KOHLER, Wis. – Forget about the best spots to watch golf. For fans at the first round of the U. S. Women's Open at Blackwolf Run, the most prized places to sit or stand Thursday were under a bit of shade.
"The weather gods obviously didn't smile on this event," said Jim Quast of Madison, Wis., who was sitting under one of several shady spots the U.S. Golf Association created by erecting curving plastic roofs.
The temperature peaked at 98 degrees at 2:30 p.m. according to USGA officials, and was paired with high humidity, creating uncomfortable conditions for players and spectators on a course that has little shade and is long and difficult to walk.
Kay Dobbe of Conover, Wis., and her husband, Dean, were partially protected from the brutal sun by an umbrella while watching from the grandstand on the 13th hole. Asked who was suffering more, players or fans, Kay said "The golfers, because they have to keep moving in the heat all the time."
After shooting a 1-over 73, Paula Creamer acknowledged that the heat tested her ability to focus.
"You're not thinking 100 percent clearly all the time," Creamer said. "And I think that's the hardest fight and battle out there is trying to just be in the shade as much as you possibly can. I'm not the biggest sun umbrella fan, but I used it almost every hole."
The plight of the spectators, however, was uppermost in the minds of tournament officials. Dan Hubbard, the USGA's assistant director of communications, said it acted to help people cope with "this historic heat."
In addition to creating shade, the USGA provided two cooling stations in the form of air-conditioned buses. There were also medical and emergency personnel on hand to help spectators cope with heat-related problems.
Although some people were treated at aid stations, no one was in serious enough condition to be hospitalized.
One way to cope with the heat was to drink liquids to stay hydrated, which the Dobbes did. Although they both came armed with a quart of water at 8:30 a.m., Dean admitted that before noon "We were having pop."
Volunteer Judy DeShaney of Appleton, Wis., got lucky by being assigned to the air-conditioned merchandise tent.
She said people told her they entered the tent just to cool off from what they told her was "stiffling heat, unbelievable for Wisconsin." The big sellers were unbrellas, which could be seen everywhere Thursday, hats, and sun screen.
Temperatures nearing 100 have gripped southern Wisconsin for several days but will ease in the tournament's final three days. The forecast is for highs in the mid-80s Friday and the high 70s Saturday when rain is also possible.
BIG CHEESE: The return of the U. S. Women's Open to Blackwolf Run continued Wisconsin's streak in the last decade in attracting major golf championships.
Before the U. S. Women's Open came to Blackwolf Run in 1998, the state had not hosted a major golf tournament since Gene Sarazen won the PGA Championship in 1933 at Blue Mound Country Club in suburban Milwaukee.
Since then, Wisconsin has hosted a series of men's and women's majors that has elevated the state's golf image to new heights. The events include two PGA Championships and a U. S. Senior Open at nearby Whistling Straits and a U.S. Amateur at Erin Hills.
No one is happier about majors coming to the state than Wisconsin native Andy North, the two-time U. S. Open winner.
"Wisconsin is a great golf state. To get some majors to come to the state has been really fulfilling," North said. "And to see the support our state gives these events has been spectacular. That's why they keep coming back."
DIVOTS: Song-Hee Kim of South Korea withdrew because of a sore neck and back. She was replaced in the field by Cathryn Bristow of New Zealand, the second alternate from the Frisco, Texas, qualifying site. Bristow attended the University of Oregon. ... Angel Yin, a 13-year-old from Arcadia, Calif., shot a 6-over 78. ... Asked how much water she drank on the course Thursday, Wendy Ward said, "A case."