PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — In the same week that Honolulu native Michelle Wie West bid goodbye to the women’s game, another Honolulu product, Allisen Corpuz, stepped up at Pebble Beach to win the U.S. Women’s Open — the first ever played at the legendary course — for her first LPGA title.
The 25-year-old Corpuz was the only golfer in the 156-player field to card under-par rounds all four days of the tournament. And on Sunday, she put together a dominant final-round 69 to finish at 9 under — a full 3 shots clear of the field — and claim the $2 million prize, the richest ever for an LPGA major champion.
“My mind is racing,” Corpuz said after raising the trophy. “It was something I had dreamed of, but at the same time kind of just never really expected it to happen.”
Corpuz has come a long way since picking up the sport in Hawaii 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 driving range.
“Honestly, I sucked and I wanted to get better,” Corpuz said. “I think that’s just who I am as a person.”
As she improved, Corpuz went on to break Wie West’s record as the youngest player to qualify for the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links tournament. A few years later, in 2014, she watched from home as Wie West won the U.S. Women’s Open at another historic first-time venue, Pinehurst.
Corpuz joined Wie West as the only major champions from Hawaii.
“She’s been a huge role model, but I’ve never really compared myself to her,” Corpuz said. “Like I said, I never really thought I’d get this far.”
Sunday, however, was proof that Corpuz’s journey deserved a fitting result, that all the work she’d put in was coalescing into a historic moment for her, even if she never expected it.
“It was smart golf,” Corpuz’s caddie, Jay Monahan, told ESPN. “That’s one thing she’s very good at. I don’t really have to help it that much. I mean, she’s just good at playing the course like she needs to.”
The final round began with Corpuz 1 shot back of Japan’s Nasa Hataoka. After producing two bogeys and three birdies on the front nine and making the turn tied with Hataoka at 7 under, Corpuz steadied the ship on the back nine, fending off hard charges from not just Hataoka but also England’s Charley Hull, who shot a final-round-low 66.
Once Corpuz birdied the 10th hole to take a 1-stroke lead, she did not look back, adding birdies on 14 and 15 to cement the result that made her the first American to secure her first win at a U.S. Women’s Open since Hilary Lunke in 2003.
“I feel like everything that’s happened this year has kind of prepared me for this moment,” Corpuz said. “Telling myself I belong out here, I’m good enough to compete. That’s just been what I’ve been telling myself for the past two years.”
Much like her even-keeled demeanor that never wavered all week, Corpuz’s game was sound throughout. Rarely did she ever stray from the fairways — she hit 43 of 56 for the week — and paired that with 2.77 strokes gained on approaches, second best in the field.
Her putting was particularly stellar on Sunday, as she made four putts of 10 feet or more, doubling what she had made all week from that range. That aspect of her game has improved dramatically since she arrived at USC in 2016. As a Trojan, she led the women’s team with a 71.57 stroke average and was named a first-team All-American.
“She’s a generationally great iron player and ball striker,” Justin Silverstein, her coach at USC, told ESPN in a phone call Sunday. “This week has been a lot of what we saw in college. When it’s right it looks like a video game.”
She turned pro in 2021, the same year she represented the United States in the Curtis Cup, and though she had yet to win a major or an LPGA tournament, her performance had been trending upward in 2023. At the year’s first two majors, Corpuz finished tied for 15th and tied for fourth. As far as Silverstein was concerned, it was only a matter of time before it all came together.
“It’s no surprise at this golf course that she’s excelling,” Silverstein said of his thinking at the beginning of the week. “She’s built for major championships.”
Heading into the week, Silverstein said he felt Pebble Beach presented an ideal golf course and setup for Corpuz. The small greens would accentuate her accurate ballstriking, while the fairways were just wide enough that she could live within the boundaries if she hit anywhere close to her rate of 85% of fairways this season.
The poa annua grass on the greens is a familiar putting surface to Corpuz, who played on similar grasses both growing up and in college. In fact, as Silverstein pointed out, Corpuz still does much of her playing and practicing at Southern California golf courses with similarities to Pebble.
Corpuz’s success goes beyond her ballstriking. She has also worked extensively with Bill Nelson, a mental performance coach for LPGA players. As Silverstein pointed out, Nelson and Corpuz have spent time working on not just visualization but also breathing techniques and even controlling her walk from shot to shot so that she remains calm and composed throughout.
“I spoke with [Nelson] a bit this morning just to try to calm down a little,” Corpuz said. “For me I get a little quick, so I really just tried to slow everything down and enjoy the moment.”
As Corpuz stepped up to the final hole on Sunday, the result no longer in question, her steady composure and pace remained. But after she hit her last fairway of the week with another accurate drive, she began walking down the 18th fairway toward the rousing cheers and trophy that awaited her and allowed herself to smile. It was finally time to enjoy the moment.