SOUTHERN PINES, N.C. – There are multiple highlights to reflect on from U.S. Women’s Open week at Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club. First, Minjee Lee put on a show, winning by four shots at 13 under – the second-lowest total to par in championship history.
“I was pretty nervous all day,” said Lee, who started Sunday with back-to-back birdies and then bogeyed the fifth and seventh holes. “This is pretty special. I haven’t been able to even think properly at the moment.”
Lee became the first Australian to win the U.S. Women’s Open since Karrie Webb successfully defended her title in 2001 at Pine Needles. “It's just super, super special and just a great honor,” Lee said. “It's been my dream since I was a little girl. It's the one that I always wanted to win. Now I've done it, and just feels amazing.”
Takeaway No. 2: thanks to sponsor ProMedica, the U.S. Women’s Open field competed for the biggest purse in women’s golf history – a $10 million, with $1.8 million going to the winner. “We're only moving in the right direction,” Lee said. “I think it's only going to get better and better from here. It's such a large sum, and I'm really honored to be the first winner of this sum.”
Takeaway No. 3: junior golfers were everywhere watching the U.S. Women’s Open. We saw Nelly Korda signing autographs in the middle of her round and clinics for LPGA*USGA Girls Golf members. Autumn Grace, a 9-year-old and 2022 Drive Chip and Putt champion, had the chance to ask Lexi Thomson about her experience in competing in championship. Moments like these depict how impactful LPGA players are on the younger generation.
Takeaway No. 4: women from across the country were flown into Pine Needles to work as the grounds crew. How fitting to have an all-female team prepare the more prestigious female tournament of the year. The stories of these women are even more spectacular as each of them break barriers in a male-dominated industry.
Alexandra Hills, 34, is the senior assistant superintendent at Bay Hill Club and Lodge in Orlando, Florida. “I started working in the industry in 2008,” said Hills. “It’s hard to put into words what it means to work with all these amazing women. These women make me brave, they push me out of my comfort zone, and make me a better version of myself. They inspire me to continue to push our message forward and prove that we belong here.”
“Working the U.S. Women's Open this week with 30 other women was, so far, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Tonya Anderson, 29 and in her 10th year in the industry. “This was by far the biggest stage of the year for the LPGA players and also us women turfgrass managers. Most of us probably averaged three hours of sleep, maybe four per night. And let me tell you what, there was not a single moment throughout the day where we weren't smiling.”
And the final takeaway: The upcoming USWO venues are sights to behold – Pebble Beach, Lancaster Country Club, Erin Hills Golf Course, Riviera Country Club. The list of world-class courses goes on. What can we conclude from these takeaways? The women’s game is growing. LPGA, the USGA and sponsors like ProMedica believe in these women and are determined to elevate women’s golf to the height it deserves.