Sudden-death spectacular Chuasiriporn beaten by Pak on 92nd hole of U.S. Women's Open

Champ youngest in history

Sudden death is first in 53 years of event

July 07, 1998|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

KOHLER, Wis. -- Jenny Chuasiriporn sat dejectedly on her Duke golf bag late yesterday afternoon, watching Se Ri Pak line up her 18-foot birdie putt on the second sudden-death hole of their tense battle for the U.S. Women's Open championship at Blackwolf Run.

Chuasiriporn, the 20-year-old amateur from Timonium, had spent the long and steamy afternoon fighting her ricocheting emotions as well as the 20-year-old South Korean. The four-shot lead she had built on the first five holes was a distant memory, as was the triple-bogey she had taken on the par-3 sixth.

What she was thinking about now was the chance she had let slip away on the last hole of regulation in the 18-hole playoff, first with a 50-foot chip shot that she hit too hard and then with a 12-foot putt for par that she pushed inches wide of the cup.

Even before Pak's putter touched the ball, Chuasiriporn envisioned it going in.

"I felt like she was going to make it," Chuasiriporn said later. "It was just a sixth sense. I knew it was over."

And then Chuasiriporn was jolted back to the present, the sight of the ball disappearing into the hole and Pak, implacable bordering on robotic since the tournament began, dancing in the air and turning to hug her father, who had raced onto the green. Chuasiriporn's chance to make history was gone.

The longest Women's Open playoff ever, the first in 53 years to go to sudden death, was over.

While she didn't become the first amateur since Catherine Lacoste in 1967 and the first Baltimorean since Hall of Famer Carol Mann in 1965 to win the Open, the Duke senior seemed less disappointed than her family and friends, as well as thousands of her new fans, who had joined Chuasiriporn on this five-hour roller-coaster ride in middle America.

"I really feel like I'm going to win one," she said. "I'll just wait until the time comes."

Pak's time has apparently come. In winning her second major championship of the year and backing up her dominating performance at the LPGA Championship in May, Pak became the youngest player in Women's Open history to claim the trophy.

"After I win that McDonald's tournament and I play a few more tournaments not so good, some people thinking I am lucky," said Pak, who is being sponsored by the Korean government. "Then I win the U.S. Open. I know more how to control my mind. Maybe this week is really best for me."

It seemed that Chuasiriporn was going to pick up where she had left off Sunday, when a 45-foot birdie putt on the final hole helped force the playoff with Pak after both players finished at 6-over-par 290. She started out yesterday by making a 30-foot chip for birdie in front of the first green.

It would be the first of two straight birdies she made at the start, three on the first five holes. Pak also had started as she finished the final round of regulation, tentative on the greens. A bogey by Pak on the 402-yard third had helped build Chuasiriporn's big lead. But Chuasiriporn's big number on the 159-yard sixth hole -- a triple-bogey 6 -- had brought Pak back in the match.

"I think I might have lost my focus a little bit," said Chuasiriporn, who had badly hooked her tee shot with a 9-iron on that hole, watched the ball sail into a clump of bushes leading up to the elevated green and was forced to hit from the drop area. "There was a lot of green to work with and I just didn't catch all of it. I probably hit it 10 yards less than I normally do."

But Chuasiriporn's expression after she hit that shot -- more embarrassed than distraught -- typified the way she played. Unlike Pak, she is not afraid to display a wide range of emotions. Even after Pak had closed a two-shot deficit at the turn to take a one-shot lead with four holes to play, Chuasiriporn looked as if she was in the ACC championships rather than the Open.

Chuasiriporn's seemingly relaxed demeanor masked her emotions, too. Admittedly her nerves got the best of her on the final hole of regulation, when she pushed her approach from the right side of the fairway into the light rough right of the green. It allowed Pak, who had hooked her drive dangerously near a water hazard, to play out across the fairway rather than be forced into taking a drop that would have cost her a stroke.

"When I first get there I saw my ball, [I thought] there was no chance out," said Pak, who took off her shoes and socks to hit the ball. "Last day, last hole, I don't have a chance. So I want to try something."

She wound up hitting a wedge across the fairway and then hit an 8-iron 18 feet short of the hole. After Chuasiriporn hit her pitch too strong, Pak missed her putt to save par. Chuasiriporn's 12-footer coming back missed, too. It left both players at 2-over-par 73 for the first 18 holes.

"I felt I really let it slip away," Chuasiriporn said of the putt at 18. "I thought I was going to do it there. I thought I had that putt, but my hands were shaking a lot."

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