U.S. WOMEN'S OPEN
Daily Digest: Hack Overcame Odds to Make Field July 6, 2016 | San Martin, Calif. By Ron Driscoll, USGA

Anna Hack started her U.S. Women's Open qualifier poorly, but regained her form to earn a spot at CordeValle via a playoff. (USGA/Steven Gibbons)

U.S. Women's Open Home

Things were not going well for Anna Hack. She was 6 over par through three holes of her 36-hole U.S. Women’s Open sectional qualifier on May 24, but that seemed to be the least of her worries.

“I had to explain to my caddie that, no, we can’t just go home now,” said Hack, 19, of Paducah, Ky. “I’m playing in a tournament, and we can’t just walk off the course.”

The reason Hack had to explain the situation was because her caddie, Terry Wehmeyer, was a family friend who had never been on a golf course before that day at Westwood Country Club in St. Louis. Hack gathered herself, explained the game plan for the rest of the day to Wehmeyer, then proceeded to play her way into this week’s field at CordeValle.

“My dad was on a business trip to Las Vegas, and my mother is a schoolteacher,” said Hack, who was a redshirt freshman last year at the University of Kentucky. “Terry is my mother’s best friend, and she was basically there to stay in the hotel with me and push my cart around.”

Novice or not, Wehmeyer tried to embrace her role.

“I can’t go home and tell your mom that you played bad when I was with you – I’ll get into trouble,” Wehmeyer told her young charge after the third hole. “We’re gonna have to turn it around. You need to stop hitting houses.”

Hack’s opening trio of holes had included three balls out of bounds and a bogey, double bogey and triple bogey – and yes, she had hit a house with at least one of the wayward shots.

“Starting with my college season, I’ve been having trouble with the first three holes,” said Hack. “I don’t know if it’s nerves – I don’t feel nervous.”

Hack made three more bogeys and two birdies to complete the first 18 at 7-over 79, then shot the low round of the day by any competitor, a 3-under 69, to tie for the second and final Women’s Open qualifying berth. In the ensuing playoff, she went par-birdie-par to outlast Ember Schuldt, of Sterling, Ill., and join Kasey Petty, of Canal Winchester, Ohio, as the site’s two qualifiers.

“It was my first time trying to qualify,” said Hack. “I had ended up my college season playing well, and my assistant coach, Brian May, who is caddieing for me here, suggested that I try to qualify for the Women’s Open. I put the qualifier on my schedule, partly just to keep playing this summer.”

Hack’s entrée to the game of golf mirrors her incongruous trip to her first Women’s Open.

“I was a tennis player as a kid – my mom had played college tennis,” said Hack, who also played softball and volleyball. “We went on vacation to Colorado and I tore a muscle in my hip. I went to the doctor, and she told me I couldn’t do anything for a while. I wasn’t going to just sit on the couch, so she asked me, ‘Have you ever putted?’ I said, ‘Golf? Why would I play golf?’”

Hack reluctantly joined a neighbor who played the game on the practice green at her local course, but once she started playing in earnest, she gave up other sports. She won the Kentucky high school championship in 2012.

Hack competed in the 2014 U.S. Girls’ Junior at Forest Highlands in Flagstaff, Ariz., where she qualified for match play, losing in the first round. This week’s championship is the first professional golf event she has ever attended.

“We’re a football family,” said Hack, whose uncle, Billy Haskins, played football at UK. “Getting experience and having a good time is all I want to do.”

Strategy Critical at CordeValle

Ben Kimball, the championship director who is responsible for course setup this week, highlighted a few holes on Wednesday ahead of Round 1:

No. 4, 210 yards, par 3: This will be the longest par 3 that the players face this week. It is significantly downhill, so it will play less than the card indicates, but as it’s one of the higher points on the course, it will be impacted by the wind. We may see players utilize the approach in front of this green to help get the ball close, but that will require a very precise shot and perhaps a little bit of luck. It’s very likely you will see us use a variety of teeing grounds on this hole.

No. 5, 352 yards, par 4: This hole should provide exciting moments throughout the championship. Players will have to avoid the water hazard to the right of the drive zone, so 3-wood could certainly be an option. Approaches into this “catcher’s mitt” green should be entertaining, as shots to the back of the green will likely release all the way to the front. There is a drivable par-4 option available, 235 to 240 yards, which will force players to hit their tee shot predominantly over the water hazard. If they’re short of the green, it’s probably going to be the worst place to miss on the golf course because of the healthy rough. There is the likelihood of a lot of birdies as well as the possibility of some eagles and even of a hole-in-one.

No. 14, 429 yards, par 4: This downhill, dogleg-left hole will play longer than any other par 4 on the course. The drive zone pinches the farther you hit it down that fairway, so it’s likely that some players may choose to lay back to avoid the bunker. Laying back leaves the player with no bargain going into that green, which is a little elevated and well protected in front. Depending on the wind, I would expect this to be one of the more difficult holes of the championship.

No. 18, 528 yards, par 5: Could this hole lend itself to some similar 72nd-hole drama, like we saw last year? It’s bombs away off the tee for players, and yet it’s likely that more players will play this as a three-shot hole as opposed to a two-shot hole. But don’t be surprised if we try to force their hand a little bit and push them to make a decision down the stretch.

It Started Out as Lion’s Gate

Before it was christened as CordeValle, the working name for the Women’s Open host site was Lion’s Gate, according to Bruce Charlton, the CEO of course design firm Robert Trent Jones II. The valley where the golf course sits is in the shadow of Lion’s Peak to the south.

The course routing that will be used for the championship was the original blueprint by architect Robert Trent Jones Jr. for CordeValle. The routing got altered to its current state prior to the club's opening in 1999 for logistical purporses. For the championship this week, the par-4 fourth hole for resort and member play is the first hole. Member holes 1, 2 and 3 are playing as Nos. 7, 8 and 9 for the Women’s Open. The inward nine is unchanged.

Quotable

Stacy Lewis, on her father’s reaction to Lewis tying for third in the 2008 U.S. Women’s Open, her first professional event: “It helped pay for all the bills. He told me, OK, your insurance is this much, your car is that much… I was off my dad’s payroll pretty quick.”

Cristie Kerr, 38, when asked about Se Ri Pak, also 38, who is retiring at the end of this season: “I played 18 holes today, no problem. God, that made me sound old, didn't it? What I mean is, I love the game, and I want to play for as long as I can, as long as I feel like I’m competitive. I have had a tough year thus far, but as we all know, it can change at any moment.”

Ron Driscoll is the manager of editorial services for the USGA. Email him at rdriscoll@usga.org.

More From the 2016 U.S. Women's Open

More from the USGA