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U.S. WOMEN'S OPEN
75th U.S. Women’s Open is One for the History Books December 14, 2020 By Ron Sirak

The fact that the U.S. Women's Open was able to be played in 2020 was a testament to collective hard work and dedication. (John Mummert/USGA)

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Diamonds are forever, it’s said, and this diamond anniversary of the U.S. Women’s Open etched a permanent place in the history of golf. The 75th staging at Champions Golf Club was a triumph of the determination and resilience of the human spirit, both collectively and individually. It will be remembered as one of the game’s most significant championships.

The effort by A Lim Kim on a cold, wet Monday on the doorstep of winter in Houston to win by one stroke over Amy Olson and Jin Young Ko was a gritty example of individual achievement. Finishing with three consecutive birdies and a 67 on a day when par was not the standard but rather a rumor was simply remarkable.

Fittingly, the end was marked by a socially distanced celebration in which Kim was bathed in a champagne shower in an isolated tent by a few friends, not on the 18th green in front of thousands of fans.

But that’s only part of the story. So much about this eight-day week in Texas was remarkable – a singular sensation in the Lone Star State.

That this championship happened at all was the collective effort of a multitude of people, both inside and outside the USGA. It was a victory measured over many more days than merely a bone-chilling Monday that felt every bit like December instead of June, when the championship was supposed to be played.

Moving a major championship is a major undertaking, requiring the cooperation of the host club, its members and staff, volunteers, local authorities, corporate partners, broadcast partners and other golf organizations. Yet somehow, they got it done.  

And think of the obstacles: A six-month delay, the championship contested on two golf courses for the first time because of the shortage of daylight in December, weather issues and a Monday finish. And all that was pulled off in the year of the pandemic, under the ominous shadow of COVID-19, resulting in no spectators.

The appreciation of the players was apparent, not just for the record $5.5 million purse in an abbreviated season but for the quality manner in which the championship was conducted and what its mere staging meant to the prestige and profile of women’s golf, women’s sports and women in general.

“Being able to play the U.S. Open in this unprecedented year, it's a huge bonus to play, no matter what month it is,” said Alena Sharp, a veteran professional from Canada. “I think everybody here is really happy that we get to play. The challenge of the U.S. Open, no matter what month it is, it's always a challenge.”

Danielle Kang, a two-time winner of the U.S. Women’s Amateur, also saw the big picture.

“I think the women’s game is getting a lot of good recognition,” Kang said. “Not just the U.S. Open, but being able to play prestigious golf courses, having the history and people watching it and tuning in – and especially during this pandemic.”

The appreciation of the fans was just as apparent. On social media, the #WomenWorthWatching campaign drew support from male professional golfers, athletes in other sports, celebrities and just plain sports enthusiasts.

Rory McIlroy, who won the 2011 U.S. Open, tweeted: “Major championship golf in December. @uswomensopen #WomenWorthWatching”

Fred Couples, the 1992 Masters champions, tweeted: “Nothing better than waking up on a Monday morning to a little major championship final round action @uswomensopen! Who will win this year’s final major? Good luck to all the players! #womenworthwatching”

And former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman tweeted about the campaign to get more people to watch women’s sports: “It’s time for this to change. Join me in watching the best players in the world compete for the @uswomensopen #WomenWorthWatching” 

The players noticed the support they were getting.

“It's fantastic,” said Brittany Lincicome. “It's really cool when the guys do that. It just brings people in, gives the girls a little bit more respect, I think, because a lot of the time I don't think we get it.”

Sports offers a window into the human spirit, speeding up the time frame of life. In one championship, one round, one shot, we learn a lot about the essence of a person – how she handles success or disappointment; treats her competitors and treats the game of golf.

In this one event, we learned a lot about golf itself and those who are positioned to be its protectors.

As always, the final leader board is the ultimate judge of a championship. Kim won at 3 under par and a total of four players finished 72 holes under par. It felt like the U.S. Women’s Open; It felt like a USGA championship.

Despite all the obstacles, they got it right.

History hovered at Champions. As the outcome spilled over to Monday, still in the hunt was Yealimi Noh, who at 19 would have been the youngest champion. So was 43-year-old Cristie Kerr, the 2007 U.S. Women’s Open champion, who would have been the oldest. Kaitlyn Papp had a chance to become only the second amateur to win the U.S. Women’s Open.

And a victory by Moriya Jutanugarn coupled with the 2018 triumph in the U.S. Women’s Open by Ariya Jutanugarn, would have joined them with Hollis Stacy and Martha Leach as well as Margaret and Harriot Curtis as the only sisters to both win USGA championships.

When a stingy sun set on Champions Golf Club on Monday there was the warm feeling that this was just the beginning.

In less than six months, the USGA will do it all again at The Olympic Club in San Francisco next June. That’s followed by the U.S Women’s Open at Pine Needles (2022), Pebble Beach (2023), Lancaster Country Club (2024) and Erin Hills (2025). Olympic, Pebble Beach and Erin Hills have all played host to the U.S. Open.

That’s just another way in which the women’s game has gained more respect. The close by A Lim Kim at Champions is one for the history books. But so was the entire week. The 75th U.S. Women’s Open shouted loudly that these are Women Worth Watching.

Ron Sirak is a Massachusetts-based freelance writer who frequently contributes to USGA digital channels.