Golfing Gem Awaits Competitors


HUTCHINSON, Kan. -- To paraphrase one of my favorite lines from Seinfeld, Its real, and its spectacular! The reference this time is to the golfing gem, Prairie Dunes Country Club. This 65-year-old course in the heart of Kansas is a gorgeous test of golf that will undoubtedly identify the best player.
'I just love it, says two-time defending champion Karrie Webb. This course is quite a challenge; and its fair.
There are no tricks on this par-70, 6300-yard layout. The Perry Maxwell (and son, Press) design tells the players exactly where they have to hit. If they dont execute, there is four-inch rough and three-feet tall native grasses waiting nearby. The small, undulating greens are Open-fast at 9.5 to 10 on the stimpmeter.
Yes, its a ball-strikers course, says the wide-eyed two-time U.S. Open champion Annika Sorenstam. Like at all U.S. Opens, par will be a very good score.
This course requires a lot of patience, says Juli Inkster, the winner of six professional majors. Youve got to hit it on the right (correct) side of the fairway and the wind makes that even harder.
The Hutchinson locals say a 20-mile per hour wind is nothing but a gentle breeze.
Inkster should certainly know how to play well at Prairie Dunes. In 1980, at this very course, Juli won her first of three consecutive U.S. Womens Amateur championships. The Hall-of-Fame players is just one of many wonderful story lines to follow this week.
Sorenstam has already won six of her twelve starts on the LPGA Tour this season. Shes trying to win her third U.S. Open and her second major championship of the year.
Webb is trying to become the first woman to ever win this championship three years in a row. She won her last start on tour, two weeks ago.
In Se Ri Paks remarkable rookie year of 1998, she won the LPGA Championship and then the Womens Open at Blackwolf Run in Kohler, Wisconsin. Now, she has the chance to accomplish the same feat, after winning the LPGA again just one month ago.
And on this Independence Day weekend, all of America can celebrate the ending of an era. Nancy Lopez, the most popular player in the history of womens golf is playing in her 25th and, most likely, her last U.S. Open. At the age of 45, the Hall-of-Fame player, mother and wife has deemed this season her last. Its time to say goodbye to the travel and hotel rooms and return home to husband Ray Knight and her three children.
Wouldnt it be nice if this ambassador of our game could add one more trophy to her collection of 48 the one tournament she covets most, but has failed to capture: The U.S. Womens Open Championship? Now, that would set off some fireworks!!
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