The Women’s Open: We’re ready for some golf

Posted: June 2, 2015 8:11 pm

No offense intended to the speakers at Monday’s U.S. Women’s Open media day, tournament chairman Jerry Hostetter and United States Golf Association officials Ben Kimball and Matt Sawicki.

All good guys, all smart guys, all critical to bringing the event to Lancaster and to its eventual success here.

But our blue-blazer-and-necktie quota is about filled, thanks.

The same goes for talk of parking and traffic and ticketing and shuttle buses and community involvement and economic impact. Enough already on green speed and rough length and hole locations and the Stimpmeter and the late, great and perhaps inadequately heralded William Flynn.

Lancaster Country Club has now been examined at a near molecular level, and this is coming from a correspondent who would rather study a great golf course than almost anything else.

We’re beyond ready for the USWO, it says here. Five weeks out, the biggest sports event ever to be held in Lancaster County feels somehow too close and too far away.

Michelle Wie, we’d like to turn our eager eyes to you.

Except that women’s golf’s biggest (only?) American crossover star didn’t show up for media day, even by Skype or phone, owing to scheduling conflicts, though that used to be a goes-without-saying responsibility for defending major champions.

Wie played in Atlantic City last weekend. Defending PGA champ Rory McIlroy, for example, is flying from Florida to Wisconsin for that event’s media day in a couple weeks.

Media day is less of a concern than Wie’s play and physical condition. She hasn’t won a tournament since dominating last year’s Women’s Open at Pinehurst, has no top 10s this year, and is battling a hip injury that caused her to withdraw from the Kingsmill event in Virginia two weeks ago.

Wie missed the cut in Atlantic City, and announced via Twitter Monday that she was withdrawing again, from this week’s Manulife Classic in Canada.

None of which figures to dull Lancaster’s excitement about the USWO. Anticipation within the American sporting public shouldn’t, but might, be another story.

Consider the state of the women’s game a year ago, when an American resurgence seemed oncoming. Stacy Lewis had won the Atlantic City event, the ShopRite Classic, to rise to world No. 1. Korean Inbee Park had held it for the previous 59 weeks.

Of course, Wie was about to win the Open, and embark on a media tour that included “Today” and “Fox and Friends” and a sneak-attack interview with TMZ on a New York City sidewalk.

Of the 13 LPGA Tour events that have been played this year, Americans have won two of them, in a row, by Christie Kerr and Brittany Lincicome, the latter the year’s only major to date, the ANA Inspiration.

Five Americans rank in the top 20 in the world: Lewis (third), Lincicome (eighth), Kerr (ninth), Lexi Thompson (11th) and Wie (13th).

It’s unfortunate, and certainly myopic, of us to require American stars, but that’s the reality.

When the pros started coming through Lancaster to play practice rounds a couple weeks back, Paula Creamer (world no. 32) toured the course with L.C.C. pro Rick Gibson and a small entourage including her swing coach and her regular caddie, who took notes while a local caddie toted her bag.

Creamer was greeted behind the 18th green by perhaps a dozen media folk, half a dozen TV cameras and some kids, with whom Creamer visited, signing autographs and posing for pictures.

The same day, a very young woman played the course in a cart, alone except for her caddie. The post-Paula media was still around, but hardly noticed she was there.

They missed a golf swing that is powerful, athletic, elegant and technically perfect, and ball-striking that is machine-like.

In 2012, this young woman won a Korean tour event by nine shots, shooting 16 under par, as a 16 year-old amateur. She shot 61 in the Evian Championship last summer, the lowest round ever shot in a major championship by any golfer, male or female.

In this, her rookie year on tour, she has won a tournament, finished no worse than 23rd in any event, and is ranked fourth in the world.

The spotlight avoids her. Asked about her command of English, she manages, “Still learning.”

Her name is Hyu Joo Kim. She is a celebrity in Korea but nowhere else. She might be the most impressive player you’ll see here next month.

Is it about golf or about name recognition?

The A-plus answer would be: Yes.