SOUTHERN PINES, NC – Mina Harigae’s biggest takeaways from finishing runner-up at the 77th US Women’s Open?
That she can handle this kind of moment. That she belongs.
Those are the intangibles, at least. Practically speaking, Harigae cashed in on the biggest prize in LPGA history for a woman who didn’t win. Her historic $ 1,080,000 payday at Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club is quite literally life-changing. Going into this week, she’d made $ 84,721 on the season and $ 2.9 million over the course of her 12-year career. (Minus taxes and expenses, of course.)
Forget private jets. On the eve of the championship, Harigae said a payday like that would give her enough money in the bank to book commercial flights months into the future.
While the steady Minjee Lee built an insurmountable lead, Harigae found herself tied with Lydia Ko and Hyejin Choi down the stretch Sunday. A birdie on the par-5 15th, however, gave Harigae the breathing room needed to hold on to solo second. The rookie Choi earned $ 685,043 for third.
For more perspective, consider that when Ko won the Gainbridge LPGA, she earned $ 300,000. This week she earned $ 399,982 for solo fifth.
“I’m not going to lie,” said Harigae, “my stomach hurt the last couple holes coming down. I was really stressed out, but I was really just focusing on one shot at a time, making solid contact, and just hitting good putts. ”
It wasn’t that long ago, 2019 in fact, that Harigae was in neighboring Pinehurst, North Carolina, competing in LPGA Q-Series, fighting to keep her card.
In 2020, Harigae played on the Cactus Tour when the LPGA was shut down during the pandemic, winning four times with crazy low scores and taking home paychecks in the neighborhood of $ 2,000. She hadn’t had a sponsor in years at that point, and the generosity of friends and family helped keep her going.
Mina Harigae plays her tee shot on the 18th hole during the final round of the 77th US Women’s Open at Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club on June 5, 2022 in Southern Pines, North Carolina. (Photo: Jared C. Tilton / Getty Images)
“I felt very helpless,” she told Golfweek last year. “It felt like I was racing against time… the walls were closing in on me.”
Fast forward to 2021, and a more mature, joy-filled Harigae found himself one of US captain Pat Hurst’s three Solheim Cup picks. A remarkable rise for a player who showed such great promise as a youngster, winning four California State Women’s Amateurs and the US Women’s Amateur Public Links.
This week she took her progress to a new level.
“This is definitely the top one or two highlights of my career,” said Harigae, who is still in search of her first LPGA title. “Obviously, just the prize money, but solo second in a major, and that’s my best by far. Really happy with it. ”
Next year the US Women’s Open heads to Pebble Beach for the first time. Harigae gew up in Monterey, California, and her parents own Takara Sushi in Pacific Grove. Harigae estimates that she’s played Pebble Beach more than 30 times and her lowest round there in compeition is a 7-under 65.
“Just have so many great memories at Pebble Beach,” she said, “and it’s my favorite place on earth. I’m really looking forward to it next year. ”