The US Women’s Open was on the TVs at Runyon’s, the famous chicken wing and beverage parlor on Washington Avenue, on July 6, 2003. The most intense observer there was Alissa Herron Super, in the golf business as a player agent.
Remarkably, Super had two customers who made the final pairing – Hilary Lunke and Angela Stanford – on the long Sunday at the Witch Hollow Course at Pumpkin Ridge in Oregon.
Kelly Robbins had entered at 1 under par for the 72 holes. Annika Sorenstam was also 1 under playing No. 18, a par 5 and one of the few holes with high birdie potential on this dry, hard, long course.
Stanford needed a birdie to join at 1 under. A birdie would win it for Lunke.
“I had to be neutral because Angela was not only a client but a wonderful person. But in my heart I was rooting for Hilary,” Super said. “The Homeyers and the Herrons have known each other forever. And Hilary is such a special person.”
The wait for No. 18 was interminable, whether you were watching in Runyon’s or standing not far down the fairway at Witch Hollow.
“I hit a weak drive and then we waited 20 minutes for Annika to get a decision in front of us,” Lunke said. “It was a long time waiting and wondering if I could hit a fairway wood over that gap in front of me.
“A lot of the players hit a long drive and then an iron to the green. I had to hit a fairway wood. And I didn’t hit that flush and ended up in a fairway bunker 120 yards from the green.
“I took one more club than I should have to get out of the bunker. I had to risk it to get on the green. I hit it to about 20 feet.”
Bill Homeyer, Hilary’s father and certified golf fanatic for most of his life, said: “Hilary has told me that the bunker shot was the best shot of her life.”
Stanford birdied, Lunke two-putted for par — all after Annika bogeyed — and there would be a three-way 18-hole playoff on Monday: Lunke, the longest shot to win in Women’s Open history, if not in distance, along with Stanford and Robbins.
Super found a plane and headed for Portland, Ore.
On Monday, a large crowd turned out to try and watch this unlikely triangle play at the 58th US Women’s Open championship.
Lunke had undergone both local and sectional qualification to enter the field. Never had a qualifier won the Women’s Open. And again it came down to the 18th hole.
Robbins was out of it. Lunke was even and Stanford was 1 over.
“I tore my drive,” Lunke said. “That time I had an easy putt over the gully. I hit my approach about 15 feet from the hole. I figured I had two putts to win and then Angela made a bomb for a birdie. I had to make it putt to win.”
Hilary’s husband, Tylar, was her caddy that day. And Penny Homeyer, her mother, had the one guest spot inside the ropes.
“Bill and I couldn’t see anything off the ropes with that crowd, plus we were too nervous,” Super said. “We went in to watch in the clubhouse. Hilary looked over the putt. There was that delay you get on TV before they show the actual shot. I heard the roar, gave Bill a happy push and said, “She won the US Open! ‘ “
Homeyer said, “Alissa’s push got me behind some people. I never saw the putt. The crowd was crazy inside the clubhouse and outside.”
The 15-foot putt came with a left swing as it reached three feet from the hole. Hilary read the turn for her 12th one-putt green of the playoff.
“Hilary has always been a great putter,” Super said. “Brad Faxon, Steve Stricker and Hilary should be in the Hall of Fame.”
Hilary Lunke, nonstop mother of three active daughters, irregular member of the women’s nine-hole league at Edina Country Club, teacher of a well-attended weekly Bible study class, off the LPGA Tour in 2009 with little success on her post-Pumpkin Ridge resume, and as producer of the left-swinging birdie putt, the champion of the US Open 20 years ago, and forever.
Hilary and Tylar Lunke met as golfers at Stanford University. She was a Minnesotan and he was a Texan. She hit it short and straight, Tylar hit it “long and wrong” (source: Hilary).
She was a state champion, individually and team, at Edina High School. She was an All-America player at Stanford. She was on the prestigious Curtis Cup amateur team for the United States
The distance problem was too much of an obstacle for the weekly grind and low scores on the LPGA. She won $560,000 as the Open champion and did not have a top 10 for the rest of her LPGA career.
So you can call the Open win a miracle, or look at Witch Hollow as so challenging that no one wanted to make a bunch of birdies, and this was the one week in time where the skills of this Edina standout — hitting it straight and putting big — could be rewarded.
“I see our players now, even high school players, and they’re hitting it so far, and especially so high, I can’t imagine,” Lunke said. “It’s phenomenal how the players hit the ball today.”
Tylar works in financial management and Hilary’s life is hectic with three daughters – Greta, Marin and Linnea ages 15 to 10, dancing, golf, tennis, on the go.
“We’ve barely played golf, neither Tylar nor me, in recent years,” Hilary said. “I wanted to start playing more, so I signed up for Edina’s nine-hole league this spring. I’ve only made it twice.”
There is a plaque on the course honoring Lunk’s US Open title. She played some time ago with a recent arrival in Edina and was asked about her golf history.
Humble Hilary held it guard, and then the same woman was tipped and said in wide-eyed wonder, “You won the US Open!”
The wonder will be revisited for a few days in Northern California. Hilary and Tylar left Saturday as United States Golf Association guests to a gathering of past champions at this week’s US Women’s Open, being played for the first time at Pebble Beach.
“All the majors play one event at Cypress Point, and another at The Hay, Pebble Beach’s nine-hole short course,” Lunke said. “This will be Tylar and I’s five day vacation of the year.”
. . .
The Edina duo stayed close
The Homeyer family had spent nine years in Arizona and then moved back to Minnesota. Daughter Hilary would be a sophomore and teamed with Kalen Anderson as stars on Edina’s dynastic girls golf team.
The Hornets won the title in 1995, the third straight for the Hornets and Anderson. Two years later, Edina won again, and Homeyer was the individual champion.
“Hilary and I became the best of friends, we still are, but we put the whole country between us,” Anderson said. “I went to Duke and Hilary went to Stanford.”
They were both honored collegiate players. Homeyer, married Tylar Lunke in November 2002, won the US Open in 2003 and played through 2008 on the LPGA Tour. After college, Anderson played four years on the Futures Tour and then became an assistant coach at Duke.
South Carolina hired Anderson as its women’s golf coach in 2009. The Gamecocks have been very successful, reaching the last eight for match play in the NCAA Tournament again this year.
“Hilary did something that we all dream of when you’re playing junior golf, high school golf,” Anderson said in a phone call. “She’s also someone to be cherished as a friend. To have something of that magnitude happen, to win a US Open … it couldn’t have happened to a better person.”
Anderson’s parents were members of Interlachen and the Homeyers were members of the Edina Country Club. Kalen’s parents now live in Arizona. When she comes back to Minnesota, it has usually been to bring the South Carolina team to the ANNIKA Collegiate event at the Royal Club in Lake Elmo.
“We get to see each other and we talk on the phone quite often,” Anderson said. “The quality that best describes Hilary to me: kind-hearted.”