2002: Pak rebounds from poor putting

Hutchinson, Kan.

Se Ri Pak putted so poorly the first two rounds of the U.S. Women’s Open at Prairie Dunes that she nearly missed the cut. But Pak (74-75), who won the Open in 1998 at Blackwolf Run, made the cut on the number at 149, keeping her streak intact of making it to the weekend in each of her six U.S. Open starts. Her reward? She was first off the tee at 7:15 Saturday morning. She opted to play alone instead of with a noncompeting marker, and played in 2 hours, 56 minutes, shooting 68.

The problem was, she finished so early, she didn’t know what to do.

“I’m going to breakfast,” she said. “That’s really weird.”

Pak shot another 68 Sunday, and her 4-under weekend vaulted her from a tie for 58th after two rounds (69 players made the cut) to fifth.

Amateur hour: Aree Song Wongluekiet and Angela Jerman tied for low amateur honors at 14-over 294. Fourteen amateurs were in the Open field, and Wongluekiet and Jerman were the only two to make the cut.

Although Wongluekiet is only 16, the Open was the 10th professional event she has played in the last three years. Her twin sister, Naree, caddied for her the first two rounds, then handed the duties over to her father, Injong Song.

“It means a lot (low amateur),” Aree said. “The best amateurs are all here this week.”

Jerman recently completed her eligibility at Georgia (she will graduate with a marketing degree in December) and qualified for the Open because she is a member of this year’s U.S. Curtis Cup team. Jerman, 22, from Columbus, Ga., made a 3-footer for par on the final hole to shoot 74 and tie Wongluekiet, who closed with 73.

“I’ll take a tie,” Jerman said. “That works for me.”

Former Open champion Meg Mallon was paired with Jerman on Saturday and Wongluekiet on Sunday, and walked away impressed with both.

“They’re a little different,” said Mallon. “Aree probably carries the ball more and is a little bit stronger. Angela has great control of her golf swing and is always in play. She’s a good, solid putter. I think she has all the facets.

“Aree has some young kinks to work out, but she’s going to be a very strong player. She’s got all the tools. It’s a matter of some fine-tuning. I like how confident these players are at such a young age.”

Record-setter: Spain’s Rachel Carriedo tied a U.S. Women’s Open scoring record by shooting 5-under 30 on Prairie Dunes’ front nine Sunday.

Carriedo, 30, who ranks second behind Annika Sorenstam in European Solheim Cup points, shot 66, tying champion Juli Inkster for the low round of the tournament.

Ironically, Inkster was the last player to shoot 30 for nine holes at the Open, accomplishing the feat at Pumpkin Ridge in Oregon in 1997. Pamela Wright also shot 30 in the 1994 Open at Indianwood in Michigan.

Carriedo, who began the day tied for 24th, moved all the way to fourth. At her last major championship, the Kraft Nabisco, Carriedo was disqualified after signing a wrong scorecard.

Ochoa withdraws: First-year pro Lorena Ochoa injured the right side of her neck hitting balls prior to Thursday’s first round at Prairie Dunes. She struggled in shooting a 7-over 77 and was in too much pain Friday morning to play Round 2.

“Most of the time we had to hit two clubs more because it hurt her so much,” said Alejandro Ochoa, Lorena’s brother and caddie. “She wasn’t making her usual swing.”

After the round, Lorena Ochoa met with the media, told no one of her injury, made no excuses for her poor play, then headed to the LPGA’s fitness trailer for an examination. The 20-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, was given a 30-minute massage, muscle relaxants to relieve the pain, then went back to her hotel to rest.

“It was just too painful,” said Ochoa, who is third on the Futures Tour money list. The top three at season’s end will receive LPGA cards for 2003. “I don’t want to ruin my chances for the rest of the year.”

Prammanasudh shines: Stacy Prammanasudh had a week she’ll never forget, ending it with a birdie on the 72nd hole of her first Open and earning a check for $26,894. Prammanasudh, a four-year standout at the University of Tulsa who was playing her fourth event as a pro, found out she was in the Open four days before the event, after Sorenstam won the ShopRite Classic.

The U.S. Golf Association reserves spots in the Open for players who win an LPGA event leading to the Open who weren’t already in the field. So when Sorenstam won the ShopRite, another spot opened.

Prammanasudh, 22, made the most of her opportunity and improved her score each day (75-74-72-69–290) to tie for 22nd. She made a birdie on the final hole Friday to make the cut on the number.

“I felt really good out there, and I know I can compete out here,” she said. “I was the last one in the tournament, last one to make the cut, (had to) make birdie to make the cut, birdie the last hole . . . it’s great.”

Short shots: Both Wongluekiets have accepted sponsor exemptions to play in the State Farm Classic Aug. 29-Sept. 1 in Springfield, Ill. Naree also has an exemption for the Giant Eagle Classic July 19-21 in Vienna, Ohio, where Aree will try to Monday qualify. . . . Deb Richard withdrew prior to the second round because of a pulled stomach muscle. A.J. Eathorne withdrew before the second round because of a wrist injury. . . . Heather Bowie, who was 0-for-11 trying to qualify for the U.S. Women’s Open, finally played in her first Open (getting in via the LPGA money list). She tied for 61st. . . . Lynette Brooky, who tied for 12th, grew up playing golf in New Zealand with Michael Campbell. . . . None of the three defending champions at this year’s U.S. Open, U.S. Senior Open and U.S. Women’s Open (Retief Goosen, Bruce Fleisher, Karrie Webb) made the cut this summer. . . . With her runner-up check worth $315,000, Sorenstam became the first LPGA player to surpass $10 million in earnings.

– Jeff Babineau and Jay A. Coffin

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