SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. — It’s been 10 years since Angela Stanford was on the losing side in one of the most unlikely US Women’s Opens in history, when Hilary Lunke survived an 18-hole playoff for her only win on the LPGA Tour.
Lunke doesn’t play much golf these days, married and retired from the tour, living in Minnesota as a stay-at-home mother to three daughters. Stanford soldiers on, having won five times in her career, but no major championship.
She still gets asked about losing to Lunke in 2003, at Pumpkin Ridge in North Plains, Ore.
“My answer to this question hasn’t changed. I feel very fortunate to have had that opportunity, and that experience,” Stanford said. “I’m also very fortunate that I’m still playing and still competing at US Opens. Obviously, I’d love to have that trophy, and I’m very blessed with where I am now.
“I know my time’s coming. I just don’t know when.”
It could be this year. Stanford shot a 4-under-par 68 at Sebonack Golf Club on Friday, which matched the low score of the second round at the 68th US Women’s Open. It sent her from a tie for 37th (she opened with 73) to a tie for fifth when second-round play was called because of thick fog, six shots behind leader Inbee Park.
Improving a score by five shots on Friday wasn’t easy. The wind kicked up at Sebonack, but Stanford is a Texas girl, born in Fort Worth and living in Saginaw. Players from Texas, the popular assumption goes, don’t mind the wind because it’s a part of life. They’ve grown up playing in the wind, so they’re better when the conditions get blustery.
“I love this question. I hate the wind. I do,” Stanford said. “Subconsciously, it just happens. I don’t know it’s happening. My body just starts doing whatever it does to make the ball go lower. I don’t like [the wind], but I think I just know what to expect more than others.”
Stanford has never come as close at the US Women’s Open as her 2003 runner-up (she tied for second with Kelly Robbins, behind Lunke). She finished fourth two years ago, when she held the 54-hole lead. Now she’ll have two more rounds this year to get her name on the trophy she covets the most.
End for Inkster?
The probable end — unless something unexpected takes place when second-round play resumes on Saturday morning — came unceremoniously, in front of a small crowd and after an errant approach shot caused Juli Inkster to fling her club in frustration. She would go on to salvage par with a solid sand shot and short putt, quite possibly her final stroke in a US Women’s Open after a record 34 appearances.
Inkster, 53, is a two-time winner of this event, in 1999 and 2002. Her 10-year exemption into the tournament from her second win expired last year, and she played this year on a special exemption granted by the US Golf Association, the only one given. It allowed Inkster to break the tie she held with Marlene Hagge for the most starts ever at the US Women’s Open.
It looks like it’ll end prematurely after two rounds. Inkster shot 79 on Friday, and at 7 over was outside the cut line, which should be either 5 over or 6 over once play is completed. Assuming Inkster misses, it will be the fourth straight time she hasn’t played 72 holes at the US Women’s Open, and sixth in seven years. She’s played in every US Women’s Open since 1978 except two (1980, 1989).
Not so fast
The USGA has been airing commercials aimed at speeding up the pace of play. But like the men at Merion two weeks ago, it’s taken a long time for groups to get around the golf course. Some afternoon threesomes were pushing 5 hours, 40 minutes . . . Other big names who will or are expected to miss the cut: Yani Tseng, Suzann Pettersen, Michelle Wie, and Jiyai Shin . . . Alison Walshe of Westford probably needs to make a birdie or two in the three holes she has left in her second round. Walshe was 2 over through 15 holes, and 7 over for the tournament . . . In the battle for low Korda, 20-year-old professional Jessica (70-71) leads her 14-year-old amateur sister, Nelly (73-77) by nine shots at the halfway point. Nelly, the youngest player in the field who has her father, former tennis star Petr Korda, caddying for her, is one of five amateurs who have completed 36 holes and should make the cut. A sixth, 16-year-old Lydia Ko, is 3 over for the tournament, and has two holes to complete in her second round . . . Caroline Hedwall was tied for second early in her second round, then took a triple-bogey 7 at No. 4. She righted the ship from there and was 3 over through 14 holes . . . Paz Echeverria, an LPGA Tour rookie from Chile, opened with a 69, then said after the round, “I think the course was playing much easier than the practice rounds. I’m not impressed about this course. I’m not impressed at all.” Echeverria followed with an 82, and will likely miss the cut by one. The lesson, as always: Don’t upset the golf gods. The game’s hard enough already . . . First-round leader Ha-Neul Kim birdied her first hole to get to 7 under, but struggled from there, carding double bogeys at Nos. 6 and 12 in a second-round 77. She was tied for ninth at 1 under.