A history of U.S. Women’s Opens in Pennsylvania

Posted: June 6, 2015 2:52 am

My older son went to Kutztown University, about a 45-minute jaunt up I-78 to Rte. 737, a two-lane road through the woods into Kutztown. One year (2013) a bridge over a creek along 737 was rebuilt, a project that took most of a year and forced us to an alternate route through what seemed like nowhere, a series of winding, country roads that, to my surprise the first time through, passed Moselem Springs Golf Club.

I had long heard of Moselem Springs, an old, classic layout considered one of the best in Pennsylvania (not unlike Lancaster Country Club), but had no idea where it was. I’m still not sure having been there.

Moselem Springs hosted the 1968 U.S. Women’s Open.

Couple of points:

1. You think Lancaster presents logistical problems hosting a major? Compared to Moselem Springs’ locale, Lancaster is the Dallas metroplex.

2. The USWO is a much, much bigger deal than it was in 1968.

3. What’s happening next month isn’t that unique. It’ll be the ninth time a Pennsylvania course has hosted a Women’s Open, many of them in towns smaller than ours.

A brief history of the USWO in the Keystone State:

2010, Oakmont – The venerable layout near Pittsburgh (in the home town of Penn State defensive coordinator Bob Shoop) has hosted eight U.S. Opens, two Women’s Opens, three PGA championships and a U.S. Amateur.

In 2010 it produced Paula Creamer’s finest golfing moment. Creamer took the lead (at even par 142) Friday and never gave it up, winning by four with a three-under total of 281.

Lexi Thompson finished 10th … at age 15.

2009, Saucon Valley – In 1998, Se Ri Pak of South Korea won the Women’s Open, and supposedly prompted a generation of Korean fathers to buy their daughters golf clubs and club memberships and lessons, and changing the sport forever.

The crest of that wave may have come in ’09, near Bethlehem, when Eun Hee Ji sank a 20-foot birdie putt on the 72nd green to beat Candie Kung by a shot. Five of the top 10 finishers were South Koreans, some of whom have rarely been heard from since.

It had looked for much of the way like a second Open title for American Christie Kerr, but she shot 75 Sunday and tied for third.

Ji hasn’t won another major, or another LPGA tour event.

1992, Oakmont – Patti Sheehan was one of the best players of her generation, but blew a nine-shot lead after 36 holes of the 1990 USWO at Atlanta Athletic Club.

The ’92 Open was thus a redemption story, Sheehan beat Juli Inkster in an 18-hole Monday playoff, after both players shot 69 Sunday and finished 72 holes at 280, four under par. Sheehan dominated the playoff, but bogeyed 17 and 18 to shoot 72 to Inkster’s 74.

1976, Rolling Green – Joann Carner got the trophy, her second Open, but the golf course won this one. Rolling Green, in Springfield about eight miles west of Philadelphia, has gotten buried by reputation among the famous courses in the Philly area (Merion, Pine Valley, Aronomink, etc.), but it  dominated the pros on this week.

Carner and Sandra Palmer played off for the title after shooting eight over par. Six players broke 300. Carner shot 76 in the Monday playoff, and won by two.

William Flynn of Lancaster fame and Harold Toomey are credited with the design of Rolling Green, which hasn’t been heard from much since, although it is hosting the 2016 U.S. Women’s Amateur.

1971, Kahkwa Club – Carner won the first of her two Women’s Opens, and seventh of her eight USGA titles. She was even par and won by seven shots over Kathy Whitworth, and Whitworth was four shots clear of third place.

Kahkwa, in Erie, is one of many clubs in the eastern third of the U.S. to claim some connecttion to legendary architect Donald Ross, who is credited with laying out the front nine. Kahkwa has hosted a women’s Western Open and, in 2004, a women’s U.S. Amateur.

1968, Moselem Springs – Susie Berning – later known as Susie Maxwell Berning – won the first of her three USWOs, shooting five over par.

As the score suggests, Moselem Springs kicked a lot of butt. Mickey Wright, considered by many the best female golfer ever but then on the downside at age 38, fashioned a two-under 68 Sunday, the best score of the day by three shots, to finish second.

Berning made $5,000.

1959, Churchill Valley – The club, in suburban Pittsburgh, no longer exists. The contending names – Wright, Louise Suggs, Patty Berg, Betsy Rawls – seem ancient and are, in fact, legendary.

The course won this one, too; the winning score was 287, seven over. Wright came up with 69-71 over the weekend to beat Suggs, who shot 69 Sunday, by two.

First prize: $1,800.

1952, Bala G.C. – This was the seventh Women’s Open, and the last run by the nascent LPGA Tour. The U.S.G.A. took over a year later.

Bala is another creation of our man William Flynn, just about 10-15-minutes from center city Philadelphia on Belmont Ave.

The course played as a par-69 for the Open. Suggs won it, her second Open, with a 284 total that was both eight over par and, at the time, a tournament record.