Morgan Pressel on the history of the US Women’s Open at Pine Needles
When Morgan Pressel became the youngest to qualify for a US Women’s Open in 2001 at age 12, four teenage girls were on the court with her at Pine Needles: Natalie Gulbis (19), Leigh Anne Hardin (19) , Diana Ramage (18) and Christina Kim (17).
Pressel’s feat sparked a trend among junior golfers who thought why not try qualifying? Five years later, 25 teenagers made up 16% of the field at Newport Country Club. Four of them were 15 years old.
This week, the Women’s Open returns to Pine Needles for the fourth time. There are 22 teenagers on the pitch.
In 2007, Pressel, fresh off her historic victory at what is now the Chevron Championship, returned to Pine Needles and fought her way into the final group on Sunday. Cristie Kerr finally won.
Pressel is back this year in a different role as a senior analyst for Golf Channel/NBC, after switching gears away from a competitive career.
golf week recently caught up with the 34-year-old, who is a two-time LPGA winner, to talk Pine Needles, her time on TV and who she loves for the 77th edition of women’s golf’s greatest championship.
You qualified for your first US Women’s Open at age 12 and started a nationwide trend of young players trying to qualify. How has that first week at Pine Needles changed your life?
Amateur golfer Morgan Pressel signs autographs during practice before the 2001 US Women’s Open at Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club in Southern Pines, North Carolina. (Photo: Luke Frazza/AFP via Getty Images)
It changed my life in so many ways. The main way, I would say, is that it really opened my eyes to what I wanted to do with my life. I think I was surprised to be there; I think other people were surprised that I was there, but at the end of the week, just being in the locker room with my idols, playing for the first time on a real championship golf course – in what I ‘ve always considered the greatest tournament in women’s golf, the one I grew up putting 10-footers to win in practice – it was really the moment I came home and I said that was what I wanted to do with my life.
When you see other young people following in your footsteps, what is the best advice you can give to those experiencing success or a highlight like this at a young age?
Heather Daly-Donofrio, Morgan Pressel and Ashli Bunch take shelter during a weather delay at the 2001 US Women’s Open. (Photo: Erik Perel/AFP via Getty Images)
Have fun. It sounds cliché, but it’s easy to get carried away with everything around you, whether it’s excessive media attention or even now, potential sponsors and agents and some of the different things that come with being put in the spotlight. I would say I didn’t have as much as the kids these days given how amateur amateur rules have changed. It came a little slower for me, it only came in my late teens, which is still early, but it’s different from what I feel like today. today.
But really soak up the experience. You have the opportunity to be up close and learn from some of the best players in the world, playing on the same stage. That’s really what I tried to do, soak it all up, talk to as many people as possible. Sign up for practice rounds with people you’ve always idolized.
I remember when I was at Pine Needles there was a long rain delay and I didn’t want to leave the locker room. I just wanted to sit there eating and soaking it all up.
You played in the final group on Sunday at the 2007 US Women’s Open at Pine Needles alongside Cristie Kerr and Lorena Ochoa. What stood out the most from this round and how long did it take you to recover from it (a final 77)?
Morgan Pressel reacts to a missed putt during the final round of the 2007 US Women’s Open at Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club. (Photo: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Oh, it took me a while to get over it. I was very disappointed with my finish. But I learned a lot watching Lorena and Cristie, of course, get the win.
I really felt like I was very close and had opportunities, and after 2005 maybe it still hurt a little more to be close again. But, you know, 2007 was a great year for me and I put a lot of expectations on myself after winning the Chevron earlier that year. I think looking back I realize that I kept putting myself in this position to be successful and golf is tough.
I remember very well my double on the last one.
How did you know it was time to stop competing in the LPGA?
LPGA golfer and TV analyst Morgan Pressel works out during round three of the 2022 Honda Classic. (Photo: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports)
I had thought about it for a little while. I would say COVID probably accelerated my decision. But I just lost some love and motivation. It can be exhausting when you’re really struggling, and I just felt it was time to try something different.
What do you enjoy most about your job as a television analyst?
Morgan Pressel prepares for a Golf Channel TV show alongside host Grant Boone (Photo courtesy of Morgan Pressel)
I like the challenge. Live TV is very intense. It’s fun to share the stories of players I know so well. … To really have the opportunity to share this idea with our fans, it’s a nice place to live. I had to learn all the ins and outs of being a broadcaster very quickly, and the team at Golf Channel and NBC Sports were amazing in helping me through that transition. I love the team I work with week after week. We are having a lot of fun. It’s intense, but it’s also a lot of fun.
Who do you like for Pine Needles this year, and what type of player has an advantage?
Cristie Kerr celebrates with the trophy after winning the 2007 US Women’s Open at Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club. (Photo: Jonathan Ernst/Getty Images)
This is definitely a golf course for hitters, a golf course for smart players. But also, the greens are just devilish.
You really have to have an incredible short game to play well. I was also there for the Senior Women’s Open a few years ago. There are just a few places around the greens that are so difficult and require so much creativity. I mean, when you think about all that entails, it’s hard to bet against Jin Young Ko, who leads the circuit in almost every category, including the short game.
I could see a player like Patty Tavatanakit playing well, a fantastic putter, a fantastic chipper. Lydia Ko. I’m not sure how the golf course is going to be laid out, in terms of length and power. Rain or shine. So, I don’t know if you can necessarily dominate the golf course. But I mean, definitely watch someone who has a fantastic short game to do well around Pine Needles.
An American hasn’t won the US Women’s Open since 2016. Are Americans trying hard? What must change?
Brittany Lang won the 2016 US Women’s Open in a three-hole playoff following a controversial penalty. (Photo: Getty Images)
I think we’re all trying too hard (laughs). I don’t think it’s just an American thing. There’s no doubt that growing up, as a young American in sports, the US Open is your dream. It’s the pinnacle. It’s just not that easy.
It was definitely hard to look at last year, what happened with Lexi (Thompson) and put yourself in that position. I could see Lexi coming out hot this year. She has been playing fantastic golf lately. Looking for a little redemption, I guess.
Are they trying too hard?
Maybe. I don’t know if that would prevent them from winning. … I don’t know if it’s just because they’re putting more pressure on themselves that they can’t come out with a win. … Everyone in this field puts pressure on themselves. It’s just those who can handle it better who come out on top.
What did you enjoy about Lexi’s putting this year?
Lexi Thompson lines up a putt on the second green during the first round of the 2021 QBE Shootout in Naples, Florida. (Photo: Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images)
I think it’s been really good. I talked a lot about it to Martin (Hall), his trainer. She really worked a lot on her timing, her hitting rhythm. She worked a bit to pull her shoulders back to try to get her arms and ribcage working together a bit more instead of independent hands away from the body. I don’t know if there’s anyone on the tour that works harder than Lexi… but I know even more specifically on the putt I know they’re working a lot on things that will put her in a good place. state of mind to play. Any athlete in any sport needs it.
What did you enjoy most about Pine Needles?
Morgan Pressel attends the 2001 US Women’s Open at Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club in Southern Pines, North Carolina. (Photo: Craig Jones/Allsport)
I love everything about it. Granted, I was a player who relied a lot on my short game, that’s one of the reasons I liked him a lot because I could be creative around the green. It’s a fun course. It’s a course where if you land good shots, you’ll be rewarded. If you hit bad shots, you’ll struggle to make par or worse. I’ve always loved golf courses that are fair, challenging courses that make you think.