17-year-old amateur Hye-Jin Choi comes up short in quest for win
BEDMINSTER, N.J. -- With three holes left in the U.S. Women's Open, Hye-Jin Choi was all set to re-write the record books.
The 17-year-old South Korean was poised to become the second amateur to win the biggest title in women's golf, joining 1967 champion Catherine Lacoste of France.
Quote sheets were handed out featuring the congratulatory words of Lacoste, who is now 72 years old and lives in Spain. Lacoste's father was famed tennis player and sporting goods clothier Rene Lacoste.
Choi was tied with eventual winner Sung Hyun Park, also of South Korea, heading to the par-3 16th, one of the holes that President Donald Trump watched from his personal viewing box.
"I came a long way from Korea and I had the United States president and his wife cheering for me and clapping for me," Choi said through an interpreter. "I was quite thrilled. It was a big honor for me."
Then, trouble struck. Choi tried to be too perfect with her tee shot on the 139-yard hole and deposited it right into the lake.
"Today, I hit the ball perfectly and I tried to hit that one more perfectly," Choi said. "When I had a birdie on the 15th hole, I thought that I may have a chance. That went through my mind and other people were saying that I might have a chance, but at the 16th hole, my ball went into the hazard. That's what happened. At the time I felt that all this work, all this hard work I put together was going to disappear, so I was a bit disappointed."
After taking a drop, Choi settled for a double bogey. With that went all hopes of winning.
"The 16th hole is a tough hole," said Choi, who used a 7-iron. "I was just trying to get through the hole, maybe with a par. Maybe I played that hole a little too aggressively. There were disappointing parts to my game and that was one. I tried to pull my shot and it didn't happen. But I had to refocus back for the two remaining holes."
Choi rallied to birdie the 18th for a 1-under 71. She finished second at 9 under, two strokes behind Park.
Choi took the lead with a birdie on the seventh hole and had a chance to take a three-shot lead at the ninth, but her birdie putt slide by the hole.
A bogey on the par-4 10th hole dropped her into a tie for the lead with playing partner Shanshan Feng, and Park joined the group at 9 under with a birdie at No. 12.
One bad shot ended her chances of winning.
Choi wasn't upset about losing the $540,000 second-place money.
"Well, I mean it would have been nice if I could get the money, but I think my primary goal was to come here and compete, so for me, getting this second place in runner-up actually means more to me," she said.
It marked the second straight year she has been the low amateur. She tied for 38th last year at CordeValle in California.