KOHLER, Wis. – A year ago at the U.S. Women’s Open, Se Ri Pak was one of a handful of South Koreans to flood the 18th green at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Colo., on a crisp Monday morning. She helped douse countrywoman So Yeon Ryu in champagne, then minutes later spoke about the explosion of talented female golfers from South Korea.
That trend largely can be traced to Blackwolf Run, where Pak won the Women’s Open in 1998. As the championship returns to Kohler this week, Pak offered a little wisdom to defending champion Ryu.
“She said, ‘Don’t take too much practice at the golf course, because sometimes too much information make you crazy,’ ” Ryu said.
Thus, Ryu decided to skip the marathon practice days this week in favor of playing nine holes each day. It’s the first time she has seen the course since media day in May.
Someday, Ryu is likely to be the one doling out the advice. A year removed from winning the national championship, she says the experience changed her career.
“After U.S. Women’s Open, lots of people recognize me, and now I’m a major Korean,” she said. “Before, I don’t have any major title in KLPGA, so I always really wanted to win the major tournament. But U.S. Women’s Open is really huge major tournament. That’s why it feels like that moment is my turning point.”
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“The toughest golf course I ever played.” That’s how Juli Inkster described Blackwolf Run. Heed Inkster’s words because after all, this week marks her 33rd start in a U.S. Women’s Open, which ties a record set by Marlene Hagge.
“The thing with this golf course, you don’t really have a bailout hitting to the greens,” Inkster said. “You have to get the ball in the fairway to give you a little room for the fairways, but from then on, you have to hit some good, tight iron shots.”
Inkster, 52, is making only her second start of 2012 this week, after sitting out most of the year with an elbow injury – the first major ailment of her career.
“The form is a little rusty, but I mean, it’s a lot different playing golf at home with the buddies where if you hit a bad shot, you just drop another one and go on,” she said. “Competition, getting in the competitive mode is a little rusty, but I feel good.”
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Getting experience: The U.S. Women’s Open won’t be Katie Burnett’s first start as a professional. The newly minted South Carolina graduate assured that last week by entering the Michigan Women’s Open. At that tournament, Burnett cleared two milestones: first pro start, first pro win.
“It was really cool,” said Burnett, who scored a $5,500 first-place check with her trophy. “I went up there kind of to prepare for this since I’ve had a month off since college golf; I wanted to make sure my game was ready. I was feeling really good going into it.”
Burnett didn’t just win; she annihilated the field. Her 11-under 205 at Crystal Mountain Resort in Thompsonville, Mich., left her 10 shots ahead of runner-up Laura Bavaird.
“I’ve just been playing well, and if you keep playing well, you just get more confidence and the ball just keeps snowballing,” Burnett said.
The Michigan Women’s Open comes on the heels of a college career Burnett closed by finishing fifth individually at the NCAA Championship. Her second-round 67 put her Gamecocks into contention entering the final round. They finished fifth.
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Next generation: There are 28 amateurs in the field this week at Blackwolf Run. Among the most promising young players are Lydia Ko, the 15-year-old who won the New South Wales earlier this year; Moriya Jutanugarn, who gained entry courtesy of her runner-up finish at last year’s U.S. Women’s Amateur; Jaye Marie Green, who made the cut at the Kraft Nabisco Championship and also is coming off a win at the AJGA Rolex Tournament of Champions; Stephanie Meadow, who won the Ladies British Amateur last week; and Kyung Kim, who won the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links last month.
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Tweet of the day: 2 hours to play 5 holes. What the heck girls!!!!!! Get moving!!!!!! – Brittany Lincicome on the pace of play during Tuesday’s practice round. Heat and a morning rain delay contributed to the snail’s pace around Blackwolf Run.
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Quote of the day: “All my friends are currently in banking. They’re just getting their first golf lessons. Before they didn’t even care that I played. Right when they knew they were going to Bank of America or Goldman Sachs, they were like, ‘I think I need to start playing golf.’” – Michelle Wie, on whether being a professional golfer made her “cool” among her friends at Stanford.