As the 2013 U.S. Women’s Open approached, one player on the LPGA Tour stood out as the clear-cut favorite above all other contenders. Inbee Park entered the event having already begun the makings of a historic season.
The native of Seoul, South Korea initially burst onto the scene in 2008 by capturing not only her first major but also her first victory on the LPGA Tour with a 4-shot victory over Helen Alfredsson at the U.S. Women’s Open at Interlachen Country Club in Edina, Minnesota. At just 19 years old, she became the youngest player ever to win the tournament. It would be four more years, however, until Park captured her next victory (the Evian Masters in 2012), but once that happened Park began laying the groundwork for a Hall of Fame career.
With four tournament victories in 2013 already in the bag — including Major Championships at the Kraft Nabisco (now ANA Inspiration) and Wegmans LPGA Championship — Park seemed poised for big things at the 68th U.S. Women’s Open at Sebonack Golf Club in Southampton, New York. Still, the odds of winning the first three Majors of a season were prohibitive. No woman had accomplished that feat since Babe Zaharias won all three women’s Majors contested in 1950, but few women were ever as hot as Park in July of 2013.
Park had such momentum, in fact, that she nearly led the entire tournament wire-to-wire, and would have if not for the stellar, bogey-free 66 first round of Ha-Neul Kim, a KLPGA Tour veteran participating in her first U.S. Women’s Open. It took a birdie on the 17th late in the day to knock Park from the top of the leaderboard at 5-under 67, but it would be the last time she would chase anyone that weekend. Playing through high winds and heavy fog during the second round, Park extended her lead to shoot a 68 and end the day at 9-under. High wind gusts again on Saturday wreaked havoc on the field and Park’s 1-under 71 – the only score of the day below par – proved good enough for a four-shot lead heading into the final round.
With the chance to make history in her grasp, Park wouldn’t allow herself to think about the chance to do something no woman had done since Harry Truman was president.
“If you think about all of those things on the golf course, you can’t concentrate on golf,” Park said. “So yeah, it’s a good thing I didn’t think about it so much.”
With only I.K. Kim posing a threat, Park extended her lead at one point to six strokes, before a pair of bogies on 14 and 15 brought her lead back down to four. Park parred the final three holes to close out at 8-under for the tournament and clinch her second U.S. Women’s Open, becoming the 15th multiple winner of the tournament and leaving her fellow competitors flabbergasted.
“It’s amazing when anybody dominates any sport,” Paula Creamer said. “Right now, that’s what she’s doing. To do it three Majors in a row, that’s pretty awesome.”
A victim of timing, Park’s victory in the 2012 Evian Masters would be the last time that tournament would be contested as a non-Major. Otherwise, her victory in Southampton would have been her fourth consecutive win in a Major.
The Evian Championship is currently the only Major Park has yet to win, denying her what some now define as the career grand slam in women’s golf. Park has contended that winning four of the Major Championships constitutes a grand slam, but there can be no debate of her greatness. Over the last four years, Park has added nine more tournament victories, including three more Major Championships, along with an Olympic gold medal, to her career totals.
“I don’t know what my limit is,” Park said at the conclusion of the U.S. Women’s Open. “It’s really scary to think what I’m capable of doing.”
Travis Puterbaugh is the Curator of the World Golf Hall of Fame & Museum in St. Augustine, Florida. He graduated from Loyola University of New Orleans with a B.A. in Communications, the University of South Florida with an M.A. in History, and has worked in the museum industry for 14 years. Travis considers getting to walk inside the ropes during Day One of the 2016 International Crown as the highlight of his time working for the Hall of Fame. Follow Travis on Twitter at @WGHOFCurator.
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