Paolo AugettiESPN4 minutes to read
Pebble Beach, Calif. — In the same week that Honolulu native Michelle Wie West bid farewell to the women’s game, another Honolulu native, Alicin Corpuz, surged into Pebble Beach to win the U.S. Women’s Open — her first match ever on a legendary tournament — for her first title. in the LPGA.
The 25-year-old Corpuz was the only golfer in the 156-player field to win sub-par rounds on all four days of the tournament. And on Sunday, she collected a dominant final-round 69 to finish at 9-under — three full shots from the field — and take home the $2 million prize, the richest ever for a major LPGA champion.
“My mind is racing,” Corpuz said after lifting the trophy. “It was something I had dreamed of, but at the same time I never expected it to happen.”
Corpuz has come a long way since she started playing sports on the island as a way to spend time with her father and brother on the weekends. There, she fell in love with not just the game, but the idea of improving and hitting the ball farther and farther at her local drive range.
“Honestly, I shut up and wanted to get better,” Corpuz said. “I think that’s who I am as a person.”
As she improved, Corpuz went on to break Lowe West’s record for the youngest player to qualify for the US Amateur Public Links Championship. A few years later, in 2014, I watched from home as Wie West won the US Women’s Open at another historic venue for the first time, Pinehurst.
Corpuz joined Wee West as the only major champion from Hawaii.
“She was a role model, but I never compared myself to her,” Corpuz said. Like I said, I never thought I’d get this far.
Yet Sunday was proof that Corpuz’s flight deserved a fitting outcome, and that all the work she did was turning into a landmark moment for her, even if she never expected it.
“It was smart golf,” Corpuz caddy Jay Monahan told ESPN. “That’s something she’s very good at. You don’t have to help with that much. I mean, she’s just as good at playing the course as she wants to.”
The final round started with a single Corpuz shot from Japan’s Nasa Hatoka. After producing two bogeys and three birdies on the front nine and tying the inning with Hataoka at 7-under, Corpuz pinned the ship on the back nine, fending off powerful charges not only from Hataoka but also from England’s Charlie Hull, who shot the last. 66.
Once Corpuz crashed on the 10th hole to take a one stroke lead, she didn’t look back, adding birdies on the 14th and 15th to cement a score that made her the first American to claim her first win at the US Women’s Open since Hilary Lunk in 2003.
“I feel like everything that’s happened this year has kind of prepared me for this moment,” Corpuz said. “I tell myself I belong here, I’m good enough to compete. That’s what I’ve been telling myself for the past two years.”
Just like her poised, unwavering demeanor all week, Corpuz’s game was intact the entire time. She rarely gets away from fairways — she hit 43 of 56 for the week — and tied that with 2.77 earned runs on approach, second-best in the field.
Her putting was also particularly stellar on Sunday, as she did four reps of 10 feet or more, doubling what she achieved all week from that range. This aspect of her game has greatly improved since arriving at USC in 2016. As a Trojan, she led the women’s team with an average of 71.57 strokes and was named a first-team All-American.
“She’s an iron player and a great ball forward for generations,” USC coach Justin Silverstein said on a phone call Sunday. “This week was a lot of what we saw in college. When the time comes it feels like a video game.”
She turned pro in 2021, the same year she represented the United States at the Curtis Cup, and although she has yet to win a major or LPGA championship, her performance has been trending upwards in 2023. In the first two majors of the year, Corpuz finished tied For the fifteenth place and the fourth square. As far as Silverstein was concerned, it was only a matter of time before everything came together.
“It’s no surprise that you excel on this golf course,” Silverstein said of his reflection at the start of the week. “I’m built for the big leagues.”
Heading into the week, Silverstein said he felt Pebble Beach provided the perfect golf course and setting for Corpuz. The small greens will increase her accuracy of the ball, while the fairways have been wide enough to where she can live inside the bounds if she hits anywhere near her average of 85% fairways this season.
The poa annua grass on the greens was also familiar to Corpuz, who had played on similar grasses growing up and in college. In fact, as Silverstein points out, Corpuz still has a lot of play and practice on her Southern California golf courses that look like Pebble’s.
Corpuz’s success goes beyond her hitting ball. I also worked extensively with Bill Nelson, a mental performance coach for LPGA players. As Silverstein points out, Nelson and Corpuz spent time working on not only visualization, but breathing techniques as well, and even controlling her gait from one take to the next so she remained calm and composed the entire time.
“I talked to [Nelson] Corpuz said a little this morning just to try and calm down a bit. For me I’m going fast, so I really tried to slow everything down and enjoy the moment.
When Corpuz bowled the final hole on Sunday, the score was no longer in question, remaining steady and her walk steady. But after hitting her final lane of the week with another careful drive, she started to walk down the 18th lane to the enthusiastic cheers and trophy that was waiting for her and allowed herself to smile. It’s finally time to enjoy the moment.
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