Originally published on 8/15/2015 at 8:49 am.
Special To BuffaloGolfer: Alex Fisher is a college freshman, with plans to study Economics and Photography. Recently he has begun traipsing the fairways with a camera in tow rather than a bag full of clubs. His coverage of the U.S. Women’s Open can be found at http://www.alexfisherphoto.com/uswomensopen.
This July, I was one piece of a great puzzle at the 70th edition of the U.S. Women’s Open contested in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. As the lead photographer for the host, Lancaster Country Club, I spent each day capturing the scene inside and outside of the ropes. I worked alongside nearly three hundred members of the press from all corners of the globe, including videographers from the Associated Press and Japan’s TV Asahi and writers from legacy papers like the New York Times and the Washington Post. While I’ve had the privilege to cover almost a dozen tournaments in the past few years, it remains quite a great learning experience to watch these veterans of the golf industry operate.
Lancaster Country Club impressed me from my first visit last October. The William Flynn-designed layout is made for big tournaments. As Mike Davis, the USGA Executive Director, said, “if we put Lancaster Country Club in most states, it would be the best golf course in that state.” From a photographer’s perspective, the course is a visual feast; wide suspension bridges, deep bunkers, and varying topography offer a huge range of angles from which to capture golf’s best. Dame Laura Davies’ thwacking of the grass to create her own tee and an at-times rambunctious crowd of kayakers lingering on the Conestoga River around the 6th green added color to an already exciting event. Lush fairways and largely sunny skies played up perfectly for Fox’s TV cameras; thick rough partnered with slippery greens assured the eventual champion would have to play a well-rounded game.
Out of many happy moments, a few story lines continue to resonate. First, Shiho Oyama’s improbable run at victory that ultimately saw the veteran Japanese golfer finish in the top five. Oyama’s smiley disposition toward her fellow competitors, the domestic and international media, and the fans quickly made the 38-year-old golfer a favorite. In a sport where players oh-so-often appear robotic, her extrovert personality made her an exciting anomaly. Second, Natalie Gulbis and amateur Emma Talley’s interaction with the volunteers and supporters. Although Gulbis’ competitive golf days are likely numbered, she is sure to be a great ambassador for the game for decades to come; never have I seen one person take so many selfies and sign so many autographs during a practice round than Gulbis. While Emma Talley, the defending-NCAA individual champion, is not yet a household name like Gulbis, I have no doubt that she will be soon. As I followed Talley around the front nine on Sunday morning, I watched as the Kentucky-native criss-crossed fairways between shots thanking each and every hole marshall for their service. This warmth is sure to pay dividends in the years to come as Talley wraps up her studies at the University of Alabama and joins the pro ranks. Finally, I would be remiss to not acknowledge the fantastic back nine of this year’s champion, In Gee Chun. The smooth-swinging South Korean caught lightning in a bottle on Sunday with 4 birdies in the last six holes to defeat fellow countrywoman, Amy Yang. After fulfilling her obligations to the assembled media, Chun spent nearly an hour signing autographs for fans waiting patiently outside the clubhouse. As if to convince herself her victory was real, she made sure to add “2015 U.S. Women’s Open Champion” to every ball or flag she signed.