Despite late trouble, 17-year-old Hye-Jin Choi shined at U.S. Women's Open

US Womens Open Golf
Hye-Jin Choi, of South Korea,, was a late mistake away from becoming the youngest player to win the U.S. Women’s Open.

BEDMINSTER, N.J. – If not for an errant tee shot that splashed into the water on the 16th hole of her final round, 17-year-old Hye-Jin Choi could have made golf history at the U.S. Women’s Open.

As it turned out, while she did not become the youngest player ever to win a major championship, Choi accomplished plenty during the weekend at Trump National Golf Club.

The South Korean teenager finished as low amateur in a Women’s Open for the second straight year. Her 72-hole score of 9-under-par 279 was the lowest in championship history – by four strokes. And she became only the fourth amateur to finish alone in second place at the Open.

“This tournament for me, even if I could just come and play, that alone would be an honor,” Choi said through a translator. “But on top of that, it was excellent play and I get the runner-up and it is unbelievably joyous thing for me. I try to have fun all along.”

Choi, who turns 18 on Aug. 23, was tied for the lead with Sung Hyun Park after her birdie on the par-5 15th. But in front of a large crowd on the 16th tee, and with President Trump watching from his box about 50 yards behind the tee, Choi made a bad swing with a 7-iron at the 145-yard par-3, reaching the water to the right of the green, and wound up making double bogey.

“That is a distance probably not quite to use No. 7 so I think I was trying to squeeze that distance and maybe that extra effort somehow ended up in the missed shot,” she said.

Still, Choi regained her focus and birdied the 18th hole to finish two strokes behind Park, the champion.

Only one amateur, Catherine Lacoste in 1967, has won the U.S. Women’s Open.

Until her hiccup on 16, Choi, who had made the cut in her only two career appearances on the LPGA Tour prior to last week, played with the poise of a veteran. She began the day one stroke off the lead held by Shanshan Feng but grabbed a 2-stroke lead with the help of two birdies and a bogey by Feng.

Feng, her playing partner in the final pairing Sunday, was impressed.

“I thought she was just a great playing partner and great player,” Feng said. “She was very long. I didn’t see anything was bothering her. Like mentally, she was so ready. She wanted to win, I could tell, and then she was going for it every time, didn’t seem like she had any pressure at all. I’m happy for her.”