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Inbee Park, winner of the 2002 U.S. Girls’ Junior and
a finalist on two other occasions, added the biggest
championship in women’s golf to her trophy collection with her victory in the 2008 U.S. Women’s Open at
Interlachen Country Club in Edina, Minn.
While everyone atop the leader board going into the final round stumbled, the 19-yearold Park managed a
2-under-par 71 (9-under 283) to win the 2008 U.S. Women’s Open by four strokes, thus becoming the youngest champion in the event’s history and usurping the mark held by one of her country’s greatest players.
Se Ri Pak, who won a memorable 20-hole playoff in 1998 over amateur Jenny Chuasiriporn, previously was the youngest winner at 20 years, 9 months.
“I am very honored to win this championship,” said Park, who now resides in Henderson, Nev. “It’s the first win for my career and hopefully there will be a lot more. I really can’t believe I just did this.”
The second-year LPGA Tour player joined 15 players, including Laura Davies and Annika Sorenstam, to make her initial victory a U.S. Women’s Open title.
The day was not so thrilling for 54-hole leader Stacy Lewis. The 23-year-old from The Woodlands, Texas, who was making her professional debut, double-bogeyed her
second hole and finished with a 5-over 78 to share third with 2005 U.S. Girls’ Junior champion In-Kyung Kim and Angela Park of Brazil, who tied for second in 2007.
“I felt like I didn’t play that poorly,” said Lewis, a member of the victorious 2008 USA Curtis Cup team, where she went 5-0. “I just got above some of the holes and you just can’t be there. It’s hard to be upset. I finished third at the U.S. Open [in] my first pro event.”
Paula Creamer, 21, of Pleasanton, Calif., seeking her first major, also double bogeyed the second hole and carded a 78 to share sixth at 3-under 289, while 1993 Women’s Open runner-up Helen Alfredsson had a 75 to get solo second.
Sorenstam, who retired at the end of the year, ended her disappointing week with a highlight-reel eagle-3 hole-out from 199 yards away with a 6-iron at the 72nd hole. The 37-year-old Swede shot a 78 to tie for 24th at 3-over 295.
Ever since Park showed up at the 2002 U.S. Girls’ Junior at Echo Lake Country Club in Westfield, N.J., where she won the title as the stroke-play medalist, she’s been collecting USGA hardware. Twice she was the runner-up at the Girls’ Junior — losing a 5-up lead with 10 holes to play in 2003 against Sukjin Lee Wuesthoff and she lost to In-Kyung Kim in ‘05 — and twice she has walked away with bronze medals: semifinalist at the 2003 U.S. Women’s Amateur and ’04 Women’s Amateur Public Links.
And in 2007 at Pine Needles, she contended during the final round of the Women’s Open ©USGA/Hunter Martin before settling for a share of fourth place in just her second start at that championship.
On a cool and blustery Sunday at Interlachen where Park was the lone competitor among the final nine groups to shoot better than par and the scoring average was 76.162. The new champion hit 10 of 18 greens in regulation and needed just 26 putts on the challenging Donald Ross layout. That included a clutch par at the ninth that maintained her two-stroke lead at the time over Lewis as well as a sand save at the par-3. Her only hiccup over the final nine holes was a bogey 5 at the difficult 17th hole, but she closed with a tap-in birdie for the widest margin of victory since Karrie Webb’s eight-stroke win at Pine Needles in 2001.
Starts - 3
Best Finish - Winner in 2008
Rds - 2
Cuts Made - 10
Top 3 - 1
Top 5 - 2
Top 10 - 2
Top 25 - 2
Avg. - 71.40
Scores In 60s - 3
Rds Under Par - 6
Earnings - $715,549.00