Four women had a realistic chance at victory July 7 heading into the final round of the 57th U.S. Women’s Open at Prairie Dunes Country Club. Annika Sorenstam and Juli Inkster were the obvious picks. For Jill McGill and Shani Waugh, the odds were far longer.
Inkster and Sorenstam had combined for 64 LPGA titles, and McGill and Waugh for none. Although both underdogs eventually faded, they learned more in four days in Kansas than they could have hoped.
Paired with Inkster in the second-to-last group Sunday, Waugh had a front-row seat for the eventual champion’s heroics. Trailing by six at the turn, Waugh, a 32-year-old Australian who uses West Palm Beach, Fla., as her U.S. base, decided to jump on Inkster’s bandwagon and enjoy the ride.
Waugh finished third, shooting 67-73-71-72–283 and earning $202,568. In six years on the LPGA, Waugh’s highest earnings year was $225,533 in 2000, 39th on the money list.
“It’s a great deal of money,” Waugh said of her winnings at Prairie Dunes. “But what I got out of this from my golf game is a lot more.”
If McGill’s name sounds familiar, it is possible that it’s from off-the-course news as much as on. The 6-foot, 30-year-old California blonde finished second to Sweden’s Carin Koch in a playboy.com online poll asking which LPGA star was the most attractive. Koch quickly declined an offer to pose nude in the magazine. McGill was offered the same deal, pondered the question for a while, but eventually declined.
McGill won’t be posing for Playboy anytime soon, and her chance to pose with the championship trophy evaporated on the back nine Sunday.
“Anybody who says it’s just another round of golf is lying to you,” McGill said after a final-round 78. “This is the biggest tournament of the year. I had an opportunity, and I didn’t take advantage of it.”
McGill entered the final round tied with Inkster, two shots out of the lead, and was paired with Sorenstam in the day’s final group, a first for McGill. She hung around by shooting 1 over on the front, but fell apart on the back nine, shooting 42 that included a triple bogey and double bogey on consecutive holes.
McGill finished tied for 12th, earning $54,201. The final three holes, which she played 5 over par, likely cost her more than $100,000.
“Obviously there was disappointment today,” McGill said. “But it gives me a great stepping stone. I saw some great golf out there. There is no reason why my game can’t be that good all the time.”
Waugh and McGill have more similarities than just Open disappointment. Both were introduced to the game late by today’s standards (Waugh at 13, McGill at 12), but had successful amateur careers.
McGill won two U.S. Golf Association championships, the 1993 U.S. Women’s Amateur and the 1994 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links, and Waugh won numerous Australian junior titles.
One can’t help but believe that professors Inkster and Sorenstam may have taught pupils Waugh and McGill lessons both need to reach professional golf’s winner’s circle.