Lancaster C.C. Provided Complete Test at 79th U.S. Women’s Open

By Ron Sirak

| Jun 02, 2024 | Lancaster, Pa.

Lancaster C.C. Provided Complete Test at 79th U.S. Women’s Open

Once again, the complete demands of a USGA championship were on full display in the 79th U.S. Women’s Open provided by Ally.

Once again, Lancaster Country Club provided a brilliant examination of all the qualities required to be a USGA champion.

Once again, the best in the world responded to the challenge as 2021 U.S. Women’s Open champion Yuka Saso held off Hinako Shibuno by three strokes to take home the Harton S. Semple Trophy and record $2.4 million check.

The beauty of 72 holes of stroke-play golf is the long march to the finish line, a trial by fire that can burn badly in one moment of physical or mental weakness. Nelly Korda, who made a 10 on the par-3 12th just three holes into her U.S. Women’s Open, can attest to that.

This week, at this championship, over this demanding William Flynn design, the complex requirements of championship golf were on full display.

Superb shot-making is a necessity, that’s a given. But the dramatic elevation changes at Lancaster Country Club, compounded by swirling wind the first two days, made approaching the sharply contoured greens a challenge that required a thoughtful plan of attack.

And the changing conditions – by Mother Nature and the stragegic daily alterations of the course set-up, gave the USGA what it wants from its national championships: a test of patience, discipline and, perhaps most importantly, the ability to adapt.

As it did in the 2015 U.S. Women’s Open, the layout answered every question asked of the USGA. It was a complete examination of a player’s physical and mental capacity.

The par-5 seventh hole that hugs the Conestoga River measured 523 yards in Sunday’s final round after being set up as a reachable-in-two 470 yards for Round 3.

No. 12, the par-3 where the green is guarded by a creek and approached from a teeing ground 45 feet above the green, played as as long as 174 yards and as short as 161 yards.

And No. 16, a wonderful short par 4 protected by a plethora of bunkers, played 340 to 350 the first three days, but was moved up to 232 yards on Sunday, making it a strategically placed risk-reward hole that required a confident decision to go for it or lay up.

The game of golf cannot be played by rote in a USGA championship. That’s the point. The test is about more than the player; it’s about the individual. How does she perform under pressure? How does she think on the fly?  How does she handle adversity? How good is she at minimizing the damage when things go awry?

Truly, golf is a solitary pursuit. It’s just you and the golf course. There are no substitute players who can come out of the bullpen. If your offense is not clicking, you can’t focus on playing defense. There is no place to hide. No matter where you hit the ball, you have to find it and hit it again. It’s all about personal accountability. That’s, in part, why so many love the game so much.

On Sunday morning at Lancaster Country Club, Caroline Inglis was the first person out in the final round of the U.S. Women’s Open. She had no chance to win. All that was at stake was personal pride, respect for the game and a chance to make a nice payday. There were no fans following her and her playing partner was a non-competing marker, Meaghan Francella, a former LPGA Tour player who is now a teaching pro at Philadelphia Cricket Club.

Her solitary pursuit encapsulated the beauty of the game. Her response is a tribute to the spirit of the game. To the very end, she played like a champion, making birdies on Nos. 15 and 16.

The 2-over-par 72 posted by Inglis  won’t be remembered like the rounds played by the champion or challengers. But it represents what golf is all about as much as any round played at Lancaster C.C.

Golf defines champions in many different ways.

On this week, Yuka Saso won the U.S. Women’s Open, 15-year-old Asterisk Talley shared low-amateur honors and won hearts, and everyone who qualified to compete this week earned their spot in the championship.

And Lancaster Country Club sorted through the 156 women who began the championship on Thursday and determined a winner, both as a player and as a person.

That’s what a USGA championship test is all about.

Ron Sirak is a Massachusetts-based freelance writer.