2023 U.S. Women’s Open: After a week at Pebble, a chance to soak in the moment and think about what might be
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Shoulders slumped and hands in pocket, Allisen Corpuz emerged. Her scorecard was signed, making it official: She was the U.S. Women’s Open champion at Pebble Beach.
A sea of navy blazers, outnumbered only by the thousands of fans surrounding the 18th green, watched as Corpuz hoisted the Harton S. Semple Trophy. An unassuming, perhaps slightly overwhelmed, major winner.
“My mind is racing right now,” she said, still trying to process what just happened.
Starting the day one off the lead, Corpuz made six birdies and three bogeys on Sunday. That math, a subject Corpuz is quite good at, added up to a 3-under 69. She took the lead after the third hole and never trailed again, winning by three shots over a game Charley Hull (66) and Jiyai Shin (68).
Corpuz had come close before to winning her first tour event, a major, in fact, sharing the 54-hole lead at this year’s Chevron Championship. She shot 74 in the final round to tie for fourth.
That only motivated her.
It’s always been this way for Corpuz. She “sucked” – her words – when she first started playing as a child in Hawaii. Why continue? To get better, of course.
“I think that’s just kind of who I am, like as a person,” she said. “Just if something can be done better, that’s how I want to do it.”
Can’t do much better than this.
The 78th edition of the U.S. Women’s Open was to be the grandest, boldest, most impactful in history. It was America’s national championship on a national treasure on national TV. Monumental in its exposure and its offering, a record $11 million purse for the women with $2 million going to Corpuz.
Now, with the sun that sublimely showcased this setting over the weekend fading away, will this time at Pebble Beach alter the trajectory of women’s golf?
That question was asked long before this week, which began Monday with 39 past U.S. Women’s Open champions gathering in celebration of one another’s accomplishments.
Among the attendees: the trailblazing Se Ri Pak.
This marked the 25th anniversary of Pak’s triumph at Blackwolf Run, which stands on the Mount Rushmore of influential moments in this sport.
Every moment needs a moment, and the rise of South Korean dominance within the women’s game can be traced to Pak’s pale ankles on display as she removed her socks and shoes to stand in the water and hit a recovery shot on the 90th hole of the championship.
There was no signature moment this Sunday. Sometimes brilliance can be routine. Corpuz, an owner of an undergraduate in business administration, a master’s in Global Supply Chain Management and two graduate certificates in Business Analytics and Sustainability and Business, did what needed to be done. If nothing spectacular, she was as buttoned up and efficient as all those degrees would suggest.
Corpuz might not resonate with the casual fan, Americans who gravitate only to stars. But golf is a global game – Corpuz’s father is Filipino and her mother is Korean – and Pak helped make it so on the women’s side.
Change, however, can be gradual, a stream flowing into a river. New South Korean winners started to trickle into the LPGA winner’s circle before Grace Park became the next major champ, six years after Pak’s breakthrough. From that point on, South Koreans have won 31 of the last 88 majors. Americans have won 20 in that stretch (U.S. players won 50 of 57 majors prior to Park’s initial major win at the ’98 Women’s PGA).
Gradual stinks, though. Who wants to wait for change? Yes or no, handclapping or handwringing, and it’s on to something new.
We won’t know the impact of this Pebble Beach Open for some time.
It could be seen at a corporate level, where current organizations increase their investments in women’s golf or new sponsors step in.
“I feel like our partners for our five majors, plus CME Group, they’ve kind of tried to outdo each other. And I think that’s helped with the rest of our regular events as well,” said Lydia Ko after wrapping her USWO by making a 46-foot putt at the 18th to share 33rd place. “These aren’t just local people, you know, they’re big companies that support and believe in the LPGA. I think that’s something we are very grateful for. They could potentially support the men, but for them to support women’s golf and just keep elevating these events, it means a lot for us. We want to see more of it.”
It could be seen at a competitive level, in a future talent who helps revolutionize the game after watching this championship on TV – or perhaps having competed in it.
Amari Avery is a rising junior down the road at Southern Cal and likely a future fixture on the LPGA for years to come. Asked her takeaway from the week, in which she tied for 48th, she gushed, “We’re playing a U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. … Anything is possible.”
Avery, 18, said that she’s never seen such crowds at a women’s event and certainly never played before so many people. “I would love to see more attention on the women’s game,” she added.
As would 2014 U.S. Women’s Open champion Michelle Wie West, a Hawaiian role model and junior benchmark for Corpuz who ended her professional career this week.
“I think it just needs more eyeballs,” Wie West said of the LPGA. “We need more articles. When I’m looking on social media, it was sometimes, even during majors, you don’t really even know it’s a major, whereas if the men are playing in any sort of major, in any elevated event, it’s just saturated.”
There’s also, as both Wie West and two-time champion Juli Inkster noted, a need for more detailed statistics, like having ShotLink this week. And there’s a need to embrace gambling. All these things help increase attention.
And what else can help? The players themselves.
“I would love to see a little more emotion out on the golf course, a little more passion,” Inkster, as fiery as they came on a golf course, said. “When I’m watching TV, I like to see people get fired up.”
“Even when you’re mad, I think just showing emotion, people like seeing that,” she said. “You have to entertain, I think. That will pull more people in.
“But you have to perform.”
A sentiment echoed by Ko.
“I wish more people would come out here, and I guess as players we need to hype up our tour,” she said. “But if we play our own game, I think people will come out and watch it. They will realize, wow, there is so much talent and the LPGA is a very impressive collection of players.”
Did this week forever change the women’s game?
The question is going to linger because it will take time to answer. But you can still look to the future and hold onto the present.
For the first time in history, a woman can call herself a U.S. Open champion at Pebble Beach.
“This really is a dream come true,” Corpuz said. “It was something I had dreamed of, but at the same time kind of just never really expected it to happen.
“Just trying to take it in and enjoy the moment.”