U.S. WOMEN'S OPEN
Daily Digest: Pak Misses Cut, Says Goodbye to Women's Open July 7, 2016 | San Martin, Calif. By Tom Mackin

An emotional Se Ri Pak saw her U.S. Women's Open career end on Friday at CordeValle after missing the cut. (USGA/John Mummert)

U.S. Women's Open Home

She picked her ball out of the hole on the 18th green at CordeValle, hugged her caddie and then broke down in tears as she was greeted by fellow competitors – and fellow U.S. Women’s Open champions – Na Yeon Choi and So Yeon Ryu. At greenside were Karrie Webb and Christina Kim, longtime fellow professionals and competitors. After rounds of 73 and 80 to finish five strokes above the cut line, Se Ri Pak closed the door on her 19th and final U.S. Women’s Open.

“I did my best,” she said afterward. “I tried as much as I could. I’m just the luckiest person in the world. Now I actually move on to a new life.”

Pak will play a few more times in the Republic of Korea before retiring from professional golf and focusing on creating a golf academy in her home country.

“I look back on my career, the playing, the friends, just so many things,” she said. “I'm going to miss everyone a lot, but I will see them soon, just not as a player. There are so many emotions going on in my mind right now.”

Ryu, who shared Pak’s final Women’s Open round, said the day was emotional for her as well. “You never really think your idols are going to be gone,” the 2011 Women’s Open champion said, noting that Pak’s 1998 U.S. Women’s Open win was the first tournament she ever watched on television. “If you think of Superman or Iron Man, you think they're going to be forever really strong. It was hard to see how she struggled with her shoulder today, but she tried to keep smiling.”

Three other U.S. Women’s Open champions also missed the cut. Bogeys on the final two holes ended In Gee Chun’s defense of her 2015 championship, as she missed the cut by two strokes at 6-over 150. Choi, the 2012 champion who also shared the two days with Pak, finished at 7-over 151. Even a journey to her alma mater, Stanford University, earlier this week could not inspire 2014 champion Michelle Wie (149).

Of the 26 amateurs in the field, only three made the cut: Hye-Jin Choi (143), 16, of Korea, world No. 1 and 2015 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion Hannah O’Sullivan (147), 18, of Chandler, Ariz., and Albane Valenzuela (147), 18, of Switzerland. Leona Maguire, of the Republic of Ireland, the world’s No. 2-ranked amateur and 2015 Mark H. McCormack Medal winner, missed by a stroke.

Other past USGA champions who did not advance were In Kyung Kim (149), Mika Liu (150), Candie Kung (151), Mariajo Uribe (153), Jane Park (153), Rinko Mitsunaga (154), and Julieta Granada (159). USGA champions finishing on the cut line to advance were Jennifer Song, Amy Anderson, Paula Creamer, Morgan Pressel, and Jenny Shin. Creamer, the 2010 champion, grew up in Pleasanton, Calif., about 45 minutes northeast of CordeValle.

Youngest Competitor Sanford Struggles in Debut

The youngest competitor in the U.S. Women’s Open field got off a tough start in the first round and never recovered. Fourteen-year-old Karah Sanford of San Diego, Calif., made double bogeys on her first two holes en route to a disappointing 13-over-par 85 on Thursday. She followed with an 80 on Friday. 

“It was a very tough way to begin and not very good all the way through,” said Sanford, who hit just five of 14 fairways in Round 1. “All of my drives were pretty much going into the rough. So I had a bad start off the tee, and that’s kind of what got me the most.”

This is the fourth USGA championship for Sanford, who was the youngest player in both the 2014 U.S. Women’s Amateur, where she reached the first round of match play, and the 2014 U.S. Girls’ Junior. She also reached the Round of 16 in the 2015 U.S. Girls’ Junior.

“I’ve gotten more comfortable playing in all these tournaments,” she said. “I wasn’t really that nervous out there. I just wasn’t having my day.”

That made Sanford’s pre-championship goal of making the cut much tougher. “If I shoot a crazy low round tomorrow that is still possible. I just don’t know if that will happen.”

If it doesn’t, Sanford (who starts the second round at 9:17 a.m. Friday on the 10th hole) will get ready to play in a U.S. Women’s Amateur sectional qualifier on Monday at Vista Valley Country Club in Vista, Calif., near her home.

She is also looking forward to playing in the U.S. Girls’ Junior at The Ridgewood Country Club in Paramus, N.J. later this month. “That will be a blast. I love it over there on the East Coast. It’s beautiful. I have played in New York before but not in New Jersey, so I can’t wait.”

Stats and Facts

Sung Hyun Park, who shot 6-under 66 on Friday and is at 8-under 136, is attempting to become the fifth U.S. Women’s Open champion to win on her first attempt, joining defending champion In Gee Chun, as well as Birdie Kim (2005), Kathy Cornelius (1956) and Patty Berg, who won the inaugural Women’s Open in 1946.

For the 2016 season, Sung Hyun Park is currently ranked No. 1 on the LPGA of Korea Tour in greens in regulation, driving distance, scoring average, birdie average, par-4 scoring and par-5 scoring.

Amy Yang, who shot 1-under 71 on Friday and is at 6 under through two rounds, has posted scores of 71 or better in nine of her last 10 U.S. Women’s Open rounds. Yang has finished in the top 10 in five of the last six U.S. Women’s Opens, including runner-up finishes in 2012 and 2015.

Lydia Ko’s 66 is her lowest score in 18 U.S. Women’s Open rounds. It is her 15th score of par or better in her last 16 major-championship rounds. Ko shot 1-over 73 on Thursday.

Ko (19 years, 2 months, 16 days) is attempting to become the youngest three-time major champion in golf history. Young Tom Morris was 19 years, 4 months and 25 days when he won the 1870 Open Championship.

Hee Young Park (1-over, 145) made a hole-in-one on the 168-yard, par-3 16th hole with a 7-iron. It is the 24th ace in the U.S. Women’s Open.

Arizona resident Tom Mackin is a frequent contributor to USGA websites. Email him at temackinjr@gmail.com.

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