Has An Amateur Ever Won the U.S. Women's Open?

The answer to the headline question is yes: In the history of the U.S. Women's Open, the biggest tournament in women's golf, one amateur golfer has won. Multiple other amateur golfers have come close. Two amateurs lost in playoffs, four amateurs total finished solo second, and five other amateurs tied for second place.

The Amateur Champ: Catherine Lacoste, 1967

Twenty-two-year-old French amateur Catherine Lacoste wasn't just the first — and so far only — amateur to win the U.S. Women's Open, but also the first French winner, the first European winner, and just the second non-American winner. She was also the youngest winner to that point.

Her victory in the 1967 U.S. Women's Open was certainly a surprise, given that Lacoste hadn't yet won either of her biggest amateur titles. Those wins, the U.S. and British amateurs, came in 1969.

Lacoste opened with rounds of 71 and 70 to take a five-stroke lead. She carded a 74 in the third round and maintained that five-stroke margin. In the final round, despite a score of 79, Lacoste held on to win by two strokes over runners-up Susie Maxwell Berning and Beth Stone.

Lacoste, daughter of the glamorous French sports couple Simone de la Chaume and Rene Lacoste (namesake of the fashion brand), never turned pro. After winning multiple national amateur titles in 1969, she mostly retired from international competition.

Two Amateurs Lost In U.S. Women's Open Playoffs

  • Barbara McIntire, 1956: McIntire was at the beginning of a career as a lifelong amateur. She went on to win the U.S. and British amateurs, and play in the Curtis Cup many times as well as captain in it. At the 1956 U.S. Women's Open, her final-round 71 shared low-round honors and tied her with Kathy Cornelius. In the 18-hole playoff, Cornelius won, 75 to 82.

  • Jenny Chuasiriporn, 1998: The 21-year-old American Chuasiriporn is well-remembered by golf fans because of her duel with Se Ri Pak, who in the 1998 U.S. Women's Open started the influx of Korean golfers onto the LPGA. Chuasiriporn made a 45-foot putt on the 72nd hole — one that broadcaster Johnny Miller called on the air one of the greatest putts in golf history — to force the playoff. After 18 holes of the playoff, they were still tied, but Pak finally won it on the 20th playoff hole. Chuasiriporn was a four-time college All-American, but never made it to the LPGA Tour.

The List: Amateur Winners and Runners-Up in U.S. Women's Open

The lone amateur winner:
  • Catherine Lacoste, Virginia Hot Springs Golf & Tennic Club (Cascades Course), Hot Springs, Virginia, 1967
The amateurs who finished solo second:
  • Betsy Rawls, Rolling Hills Country Club, Wichita, Kansas, 1950. Finished nine strokes behind Babe Zaharias. Rawls went on to become the first four-time champ in USWO history.
  • Barbara McIntire, Northland Country Club, Duluth, Minnesota, 1956 (lost in playoff)
  • Jenny Chuasiriporn, Blackwolf Run Golf Club, Kohler, Wisconsin, 1998 (lost in playoff)
  • Hye-Jin Choi, Trump National Golf Club (Old Course), Bedminster, New Jersey, 2017. Finished two strokes behind Sung Hyun Park.
The amateurs who tied for second place:
  • Polly Riley and Sally Sessions, Starmount Forest Country Club, Greensboro, North Carolina, 1947. Two amateurs tied for second in the second U.S. Women's Open played, six behind winner Betty Jameson. Polly Riley later became the first-ever LPGA Tour winner, but never turned pro.
  • Nancy Lopez, Atlantic City Country Club, Northfield, New Jersey, 1975. Tied with Sandra Post and JoAnne Carner, two strokes behind Sandra Palmer. Lopez, one of the giants of golf history, never won a U.S. Women's Open.
  • Brittany Lang and Morgan Pressel, Cherry Hills Country Club, Cherry Hills Village, Colorado, 2005. Again, two amateurs shared second place, this time two strokes behind the winner, Birdie Kim. Pressel shared the third-round lead and appeared in position to win, or at least force a playoff, as she stood in the fairway on the final hole. But up ahead on the green, Kim blasted out of a bunker and into the cup to steal the victory.

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