Water hazard to stay on Blackwolf Run's 18th

Crowds gather at Blackwolf Run's 18th hole during the 1998 U.S. Women's Open.

KOHLER, Wis. – Herb Kohler, owner of Blackwolf Run, had the perfect viewing spot on the 18th hole during the Monday playoff at the 1998 U.S. Women’s Open. He stood in a stand with PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem and former President George H.W. Bush near the scoreboard and watched Se Ri Pak take off her shoes and socks to hit a shot from the water hazard below. It’s one of the game’s iconic moments.

So when the U.S. Golf Association suggested that the Women's Open play that hazard as a bunker this year, Kohler raised concerns.

“Don’t you want your 18th hole to be one of your most difficult?” Kohler asked.

Pete Dye designed the hole with a hazard running down the left-hand side. But for resort play, Blackwolf Run workers drain the water to play the hazard as a bunker to speed up play. The area can be filled with water on a three-day notice.

Ben Kimball, director of the U.S. Women’s Open, said putting water in the hazard prevented players from taking a more aggressive line down the left-hand side. They also didn’t want the championship potentially to end on the 18th tee in a tight finish if a player were to pull it left. If she merely went into a bunker, the drama theoretically would be played out on the green. (Except in Pak's case, of course.)

In the end, tradition won. The USGA will keep an eye on how the hole is played this week for future championships. But officials know that fans expect to see a watery finish, so they delivered.

“We’re about creating dreams,” said Kohler, speaking of the Korean golf movement that followed Pak’s victory.

“That water is a part of those dreams.”

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