The United States Women’s Open is at its mid-point with the final 36 holes being contested this weekend at the Olympic Club’s Lake Course in San Francisco. A field of 156 of the top female professional and amateur golfers is vying for the most prestigious trophy in the history of women’s golf. This year’s event will mark the 12th time that a golf course of note has hosted both a men’s and a women’s National Open. This is the 76th edition of the oldest of the five majors that make up the LPGA Tour.
What was then called the “Ladies Open” was initially contested in 1946. It was organized by an entity called the Women’s PGA. The champion of that very first women’s golf major was future Hall of Famer Patty Berg. The Women’s PGA suffered from financial issues from the very beginning and went belly-up at the end of 1949.
In 1950 the Ladies Professional Golf Association was founded by 13 established women professionals of note and included Louise Suggs, the aforementioned Patty Berg who also served as the LPGA’s first president, Marlene Hagge, and the best known female golfer of the post-war era, Babe Zaharias. The brand new LPGA circuit continued with the playing of the Ladies Open. In 1953 the United States Golf Association agreed to become the full time host of the Open and the name of the tournament was changed to the United States Women’s Open. It followed the same criteria as the men’s U.S. Open with a certain amount of top golfers receiving exemptions into the tournament coupled with the remainder of the field advancing to the championship by means of regional qualifying tournaments.
For a period of time, the U.S. Women’s Open was played in minor markets at golf courses that weren’t necessarily among golf’s top courses. Some of those early Opens were contested at courses such as Starmount Country Club in Greensboro, Rolling Hills Country Club in Wichita, and the Dunes Golf and Beach Club in Myrtle Beach. On two occasions the Women’s Open was played at Winged Foot and Baltusrol although it was held at the “other” courses that make up those 36 hole complexes. In other words, it wasn’t held on the same courses that hosted the men’s version of the National Open. However, beginning in 1977 with the playing of the Women’s Open at Hazeltine, the ladies started playing their Open on courses that had also served as sites for the men. Over the course of the last 30 years or so, the women have been to
Colonial, Oakmont, Interlachen, Cherry Hills, Pinehurst, and most recently, the Champion Golf Club in Houston last December. In a similar vein, the 2023 version of the Women’s Open will be held at Pebble Beach Golf Links.
Scheduling this year’s U.S. Women’s Open at the storied Olympic Club is a real feather in the cap of the women’s game. First opened in 1924 and designed by the well known team of Willie Watson and Sam Whiting, the Olympic Club is situated alongside the southwest corner of San Francisco alongside the banks of Lake Merced. Its golfing neighbors include Harding Park, the site of last year’s PGA Championship, the highly regarded San Francisco Golf Club, and Lake Merced Country Club, the site of next week’s LPGA MEDIHEAL Championship.
Of course from the men’s perspective, the Olympic Club has been known for its heart-breaking moments for some of the game’s top performers. It all started at the 1955 Open when virtual unknown Jack Fleck defeated Ben Hogan in an 18 hole playoff. Arnold Palmer lost a big lead in the 1966 U.S. Open and faltered the following day to Billy Casper in a Monday 18 hole playoff. Scott Simpson eclipsed Tom Watson at the end in 1987 while the same happened to the ever popular Payne Stewart in 1998 at the hands of Lee Janzen. Webb Simpson won the U.S. Open title at Olympic in 2012 when Jim Furyk struggled down the stretch. The Olympic Club has also hosted a pair of U.S. Amateurs, the 1981 version won by Nathaniel Crosby, the son of longtime O Club member Bing Crosby, and the 2007 Amateur captured by Colt Knost.
There are multiple story lines at this year’s U.S. Women’s Open. San Francisco resident and former Stanford University student Michelle Wie West is making her golf comeback from wrist surgery in 2019. She is now married, has a young daughter, and the ever popular 2014 U.S. Open champ is hoping for a golfing comeback. So too is Inbee Park, winner of seven LPGA majors although her last one was at the 2015 Women’s British Open. A win by Inbee would be her third U.S. Open title. It’s hard to think about 24 year old Lydia Ko and comebacks, but she has been in a Jordan Spieth type slump over the past three years. She went winless on the LPGA Tour from May 2018 to this past April when she finally broke through and won her 16th circuit title. Ko has been on golf’s center stage since she won the Canadian Women’s Open in 2012 as a 15 year old amateur, and the game is in a much better place when the affable Lydia Ko is atop the LPGA leader boards.
There are two sets of sisters at the Olympic Club this year, and all four of them are capable of winning the U.S. Women’s Open. Nelly Korda and Jessica Korda won back to back LPGA tournaments earlier this year. Neither has a major title to her name, but both are among the favorites this week. So too are Ariya and Mariya Jutanugarn of Thailand. Ariya won the LPGA tourney in Thailand last month and a win at the Olympic Club would be her third grand slam title to go along with the 2016 British Open and the 2018 U.S. Open.
When all is said and done, it will take a control player who is an iron master to prevail this Sunday evening at the U.S. Women’s Open at the Olympic Club. The course will play to a par of 71 and can be stretched out to 6,457 yards. The Lake Course at the Olympic Club has a number of dogleg holes and most of them are built along the hilly slopes that run in that direction. A dogleg right hole drifts to the right meaning that a tee shot down the left side will end up in the middle of the fairway. Trying to cut the dogleg could be a bit precarious as the tee shot could instead bound further right into the wiry rough.
The 76th version of the United States Women’s Open is playing out this weekend at the Olympic Club’s Lake Course alongside San Francisco’s Lake Merced. It should be a great weekend of women’s grand slam golf. However, if the history of the O Club has anything to offer us, we might need to assume that the favorites will be upset by someone from the pack.
Source : Record-bee