Donald Trump mingled in the viewing area behind the 16th tee, occasionally waving at the crowd below. Some waved back. Others sent their own message, like the group wearing purple T-shirts that read: “USGA Dump Sexist Trump.”
Others simply took pictures with their cell phones or pointed at the president, wearing his signature red hat. Regardless of politics, seeing the President of the United States live and in person might be a once-in-a-lifetime event, so you can’t blame those who had their backs to the golf, trying to get a glimpse of the world’s most powerful country club owner. It’s just a shame they didn’t spend more time watching the spectacular action that took place in the final round of the U.S. Women’s Open.
The women competing at Trump National Bedminster had hoped this week would be about the golf and the golf course and not a debate about whether the USGA should have moved the tournament after sexist remarks made by Trump surfaced during the 2016 presidential campaign.
There were some who used the event to voice their continuing displeasure.
“Elect a clown expect a circus,” read one T-Shirt, while a row of women wore T-shirts that spelled out “Resist.” There was plenty of law enforcement, toting machine guns and such, around to keep things from getting out of hand, and by the time the last group headed for the back nine, Trump’s presence became an afterthought.
Finally, it became all about the golf. That happens when there’s a three-way tie after 66 holes of a major championship. Sung Hyun Park, Hye-Jin Choi and Shanshan Feng were all at 9-under par. Feng, a seven-time winner trying to become the first woman from the People’s Republic of China to capture a U.S. Women’s Open, was dueling Choi, the 17-year-old amateur from South Korea, and Park, a power hitter looking for her first major.
The storylines couldn’t have been better, especially after New Jersey girl Marina Alex finished a distant 4-under and local favorite Christie Kerr faded to 1-under.
Choi was trying to become only the second amateur to win a Women’s Open and the first since Catherine Lacoste of France in 1967. When her tee shot at the par-3 16th landed in the water, the chance to be the youngest player to win the tournament went with it.
“At the time, I felt all the hard work I had put together had disappeared,” she said. “I was a bit disappointed, but I had to refocus on the remaining two holes.”
She birdied the 18th hole as if to say: “This is just the beginning.” That could be said for the entire women’s game if this U.S. Women’s Open is a sign of things to come. Park is just 23 and Choi is 17 going on 23.
The amateur may have not cashed a check, but she pocketed a special memory.
“It would be nice if I could get the money,” she said. “But I think my primary goal was to come here and compete, so getting second place actually means more to me. I’m not really focusing on the prize money for now.”
It was appropriate early in the week to question the USGA whether it should have played a tournament here in light of the president’s comments, particularly a women’s tournament. The players said they wanted to play. Politics aside, Bedminster proved a worthy venue, and Park emerged a worthy champion. That’s all these ladies wanted.
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