This week in Duke history: Chuasiriporn nearly wins U.S. Women's Open as an amateur
At 20 years young, Jenny Chuasiriporn was making a name for herself on the world’s biggest stage.
But she fell almost as quickly as she rose.
The amateur and rising Duke senior was playing in the U.S. Women’s Open on July 5, 1998 and needed to sink a 40-foot birdie putt to force a playoff against future Hall of Famer Se Ri Pak.
And she did.
She could not believe what she did and a famous image captured her stunned reaction, hand over mouth and eyes wide.
Chuasiriporn became a name talked about around the world of golf overnight. The next day she and Pak faced off in an 18-hole playoff. On the 18th hole, Pak had to play a shot so close to the water hazard that she had to stand nearly knee-deep in a lake to hit it.
Chuasiriporn had a chance to win the tournament on that hole but her 12-foot putt traveled roughly an inch right of the cup. An inch.
The pair went into the only sudden-death after an 18-hole playoff in the tournament's history, and two holes later Pak emerged victorious.
With the newfound media attention, Chuasiriporn struggled during her senior year at Duke—though the team did win the school’s first national title in any women's sport—and she never had much success as a professional, citing a lack of passion for the game.
In many ways, the 1998 Open was both the individual career highlight for her and one of the last shining moments of her career. But the legend of the miraculous 40-foot putt that July afternoon will long live on in golf—and Duke sports—lore.