HOUSTON — As Amy Olson was walking down the 13th fairway Monday — in contention of winning the 75th U.S. Women’s Open — she started singing.
The 28-year-old Fargo golfer said she was singing Josh Groban’s religious song, "You Raise Me Up."
“You raise me up to walk on stormy seas,” Olson told reporters at a post-tournament press conference. Then tears filled her eyes. “So that was what was kind of going through my head today.”
Not only was Olson thinking about winning her first tournament since turning pro in 2013, she also had her father-in-law, Lee Olson, on her mind. Lee died unexpectedly Saturday night. He's the father of Olson’s husband Grant, the linebackers coach at North Dakota State.
Overcoming three straight bogeys and the recent death of her father-in-law, Olson built a two-stroke lead with five holes remaining of Monday’s final round of the U.S. Women’s Open at the Cypress Creek Course of the Champions Golf Club.
But it was A Lim Kim of South Korea who birdied her final three holes for a 4-under par round of 67, which vaulted her to the tournament win at 3-under overall. An emotional Olson finished the tournament with a birdie putt on No. 18, but fell short of Kim by one stroke — finishing in a tie for second place at 2-under par.
“I felt very weak and helpless the last couple days,” Olson said. “And probably the same today on the golf course … I really believed the Lord just carried me through. It makes you realize how much bigger life is than golf.”
Olson, whose best finish at the U.S. Open in three previous appearances was 52nd place, had her two-stroke lead after carding a par on the par-5 No. 13 hole. That’s when Kim started making her charge — mounting one of the biggest comebacks in U.S. Open history after starting the day five strokes off the lead.
Olson bogeyed the par-3, 180-yard, No. 16 — the same hole where she carded a hole-in-one during the opening round last Thursday — to dip to 1-under. Olson overshot the green on her tee shot. Her lofted chip shot out of thick Bermuda grass landed 15 feet beyond the hole.
“This has got to be one of her biggest putts of her career,” said a Golf Channel commentator.
Olson left her putt short and bogeyed to dip to 1-under — two strokes behind Kim.
“I needed to carry it about 170 yards based on my math to carry the bunker,” Olson said. “I had a cut 5-iron on previous hole that went 152, so I was thinking there was no way I can pull that club. So I went with high-cut hybrid — which I pulled off beautifully. I don’t know if it caught a little downwind gust but obviously it didn’t hold the green and got a tough lie.”
Needing two birdies in her final two holes to tie Kim, Olson managed a par and a birdie. She finished her final round with a 1-over 72 to place in a tie for second place at 2-under.
Meanwhile, Kim became the 10th South Korean golfer since 2008 to win the U.S. Open.
“I kind of assumed it would be between me and Hinako,” Olson said, referring to Japan’s Hinako Shibuno, who entered the day with at 4-under with a one-stroke lead over Olson. “I just thought it was going to be potentially between us. I was definitely surprised to see someone come from behind and put that good of round together.”
Conditions were challenging for the Open’s final round, which was suspended until Monday due to heavy rains on Sunday. Golfers endured 43-degree weather with 11 mile-per-hour winds.
Wearing a grey stocking hat and a pink insulated vest, Olson struggled at the start of the day with bogeys on the par-4 No. 2 and No. 3 holes and another bogey on the Par-3 No. 4 hole. That put her in a tie for fourth place at even par, three strokes behind the leader.
Olson bounced back with a birdie on the par-5 No. 5 hole and another birdie on the par-4 No. 6 hole. Olson finished the front nine with three straight pars to remain tied for first place.
Olson, who grew up in Oxbow, N.D., just south of Fargo and became an All-American golfer at NDSU, took sole possession of first place when she carded a par on the par-4 No. 10 to remain at 2-under for the tournament. She built a two-stroke lead after carding a par on the par-4, No. 11 hole.
On the par-5, No. 13, Olson just missed a birdie putt and settled for a par to remain a 2-under. Shibano sank her birdie putt to cut Olson’s lead to one stroke.
Meanwhile on the par-4, No. 17, Kim carded a birdie to tie Olson at 2-under.
After Olson posted a par on the par-4, No. 14 to remain at 2-under, Kim ended her round sinking a birdie putt on the par-4, No. 18 to take the lead at 3-under. Kim finished her final round with three straight birdies for a 4-under score of 67.
On the par-4, No. 15, Olson sank a testy par putt to remain at 2-under. On the par-4, No. 17, Olson sank a 10-foot par putt. On the par-5, No. 18, Olson sank a 12-foot birdie putt to finish one stroke behind Kim and finish with her third runner-up finish in her 147 LPGA events.
“I struck the ball really well all week and I putted great all week,” said Olson, who told reporters she had a special relationship with her father-in-law. “He was a big tough, military, West Point guy. But he had a soft spot for the women in his life. He loved to hunt and fish and we will cherish those memories.”
And the memory of placing runner-up in one of golf’s most prestigious events.
“I knew I had to stay very mentally disciplined just to get through the day but I allowed myself to think of what I am grateful for,” Olson said, as tears filled her eyes. “And I’ve got a long list.”