Se Ri Pak, 1998
Tied after 17 holes in a Monday playoff with fellow 20-year-old Jenny Chuasiriporn, Pak made a mistake off the tee at Blackwolf Run in Kohler, Wis. Her ball landed in the steeply sloped rough alongside the Sheboygan River. Somehow, improbably, it had stayed dry on a tiny tuft of grass, but Pak was still in a lot of trouble.
Should she take a drop and the stroke penalty? Or stand in shallow water and try to hit an extremely difficult shot out?
Either choice might cost her the title. Pak and her caddie debated for several minutes. Finally, Pak took off her shoes and socks and stepped into the river.
"I decided, 'I'm going for it, because I'm really happy I'm here. And I'm trying to get my experience, to learn from that shot,'" Pak said. "As soon as I hit it, I think I closed my eyes. It's probably the best-ever contact in my career."
The ball crossed the fairway and went into the rough, then Pak put her third shot within 15 feet of the hole. Set up for an amazing par, she missed the putt. However, Chuasiriporn also missed her par putt, and Pak eventually won on the playoff's 20th hole. The shot out of the water had saved her.
Pak's triumph was huge news in her homeland and helped launch countless Korean girls into golf. Since her victory, five other Koreans have won the U.S. Women's Open, including four in the past five years.
"I'm very proud of what's happening right now," Pak said of Korean success on the LPGA Tour. "They are actually doing so well; pretty much every week at the top of the leaderboard."
"As soon as I hit it, I think I closed my eyes. It's probably the best-ever contact in my career."
Since Pak's triumph in 1998, five other Koreans have won the U.S. Women's Open.