Chastain: U.S. Women’s Open at Pebble Beach reminiscent of ’99 World Cup

PEBBLE BEACH – A nostalgic sensation overcame Brandi Chastain as she came here Tuesday to help promote the U.S. Women’s Open, two months before it descends on these hallowed grounds for the first time.

Chastain envisions a landmark event similar to the 1999 Women’s World Cup, which brought overdue recognition to women’s soccer and culminated with Chastain and the U.S. team winning it all at the Rose Bowl.

“That’s what I’m really feeling about this,” Chastain said after a media day press conference. “This is a chance for these women to walk into this venue and to know that they belong.”

Among those eager to play Pebble Beach is famed golfer Michelle Wie West, who will be coming out of retirement to play in the July 6-9 event.

Wie West, 33, said she was too young to truly understand the gravity of what Chastain and that U.S. women’s soccer team’s run did for women’s sports. But she now comprehends it.

“It’s so iconic, what that soccer team did for girls and our confidence and what we could believe we could do,” Wie West said. “If not for the women that came before me, I never would have thought that being a professional athlete could be a career for me.”

Chastain, 54, was a major figure in the Bay Area’s bid for a National Women’s Soccer League team, awarded last month and set to begin play next year.

PEBBLE BEACH, CALIFORNIA – FEBRUARY 9: Nick Taylor watches his second shot on the seventh green at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am golf tournament in Pebble Beach, Calif., on Sunday, Feb. 9, 2020. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group) 

It’s been five years since the USGA announced that Pebble Beach would host the 78th U.S. Women’s Open. The 6,505-yard course is being set up with narrow fairways and high rough similar to the men’s U.S. Open championships that have been held on these fabled grounds, as recently as 2019 and with such famous past champions here as Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and Tom Watson.

Chastain has played three times in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am – she’d be happy to do so a fourth time – and she recalled walking this picturesque track with her grandfather. Tuesday, she got emotional about the prospect of walking the grounds with her two granddaughters when the U.S. Women’s Open in July.

Incidentally, that tournament’s final round is slated for July 9, the same day the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team will play in San Jose against Wales in a World Cup tune-up.

“Here’s the great thing about Northern California: We have a big enough population to support both (events),” Chastain said. “I don’t know how many tens of thousands of people can walk through the gates here at Pebble Beach, but I know there’s a finite number at (PayPal Park in San Jose).”

In 1999, women’s soccer took the daring move of playing its World Cup in America’s biggest stadiums from coast to coast, culminating with 90,185 at the Rose Bowl to watch Chastain’s penalty kick cap the festivities – like a birdie putt on Pebble Beach’s 18th green in two months.

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