BEDMINSTER, N.J. — In the end, it was just a regular golf tournament in which the best player won, topping it off with a clutch shot on the final hole. That was possibly the greatest surprise of the U.S. Women’s Open, which could have gone any which way because President Donald Trump was attending. Ultimately, it went rather quietly to Sung Hyun Park.
There had been concerns that Trump would be the Distraction in Chief to the golfers. He was not, at least not for Park, a 23-year-old LPGA Tour rookie who never even noticed the chief executive Sunday as she shot a second consecutive 5-under-par 67 to finish at 11-under 277 and earn her first major championship.
Instead of this being a circus or a logistical debacle, it was a smooth event with a solid winner. Park received a double thumbs-up from Trump as she walked past his skybox near No. 15 after saving par with a big-time chip and tap-in on No. 18. Neither she nor the other competitors seemed unnerved by the president or a dozen peaceful protesters on the course.
“I saw the president yesterday and somehow I thought he was going to come back today. But I didn’t actually get to see him,” she said through an interpreter. “When I was approaching the 15th hole, all I was focusing on was to capture a birdie.”
She got it and added another on No. 17. Park hit her third shot long on the par-5 18th hole, but used the chipping practice she has done over the past week to get close enough for an easy par. She won by two shots over countrywoman Hye-Jin Choi, 17, who was trying to become the first amateur in 50 years to win the U.S. Women’s Open but hit into the water on the 17th hole and made double bogey. She finished with a 71. Shanshan Feng of China, the leader after each of the first three rounds, made only one birdie and triple-bogeyed the 18th for a 75 to finish tied for fifth, five strokes back.
Rather than being something completely off the tracks, this U.S. Women’s Open was very ordinary in one key respect: For the eighth time in 10 years, it was won by a South Korean. The silver trophy has become a golden idol in that country, so it was no surprise that Park and her mother Keum Ja Lee indulged in a long hug and a good cry.
“She stood right in front of me and she said, ‘I am so proud of you, Sung Hyun.’ At that moment it really dawned on me. I guess I really won the championship,” Park said.
Her nickname in Korean translates to “Shut your mouth and attack,” a reference to her playing style. In real life, though, her caddie David Jones described her this way: “Shy but very thoughtful and caring underneath.”
Jones immediately received a text from his college roommate, Ricky Elliott, the caddie who helped Brooks Koepka win the men’s U.S. Open last month.
Park credited her caddie for keeping her focused, as champions usually do. For her, it was a dream week, not a nightmare. “It’s almost,” she said, “like I’m floating on a cloud in the sky.”