Morgan Pressel tees off on the 15th hole during Round 2 of the US Women's Open at Lancaster Country Club on Friday, July 10. (Casey Kreider/LNP)

Mike Gross: A humbling experience on the championship layout

Posted: July 14, 2015 12:52 am

A sampler of notes and observations from an historic week at Lancaster Country Club…

Anyone with one shred of disrespect for the skill of pro golfers, male or female, should’ve tried what This Space attempted Monday.

Played Lancaster Country Club, in an outing for USGA officials, media and sponsors the club held as a thank-you for the week.

Same setup — tees, pins and rough (oh, my God, the rough) — as Sunday’s final round of the U.S. Women’s Open.

I feel like I’ve been beaten repeatedly upside the head. I birdied the fifth hole, which Stacy Lewis double-bogeyed Sunday. I drove it over the green from the dramatic short tee on the par-4 16th, my ball-mark only about 10 feet from the hole.

Otherwise, I looked for my ball in the rough, occasionally found it, took a wedge, swung as hard as I could and moved the ball, and an accompanying flurry of grass and dirt, a consistent 7-8 feet.

A staff of actuarials is still running numbers, but I firmly believe I broke 400.

In Gee Chun, your new U.S. Women’s Open champion, shot 66 here Sunday, including birdies on 15, 16 and 17, in the biggest round of her life. I can only conclude that she’s not a golfer, but some kind of alien wizard.

I bumped into a guy I know after the round, a very good player who had played Division I college golf and, I happen to know, who has shot an even-par 72 at St. Andrews.

“Wow,” he said. “I don’t drive it straight enough for this place.”

“I can’t believe this course,” added one veteran national golf writer, who’s played championship layouts throughout the country. “This is definitely a top 100 course.”

‘Top 100’ refers to Golf Digest’s respected bi-annual ranking of American courses. LCC was on it in the 1960s. Now it appears only as No. 8 in Pennsylvania.

The rankings naturally favor courses that have hosted big-time tournaments (now a check for LCC) and/or are associated with big-name designers (increasingly a check for LCC, as William Flynn’s reputation is rejuvenated).

Whether the post-Open impact lasts until February of 2017, when the next rankings come out, remains to be seen.

But No. 8 in Pennsylvania is just silly. Mike Davis, executive director of the USGA, expressed that opinion last week, ranking Lancaster behind only legendary Merion and Oakmont in Pennsylvania.

“Put this course in most other states,” he said, “and it’d be the best course in that state.”
The USGA hosts 15 annual national championships. It seems inevitable that LCC will host more of them in the future.

More self-flagellation
My predictions were, if anything, worse than my golf.

The five picks, in reverse order: 5. Hyo Joo Kim (70-76-missed cut); 4. Suzann Pettersen (79-69-missed cut); 3. Anna Nordqvist (71-75-missed cut); 2. Inbee Park (5-under, tied for third); 1. Lexi Thompson (6-over, tied for 42nd).

Temporary residence
Chun showed up in Lancaster, with caddie Dean Herden on July 1, eight days before the start of the tournament.

A Korean Tour player, Chun had been to America only once before. She wanted to acclimate herself not only to Pennsylvania and the course but to Herden, with whom she was working for the first time.

When she arrived at LCC, she literally asked Herden, “What do I do now?”

“Introduce yourself to the host pro,” Herden said. “Come to a new course, get to know the pro. He can help you.”

Chun played 81 practice holes before Thursday’s first round. She sought info from LCC head pro Rick Gibson, through Herden, since she doesn’t speak English.

“I probably talked to him more than anyone else all week,” Gibson said Monday.

Chun made $810,000. If she was an LPGA tour member, she’d be sixth on the money list for one week’s work.

It was Chun’s fifth worldwide win in 2015. By winning the Open, she jumped from 20th to 10th in the Rolex official world golf rankings.

And that wasn’t even the biggest jump of the week. Brooke Henderson, the remarkable Canadian 17-year-old who shot 66 Sunday and tied for fifth, jumped from No. 45 to 32.

Then she got in a car with her dad and sister and drove to Toledo for a Monday qualifier for the LPGA Marathon Classic.

Runner-up Amy Yang went from 15th to ninth in the Rolex rankings. Shiho Oyama, the veteran Japanese Tour pro who played with Chun Sunday and tied for fifth, went from No. 43 to 36.

Alison Lee, the rookie UCLA one-and-done who won the AJGA Tournament of Champions at LCC in 2013, jumped into the top 50, going from 53 to 49, which can be useful for exemptions and such.

Course stats
Inexplicably, the toughest hole at LCC for the week was the par-4 ninth, with an average score of 4.39. Nine isn’t generally considered one of the toughest two or three par-4s on the course.

The par-3 eighth, which is generally considered a beast, was second-toughest (3.32), followed by the 10th (4.31). The stretch of eight through 12 included five of the week’s six toughest.

The easiest holes were the par-5 seventh (4.93), par-4 16th (3.96) and par-5 13th (4.97).

The toughest hole Sunday was 15, a dogleg-right par-4 where it was increasingly hard to drive it in the fairway as the course hardened.

Runner-up Amy Yang barely made bogey on it Sunday, and Stacy Lewis bowed out there with a double-bogey.

Chun, naturally, birdied 15.