Tuesday, September 26, 2017

South Korean players continue their domination at U.S. Women's Open

BEDMINSTER, N.J.  — For the third straight day, President Donald Trump stepped into his glass-encased box at Trump National Golf Club to take a look at the 2017 U.S. Women’s Open spreading out before his eyes.

But instead of seeing golfers, he saw Melissa Byrne, a campaigner for the women’s group UltraViolet, and three of her colleagues, all standing right in front of him, protesting in purple T-shirts that read: “USGA: DUMP SEXIST TRUMP.”

Byrne pointed her right index finger at Trump. Behind the glass, he pointed his right index finger back at her. Golf was being played all around them, but at that moment, Trump and Byrne personified everything this tournament has come to be: a story of controversy surrounding the decision by the U.S. Golf Association to play the crown jewel of women’s golf at a course owned by a man who has bragged about sexually assaulting women.

“I wanted to be able to look him in the eye,” said Byrne, whose group bought tickets to enter the course. “It’s not ideal (to financially support Trump’s course), but it’s more important to be able to look the president in the eye and know that we’re not afraid of him.”

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As other protests occurred both inside and outside security checkpoints Sunday, the tournament went on as scheduled, and was won by 23-year-old South Korean Sung Hyun Park, who surged into the lead late in the final round with a scintillating 5-under par 67 to win by two strokes over 17-year-old South Korean amateur Hye-Jin Choi.

Park’s was a victory for herself, of course, but also a continuation of the domination South Korean golfers have shown in the women’s game since Se-Ri Pak became the first South Korean to win this tournament in 1998.

The floodgates immediately opened with young South Korean girls who got up in the middle of the night to watch Pak win, then asked their parents to get them golf clubs. It’s no secret what happened next. Over those 19 years South Koreans have won the U.S. Women’s Open nine times, including Park’s victory.

South Korea’s presence here was enormous. There were 29 golfers from the country in the field, second only to 55 Americans. The top four finishers Sunday, as well as nine of the top 14, are from South Korea.

By contrast, only one U.S. golfer appeared on the leaderboard at the end, 26-year-old LPGA player Marina Alex of Wayne, N.J.

Alex, who finished tied for 11th , seven strokes behind Park, was thrilled with her finish, but historical perspective offered a distinctly discordant note. It was the first time in the 72-year history of the U.S. Women’s Open that at least one American did not finish in the Top 10, thus making this the worst overall performance ever for U.S. women at their national championship.

Asked if there should be some concern about that, Alex didn’t sound pleased.

“No, I don’t think so. Next question.”

The previous worst American finish at a U.S. Women’s Open was in 2012, when Paula Creamer finished tied for seventh.

Asked about the performance of the U.S. golfers here, the USGA issued this statement:

“One of the best features of our Open Championships is that they are truly open to everyone. The USGA has been proud to conduct international qualifying to provide opportunities for women to compete at the highest level of the game. The field represented here can inspire millions of young fans and players across the world, and we are thrilled to see such talented players on the leaderboard.”

What an interesting week this was for this to happen, under the watchful eye of Trump, who wore his trademark red “Make America Great Again” baseball cap all weekend.

Maybe next time it should read: “Make America Golf Again.”

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