This U.S. Women’s Open is memorable
because it was the very first one. And because it was the only match-play Women’s
Open. And because it was won by a Hall-of-Famer.
The inaugural championship was held in
1946 at Spokane CC in Washington – 58
years after the first U.S. Women’s Amateur
– but the USGA didn’t conduct the championship until 1953. The Women’s
Professional Golfers Association ran the
tournament from 1946 to ’48, and the
LPGA took over from 1949 to ’52.
Patty Berg and Betty Jameson, both
LPGA founders and charter members of
the LPGA Hall of Fame, battled for that
first U.S. Women’s Open title. Berg, the
medalist in qualifying earlier in the week,
won the championship match, 5 and 4, for
her only Women’s Open victory.
The tournament was changed to stroke
play the following year.
THE FIRST 1946
92 HOLES 1998
This championship, in which 20-year-olds
Se Ri Pak and Jenny Chuasiriporn battled
for 92 holes, put Kohler’s Blackwolf Run on
the map. And it signaled an avalanche of
Korean players arriving on the LPGA Tour.
Chuasiriporn, a player at Duke University,
came tantalizingly close to becoming the
second amateur to win the championship.
On the 72nd hole, Chuasiriporn rolled in a
40-foot putt to tie Pak at 6-over-par 290,
which set-up an epic 18-hole Monday
‘The Babe’ poses with husband George Zaharias
after winning the 1954 U.S. Women’s Open.
The duo remained knotted after those
18 holes, as both players recorded bogey
on No. 18 – Pak made an amazing recovery
while standing in the pond on the left side
of the fairway – to finish the 18-hole playoff with rounds of 73. Two holes later, Pak
claimed the title with an 18-foot birdie putt.
Over five days and 92 holes, Pak had
taken 371 strokes. Chuasiriporn took 372.
And it doesn’t get any closer than that.
Pak became the youngest-ever Women’s
Open Champion – until 19-year-old Inbee
Park won in 2008 – and was named 1998
LPGA rookie of the year.
AMATEUR HOUR 1967
Jenny Chuasiriporn almost joined her in
1998, but Catherine Lacoste remains the
only amateur to win the U.S. Women’s
Open. Lacoste, the daughter of French
tennis player Rene Lacoste, who founded
the apparel company that carries the family
name, finished at 10 over par in 1967 to
Twenty-year-old Se Ri Pak finishes off her win at
the 1998 Women’s Open at Blackwolf Run.
defeat pros Susie Maxwell and Beth Stone.
Lacoste began the final round at Virginia
Hot Springs GC with a five-shot lead
before hanging on to win by two.
In 1969, Lacoste won the U.S. Women’s
Amateur Championship and the British
Ladies Amateur. She never turned pro.
ANNIKA’S THIRD 2006
Annika Sorenstam’s first LPGA victory
came at the 1995 U.S. Women’s Open,
and she repeated in 1996, but that was
before she became the top woman player
in the world. Over the following nine
seasons, Sorenstam found nothing but
heartbreak at the Women’s Open, including
runner-up finishes in 2002 and ’04.
JOYCE COMES THIS CLOSE 1960
Like the 1998 championship, this
Women’s Open offered a Wisconsin angle.
Milwaukee native Joyce Ziske came tantalizingly close to winning the 1960 U.S.
Women’s Open before losing by one
stroke to LPGA legend Betsy Rawls at
Worcester CC in Massachusetts.
Ziske, who changed her name to Malison
when she got married in 1961, had a career
year in 1960, when she claimed three of
her five LPGA Tour titles. And she had a
golden opportunity to win the Women’s
Open when she arrived on the 72nd tee
tied for the lead. The dream ended when
Ziske’s par putt rimmed out on the 18th
green, dropping her to 5 over par, one
stroke behind Rawls. It was Rawls’ fourth
Women’s Open title, a record that would
later be matched by Mickey Wright.
Ziske gave up professional golf after
the 1960 season and returned to Wisconsin to raise a family.