SAN MARTIN, Calif. – Gerina Piller met with a member of the LPGA communications staff when she walked out of the scoring trailer at CordeValle on Sunday. Fox television announcers at the U.S. Women’s Open had mistakenly told the world that Piller had secured her spot in the Olympics, not realizing that a little-known South Korean named Sung Hyun Park could still prove to be her spoiler.
Ignore the congratulations tweets and messages, Gerina, nothing is guaranteed. The Solheim Cup hero walked onto the flash area podium as uncertain of her Olympic standing as she was at the start of the week.
“You know, to be honest,” said Piller, “coming into this year, I didn’t even think I had a shot at the Olympics.”
— LPGA (@LPGA) July 11, 2016
Hours later, after Park dunked one in the hazard on the 72nd hole to fall into a share of third, Piller learned that her tie for eighth proved enough to move her into the top 15 in the Rolex Rankings and secure Team USA a third player. Piller, 31, joined Lexi Thompson and Stacy Lewis.
The tightest race to Rio undoubtedly belonged to South Korea, which had six players ranked inside the top 15 but could only take four. At first, Amy Yang didn’t quite know if she’d understood the reporter’s statement correctly.
“Am I making the team?” she asked, after finishing tied for third. “Oh, OK. That’s amazing.”
Yang beamed. She’d been telling everyone that she was relaxed about trying to qualify for Rio, but the internal struggle was real.
“Fighting, like one side you want it,” she said, “and the other side, just let the stress go.”
Joining Park in the top four spots: Inbee Park, Sei Young Kim and In Gee Chun. Of course, Park’s participation remains questionable due to her left thumb injury. Next on the list is Ha Na Jang.
Yang’s elation contrasts the hurt of Australia’s Karrie Webb. For years the LPGA Hall of Famer has talked about her desire to compete in Rio, saying she’d reevaluate the fullness of her competition schedule after the Summer Games.
As male golfers drop out of the Olympics in rather stunning fashion, Webb’s disappointment at not qualifying stands out.
When Webb walked out of the scoring trailer, her Olympic dream dashed by a couple of 20-year-old up-and-comers she mentored – Minjee Lee and Su Oh – it was clear that the finality of it stung. Asked if she’d try again for 2020, the 41-year-old said “Absolutely not.”
This was it.