Pebble Beach Golf Links, the iconic course on the Monterey Peninsula, has played host to14 national championships since the Jack Neville/Douglas Grant design was completed and opened to the public in 1919.
However, while there have been six U.S. Open played at Pebble, the LPGA Tour has yet to have an event played on the shores of Carmel Bay—until now.
The 78th U.S. Women’s Open will tee off at Pebble Beach, known as the “greatest meeting of land and sea,” on Thursday.
“It’s the first time I’ve been here,” said top-ranked Jin-Young Ko (pictured) of South Korea, who has won 26 events as a pro, including 12 times on the LPGA Tour and twice in majors, with her best finish in the U.S. Women’s Open a tie for second in 2020. “I just wanted to enjoy the views, and I wanted to eat oysters in San Fran, so I got here early.
“I’m really excited to play this golf course. I really wanted to play this golf course. My life is pretty good because I can play this place, so I think I’m a very lucky player. If I’m doing really well about the swing motion or the swing key, it’s going to be fun to play this golf course.
“But the greens are a little tricky.”
Ko, who last week broke the record set by Lydia Ko of New Zealand for total weeks atop the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings at 159, said she remembers watching Tiger Woods’ dominant, 15-stroke victory in the 2000 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach on television, in addition to seeing Gary Woodland win the tournament at Pebble in 2019.
While former champions Annika Sorenstam of Sweden and Michelle Wie West are in the field this week, two-time major winner Minjee Lee of Australia is the defending champion after she won last year at Pine Needles Lodge and Club in Southern Pines, S.C.
“It’s not like Evian, where I already knew the golf course and had played it for years,” said Lee, whose other major title came in the 2021 Evian Championship in France. “This will be a little bit different. The U.S. Open has always meant a lot to me and to be able to win it was a dream come true for me. I don’t know how it will feel driving in there to start the tournament as defending champion.
“I’m really happy and grateful that we were able to play at Muirfield and have access to the golf course, and being at Pebble for the first time. I know that a lot of work goes into having those championships there. It’s not easy, nothing is easy, right, but I am a little bit bittersweet that it took this much time to get the women on these golf courses.
“I’m very appreciative of the tours and the U.S. Golf Association and all of our sponsors for really pushing the women’s game and the LPGA to go to all of these great venues now, and I know it’s only going to get better.
“But I feel like it was a long time coming.”
One player who will have a bit of advantage over the others in the field is Mina Harigae.
The 33-year-old Harigae was born in Monterey, grew up nearby in Pacific Grove and attended the Stevenson School in Pebble Beach and has played Pebble more than 75 times.
“Knowledge works when you’re able to hit it where you need to hit it,” said Harigae, who has won seven times as a pro, but not on the PGA Tour. “It’s hard to play on your home course, but I’m just very excited for the atmosphere, friends and family supporting me. I just think it’s going to be a great week.”
And you just know she has dreamt of earning her first LPGA Tour victory at Pebble.