First the putt fell, then the tears. Whether they were tears of
joy or of disbelief mattered not. Hilary Lunke, a 24-year-old
from Edina, Minn., on Monday became the first qualifier ever to
win a U.S. Women's Open, at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club in North
Plains, Ore. ¬∂ Riding a hot putter, Lunke shot a one-under 70 to
win a three-way playoff against LPGA veteran Kelly Robbins (73)
and 25-year-old Angela Stanford (71) by a shot.
This is an article from the July 14, 2003 issue
And Lunke won it with panache, pouring in a 12-footer for birdie
on the 90th hole to match Stanford's 25-footer from the fringe
and end the overtime. "I always thought that if I won on tour, it
would be at a U.S. Open," said Lunke, her husband, Tylar, at her
side, as he had been for five straight days, serving as her
caddie. "I have what you need: I hit it straight and have a good
short game." (Lunke averaged only 26.8 putts a round and took
just 24 on Monday.) Said Stanford, "Maybe this is the way it
should be. Hilary was solid all day. She was awesome."
Lunke's unlikely victory brought closure to one of the more
contentious Opens in recent memory. The week began loudly as a
record 14 teenagers--including 13-year-old phenom Michelle
Wie--turned the Pumpkin Ridge driving range into a chirpy
playpen, and by last Thursday the older pros were already chafing
at the endless questions about their youthful competition. Most
of the LPGA veterans played along, dutifully complimenting the
kids, although through tight smiles.
The honeymoon officially ended on Friday, when Wie's father and
caddie, B.J., rocked the tournament by alleging that his daughter
had been verbally abused and pushed by one of her playing
partners, 37-year-old Danielle Ammaccapane, after the first
round. What followed tarred all parties involved, including
Michelle, whose image as women's golf's child savior took a hit,
and the imbroglio threatened to eclipse the Open.
Then along came Annika, so noble by comparison. Shaking off a
sore throat, she shot a bogey-free 67 on Saturday to pull within
three strokes of the lead. Playing in the next-to-last pairing on
Sunday, in front of Lunke and Stanford, Sorenstam grinded out
pars and let the less experienced leaders come back to her.
By the time she reached the par-4 14th, the world's best female
golfer had gotten her groove back, and a par save from 25 feet
inspired a little jig. A birdie from five feet at 15 moved her to
one under and into a share of the lead, and brought on another
Sorenstam missed an opportunity to go ahead when she badly pulled
a six-foot birdie putt on 16, but she still appeared to be the
person to beat when she smoked a 266-yard drive on the par-5
18th, leaving a manageable 236 yards to the flag. That Robbins
was in at one under seemed inconsequential. Sorenstam was in
perfect position to birdie the hole. Instead, she bogeyed it.
Sorenstam overcooked a cut four-wood, sending her ball way right
behind the large scoreboard and next to a chain-link fence
protecting an armada of Port-A-Potties about 45 yards from the
green. With Lunke (also at one under) and Stanford (even)
stranded in the fairway waiting to play, a 20-minute negotiation
commenced between Sorenstam and Kendra Graham, the Open's
director of rules and competition. Finally, Sorenstam took
relief, first from the fence and then from the scoreboard. She
wound up with a direct line to the pin, but she had a bare lie
and had to go under a tree limb and over a bunker to a pin cut
only 20 feet from the edge of the green. Her pitch clipped the
branch and fell into the sand, and although she blasted to within
10 feet, her par putt--and her last chance to add a third Open
title to those she won in 1995 and '96--came up short. "It's
going to take a while to recover from this," she said. "Right now
I want to forget about this week. Right now I feel like being
Wie had an even more painful Open. Not since Tiger Woods was
winning USGA titles as an amateur has a player come into an Open
with more buzz. In March, Wie, who is about to enter the ninth
grade at Punahou School in Honolulu, tied for ninth at the Kraft
Nabisco Championship. Last month she became the youngest player
to win a USGA event for adults, the U.S. Women's Publinx, and
with her nearly flawless swing and unmatched power--as well as a
refreshing lack of interest in celebrity--Wie's galleries
outnumbered even Sorenstam's at the Open.
Given Wie's popularity, and her relative inexperience, the USGA
erred in putting her in the same group as Ammaccapane, one of the
LPGA's crankiest players. (They were joined for the first two
rounds by Tracy Hanson, who, like Ammaccapane and Wie, had won a
Publinx title.) A stickler for professional protocol on the
course, Ammaccapane fumed on the fifth hole on Thursday when Wie
walked between Ammaccapane and the cup while Ammaccapane was
reading her putt from the opposite side of the hole--the
so-called extended line of the putt--which was a breach of
etiquette on Wie's part. Ammaccapane then iced her for the
remainder of the round.
In the scorer's cabin afterward, Ammaccapane angrily tore into
Wie, saying, according to several sources, "You're the worst
amateur golfer I've ever played with! You'll never make it on the
B.J. Wie further inflamed the situation after Friday's
round--during which Michelle and Ammaccapane did not speak--by
accusing Ammaccapane of bumping his daughter on Thursday, an
incident that Michelle confirmed. Ammaccapane responded by saying
that if B.J. "wants to bad-mouth me, let him bad-mouth me. But he
might get an earful from my dad."
Which is exactly what happened. Early on Saturday morning Ralph
Ammaccapane was waiting for B.J.; his wife, Bo; Michelle; and her
coach, Gary Gilchrist, at the clubhouse door. According to
several sources, Ralph said to the Wies, "You are the rudest,
most ill-mannered people I've ever met." Turning to B.J., Ralph
added, "If you don't stop telling lies about my daughter, I'll
take your head off."
Later on Saturday, B.J. said Ammaccapane had not, in fact, bumped
Michelle, though his retraction sounded half-hearted. "We didn't
know about the extended line," he said, referring to the incident
on the fifth green. "I thought pros were usually concerned with
getting the ball in the hole, not spike marks 15 feet away."
Stung by criticism of his caddying and his false allegation
against Ammaccapane, B.J. fired himself before the final round
and put Gilchrist on the bag. (Michelle would finish with a
five-over 76 for a 14-over 298, 15 shots out of the playoff in
39th place.) As he followed Michelle on Sunday, B.J. said, "This
happened because of [Danielle Ammaccapane]. If it had been
Annika, she would've taken Michelle after the round, bought her
an ice cream and told her what to do."
Michelle, engulfed by reporters after Sunday's round, was near
tears as she responded to questions about B.J. and newspaper
articles that, she said, "made my dad look like an idiot." She
was glad to put this U.S. Open behind her. "I'm unspeakably happy
to have a break. After five holes I couldn't wait for it to be
over." Hello, world, indeed.
Meanwhile, even after 90 brutal holes the joyous Lunke looked as
if she didn't want the tournament to end. Neither did her mother,
Penny Homeyer, who was also crying as Hilary staggered off the
18th green to the roar of the crowd. "It's all so surreal,"
Homeyer said. "We simply hoped she'd make the cut."
Then came apologies for all the tears. No worries, Penny. To make
U.S. Open history, everything has to fall.
Ammaccapane told B.J. Wie, "I'll take your head off."