $1,159,282.. Other than the 1987 U.S. Girls' Junior, which Michelle McGann won, this marks the second USGA event to be held at The Orchards.
Ken Klavon is the Web Editor for the USGA. E-mail him with questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.