On U.S. Women’s Open Sunday, full range of emotions on display

andrea lee reacts to missed putt at U.S. Women's Open

Yuka Saso won her second U.S. Women's Open title in Lancaster — but there were plenty of players who left heartbroken.

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LANCASTER, Pa. — As the final group came off the course on Sunday at the 79th U.S. Women’s Open, Minjee Lee and Andrea Lee (no relation) walked through a sea of fans gathered around the outside of the Lancaster Country Club clubhouse.

Minjee walked first, staring blankly ahead, only breaking her trance to thank a fan who complimented her bright pink shirt. Andrea came next, stopping to hug Ruoning Yin before continuing on to the scoring area. Each had entered Sunday hoping to win the biggest event in women’s golf. They both came away empty-handed.

As the two Lees continued their march to the scoring tent, they passed by a collection of photographers, videographers and writers. The group was following Yuka Saso, whose two-under 68 had clinched her the second U.S. Women’s Open title of her career. She was headed to the 18th green to receive her prize — the Harton S. Semple trophy.

Minjee walked by without a second glance, while Andrea stopped for a moment to take in the scene. If a few shots had happened differently, it could have been one of them commanding the attention of the hoard of media. Instead, they will each leave Lancaster ruing the what-ifs.

Andrea met with the assembled media and voiced her disappointment in how she’d played. She was in contention right until the end, three untimely back-nine bogeys sinking her chances of winning the biggest tournament of her young career.

“It was tough out there,” she said. “Obviously didn’t have my best right from the start. I was pretty nervous, but yeah, just didn’t have great shots out there.”

Coming up just short is never easy, but when it happens on Sunday, you’ve got to relive the heartache. When you come close to glory, but ultimately fail, everyone wants to know what went wrong. As Andrea spoke interviewed with Amy Rogers from the Golf Channel, tears welled in her eyes.

Not far away, runner-up Hinako Shibuno spoke with the Japanese media contingent in her native tongue. The 2019 AIG Women’s Open champion has earned the nickname “Smiling Cinderella” for her megawatt smile that seemingly never leaves her face. This occasion was no different.

Although Shibuno had also come up just short of the ultimate goal, there wasn’t the same hint of regret that followed the final pairing.

“I have been very nervous all the way through,” Shibuno said. “I feel like there are some places that are a little bit regrettable, but still, I think I finished strong.”

As Shibuno played in the penultimate pairing, she watched on from the 18th fairway as Saso saved par on the final hole. As soon as the ball touched the bottom of the cup, she clapped her hands over her head in appreciation of the round her friend and competitor had put together.

Andrea Lee hits a shot at the U.S. Women's Open.
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When Saso watched the ball roll into the cup, she too raised her hands in jubilation. Her final-round 68 — complete with a back-nine 32 — got her in the house at four under par. And with her nearest competitors faltering a few holes back, it was at this moment that her dreams of a second U.S. Women’s Open title became a reality. Saso insists she didn’t know where she stood on the leaderboard for most of the day, but when that par putt dropped, she knew exactly what it meant.

“I wasn’t too relaxed to be able to see the scoreboard,” she said. “But like I said earlier, I just tried to be focused on my routine and my game, and I think that’s why I looked like that on TV. I think it’s a good thing that I looked like that.”

With her second Semple trophy in hand, and a little history in tow, Saso took a moment for an interview with Golf Channel on the 72nd green. Her father was alongside her for this victory, and as she spoke, tears came to her eyes.

“I think winning in 2021 I represented the Philippines,” Saso said. “I feel like I was able to give back to my mom. This year I was able to represent Japan, and I think I was able to give back to my dad. I’m very happy that I was able to do it. It’s just a wonderful feeling that I was able to give back to my parents in the same way.”

As the crowds shuffled out of Lancaster Country Club, and the sun set over the hills in the distance, another major Sunday was complete. For Saso, the day ended with the highest of highs. For those who came oh so close to glory, this will be a Sunday they’d soon like to forget.

No matter the final result, the full range of emotions always comes out on the final day of a major. That much was clear on the final day of this U.S. Women’s Open.

Zephyr Melton

Golf.com Editor

Zephyr Melton is an assistant editor for GOLF.com where he spends his days blogging, producing and editing. Prior to joining the team at GOLF, he attended the University of Texas followed by stops with the Texas Golf Association, Team USA, the Green Bay Packers and the PGA Tour. He assists on all things instruction and covers amateur and women’s golf. He can be reached at zephyr_melton@golf.com.

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