BEHIND THE SCENES
9 Things You Need to Know About the 2016 U.S. Women's Open July 6, 2016 | FAR HILLS, N.J. By David Chmiel, USGA

CordeValle's challenging layout is matched by the beauty of the surrounding Santa Cruz Mountains. (USGA/Kirk H. Owens)

The best players in women’s golf are in one of the mellowest regions of the U.S. for the 2016 U.S. Women’s Open. With the national championship – and a spot in the Olympics – at stake, CordeValle will be the home of high drama and cool heads in the Northern California hills.

The 2016 U.S. Women’s Open is women’s golf’s final qualifying event for the 2016 Olympic Games. The top 15 players in the Rolex World Golf Rankings will be automatically named to represent their country at the Games, with a limit of four players per country. Outside the top 15, players will earn eligibility based upon their world ranking, up to two players per country (see below for Olympic hopefuls).

WHAT’S IN A NAME? The name CordeValle is derived from the Spanish phrase “el corazón del valle,” or “heart of the valley.” Located in San Martin, the full-service resort and spa is in the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains, it is 30 minutes southeast of San Jose and 45 minutes northeast of Pebble Beach.

KEEPING UP WITH THE JONESES: The course, designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr., opened in 1999. The course sits on 270 gently rolling acres and incorporates natural elevation changes, streams and wooded areas. CordeValle previously hosted the 2013 U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur, won by Ellen Port, the second of back-to-back victories for the six-time USGA champion. It will play at approximately 6,784 yards (subject to daily course setup), to a par of 36-36—72.

GRAPE EXPECTATIONS: The ideal grape-growing conditions of Northern California allow the 85-acre vineyard property to produce a variety of white, red and estate wines. The Clos La Chance Winery is next to the sixth hole at CordeValle. The tasting room is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. PDT. Grapes are hand-picked for the wine-making process. Tours of other estate wineries within a 20-mile radius are available for guests.

2015 U.S. Women's Open Champion In Gee Chun is hoping for a repeat in 2016. (USGA/Hunter Martin)

THE DEFENSE NEVER RESTS: At 20 years old, In Gee Chun, of the Republic of Korea, became the third-youngest U.S. Women’s Open champion. The 2015 winner at Lancaster (Pa.) Country Club is presently sixth in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings. As Chun tries to be the first repeat winner since Karrie Webb in 2000 and 2001, she will be battling even more pressure this year because …

THANK YOU SE RI: Chun is the seventh different Korean to win the Women’s Open since Se Ri Pak’s breakthrough victory in 1998 at Blackwolf Run in Kohler, Wis. Pak, who will be playing at CordeValle this year on a special exemption, is retiring from competition at the end of the season and it will no doubt mean something special for Chun and her countrywomen in the field to get a win to pay homage to the trailblazer who first succeeded in the U.S.

In 1998, Se Ri Pak became a hero to young girls in the Republic of Korea when she won the U.S. Women's Open. (USGA/Steven Gibbons)

CAPTAIN’S PICK: In 2015, USA Solheim Cup team captain Juli Inkster, who grew up in Santa Cruz, invited 16 prospective team members to CordeValle for some golf and team bonding. The two-time U.S. Women’s Open champion and member of the Fox Sports golf team, herself a member of winning Curtis Cup, World Cup and Solheim Cup teams, picked the right location and squad, leading them to a hard-fought 14 ½-13 ½ victory over the European team last September.   

SISTER ACT: Two pairs of sisters are in the championship field – Ariya and Moriya Jutanugarn, both of Thailand, and Jessica and Nelly Korea, both of Bradenton, Fla. The Jutanugarns and Kordas are two of seven sister duos to compete in the same U.S. Women’s Open.

NUMBERS GAME: When the first ball is hit on Thursday, Karah Sanford, of San Diego, Calif., will be the youngest competitor. At 14 years, 4 months and 16 days old, she will sneak in just ahead of  three 15-year-olds in the field (listed from youngest to oldest): Julia Engstrom, of Sweden (15/3/11), Haeran Ryu, of the Republic of Korea (15/3/15), and Erica Shepherd, of Greenwood, Ind. (15/6/2). At age 46, Catriona Matthew, of Scotland, is the championship’s oldest competitor. Miriam Nagl, 35, of Brazil, is the championship’s oldest qualifier.

OLYMPIC HOPEFULS: There are 39 players in the championship field who are currently slated to represent their country in Rio de Janeiro: Australia – Minjee Lee, Su Oh; Brazil – Miriam Nagl; Canada – Brooke Henderson, Alena Sharp; People’s Republic of China – Shanshan Feng, Xiyu Lin; Chinese Taipei – Teresa Lu, Candie Kung; Colombia – Mariajo Uribe; Denmark – Nicole Broch Larsen; Germany – Sandra Gal, Caroline Masson; Great Britain – Charley Hull, Catriona Matthew; France – Karine Icher, Gwladys Nocera; Republic of Korea – Sei Young Kim, In Gee Chun, Amy Yang; Republic of Ireland – Leona Maguire; Malaysia – Kelly Tan; Mexico – Gaby Lopez; New Zealand – Lydia Ko, Liv Cheng; Norway – Suzann Pettersen; Paraguay – Julieta Granada (announced as the Opening Ceremony flagbearer); Japan – Haru Nomura, Shiho Oyama; South Africa – Lee-Anne Pace; Spain – Carlota Ciganda, Azahara Munoz; Sweden – Anna Nordqvist, Pernilla Lindberg; Switzerland – Albane Valenzuela; Thailand – Ariya Jutanugarn, Pornanong Phatlum; United States of America – Lexi Thompson, Stacy Lewis.

David Chmiel is manager of member content for the USGA. Contact him at dchmiel@usga.org.