LANCASTER — I always found it odd when a major sporting event made a rare stop in central Pennsylvania.
As someone who grew up near Harrisburg and who now covers York County, the region always seemed to fit the bill of a minor sports market. The Hershey Bears and Harrisburg Senators are minor league affiliates of major league sports teams, while both York and Lancaster are home to independent league baseball teams — the Revolution and the Barnstormers.
When major sporting events made stops in the Keystone State, they always seemed find their way into the two major markets — Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. But after Lancaster was named host of this past week's 70th U.S. Women's Open, it was finally central Pennsylvania's chance to shine when the lights were brightest.
After putting on a great display of golf, and highlighting the beautiful gem that is Lancaster Country Club, maybe, just maybe, we can start to feel like this course can be our one shot at appearing on a big-time stage on a somewhat constant basis.
Great reception: All week long — and even in the weeks leading up to the tournament — the course was receiving high praise for its stunning beauty, but demanding layout. Add in the passionate fans that flocked to the course on a daily basis, and the players could hardly contain their excitement about how this truly felt like a major championship.
"It was incredible," Brooke Henderson said following her final-round 66. "It was a lot of fun to be able to play in front of them. Some of the cheers you could hear from (several) holes over was crazy. I think it's awesome for the women's game and I think if we can continue to get good crowds like this good things will continue."
That's for sure, especially if the players continue to give the fans the type of entertainment that unfolded on Sunday.
The 54-hole leader, Amy Yang, and 20-year-old In Gee Chun went shot for shot down the stretch, before both made bogey at No. 18. Chun's one-stroke advantage was enough to give her the major victory.
The final stretch of play presented the type of drama and excitement that the USGA looks for in its majors. It's certainly what the women's tour needs to continue to grow.
"It's not often we get to play in front of that many people," first round co-leader Karrie Webb said. "I finished two hours ahead of the leaders and the stands are full on 18. It's really nice to walk up 18 with that many people."
Tough balancing act: The U.S. Open and Women's Open are always billed as the toughest tests in golf on their respective tours. That means, when the USGA sets up its courses for the events, it needs to find the perfect balance between being an extreme test, both mentally and physically, but also playing fair for the players.
There aren't many challenges more difficult than trying to blend those two ingredients perfectly on course that's hosting a major championship for the first time. But, L.C.C. delivered, and so did the USGA.
"The course played very long. The rough was tough," Chun said through an interpreter. "... But the course setting was such a wonderful one for a major."
So ends the event that took nearly seven years of preparation and culminated in one, exciting, and eventful, week of golf.
It's not very often that a major sporting event comes to this neck of the woods. And I'll be stunned if the USGA doesn't return.
When asked on if she would like to come back to this course for a future championship, Webb was straightforward in her response: "I would love to. Yeah, for sure."
So would I.
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at email@example.com; follow on Twitter @P_Strohecker