The 74th U.S. Women’s Open championship is now history, and what a story it turned out to be. I must confess that when news first surfaced about the Country Club of Charleston hosting the most prestigious women’s golf tournament in the world, I was skeptical. I didn’t think the club had the space needed to make its Wappoo Links long enough and tough enough to provide the challenge the championship requires.
How wrong I was. The club’s greenskeepers, the USGA, Frank Ford III, Beth Daniel and a very accommodating club membership combined to give players as much challenge as expected and more. The winning score after four days of play was only 6-under par, and the best women players in the world were, and let’s be honest about it, roughed up by the course.
To be fair, the tournament was played in brutal conditions. Near 100-degree temperatures left even some shaded spectators gasping for breath. The greens, particularly late in the day, were rock-hard and unbelievably fast, very difficult to hold on approach shots, and almost impossible to read when putting. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many lip-outs and missed 3-footers in a professional tournament as in this one.
The club’s much-feared No. 11, a devilishly designed par 3, proved fatal to more than one participant’s dream of leaving Charleston with a million-dollar winner’s check.
(As an aside, I’ve never thought the hole to be as tough as advertised. Even I once aced it. Well, OK. That was once in the 3,000 or so times I’ve teed up on No. 11.)
The winner of this year’s open was a young Korean woman named Jeongeun “Lee6”. The “6” was added by officials in her home country, supposedly because there are so many women named Lee playing professional golf in South Korea. Whatever the reason, it was the name she had painted on her golf bag. It was a nice touch that she won the tournament by posting a 6-under score.
If our grand oaks could talk, they might tell us stories about some of the golfing legends who have played here, men like Walter Hagen, Ben Hogan, Henry Pickard and the Wizard of Wappoo himself, Frank Ford I. The oaks might also tell us stories about a young, lanky girl named Beth Daniel. She learned to play the game here and went on to become a superstar and Hall of Famer in the LPGA.
The Country Club of Charleston was not, and is not now, a cloister for the privileged few, but an arena where men and women of diverse fortunes and widely varying backgrounds can meet to socialize and play the game on equal terms. Our members include the rich and the not so rich, the young and the old, those who work for a living and those who are retired, some who trace their ancestral roots to the Lords Proprietors, and those who only recently arrived in Charleston, this welcoming city by the sea.
Many of those I so often played the course with — Dr. Peter Gazes, Tim Street, Walt Bailey, Pete Pederson, Jerry Meyerson, Alan Ducker, Jack Thomas and so many others — are all gone now. I gave up the game myself a few months back. But in my mind’s eye I still see them, still picture them all, the Little Rascals of the Country Club of Charleston.
To a man I think they would join me, if they could, when I say to those who brought the 2019 U. S. Women’s Open to the Country Club of Charleston, a rousing “well done!” I’d raise a glass, too, to the wonderful players who proved what a great, competitive course Wappoo Links really is.
R.L. Schreadley is a former Post and Courier executive editor and a past president of the Country Club of Charleston.