The USGA people said 77,045 golf fans attended the four-day U.S. Women's Open at Oakmont Country Club, 24,916 for the final round-and-change on Sunday. Allowing for a 10 percent exaggeration that's fairly typical for this sort of event, where it's impossible to argue the actual head-count, the tournament still was a roaring success. For fabulous Oakmont, which staged another flawless major championship. For the struggling LPGA, still trying to find its way after losing its two most dominant stars to premature retirement. For the suddenly improving state of American women's golf, which has been trumped much too often by the Asian brand. Most of all, for Paula Creamer, your 65th U.S. Women's Open champion.
The weekend was so good, it's a shame it had to end.
At least when it did late Sunday afternoon, as the sun began to set over historic Oakmont, the precious championship trophy was in the right hands even if the left one had an awfully sore thumb. Creamer, playing at about 60 percent -- her estimate -- because of thumb surgery March 30, was a most deserving winner and clearly the class of the field. She shot three consecutive sub-par rounds -- so much for Oakmont being too tough for all of the ladies -- to finish the tournament at 3-under 281 and win her first major championship by four strokes. As her father, Paul, gushed afterward, "That's playing golf!"
It also helped that those hands belonged to an American. Creamer's title makes it two majors in a row for U.S. women, following Cristie Kerr's 12-stroke victory at the LPGA Championship at Locust Hill Country Club in Pittsford, N.Y., two weeks ago. Before then, Americans had won just seven of 37 major championships in this decade.
"Well done, Paula! U-S-A!" a booming voice screamed as Creamer walked on the 18th green to finish her final round of 2-under 69.
Well done, indeed.
"I always think an American (name) should be on this U.S. Open trophy. It is the United States Open," Creamer said.
America couldn't have asked for a more likeable winner. Creamer, who won't turn 24 until Aug. 5, is a marketing dream because of her game, number one, but also because of her good looks and terrific personality. You should have heard her giggle when she talked of treating herself to a purse -- a Hermes Birkin Bag that can sell for more than $10,000 -- for winning her first major title after eight victories on the LPGA Tour. You couldn't help but want to go with her when she said she also would celebrate by skydiving, just like her dad, a former Navy pilot, often did.
OK, so maybe the skydiving isn't something you really want to do.
But you get the idea that it would be great for women's golf in this country if Creamer won a few more major titles.
"Hopefully, (my name) can go on there many more times," she said, petting The Open trophy.
It's a wonderful thought.
Creamer long has been popular in women's golf circles, but the Open win will make her one of the most recognizable faces in all of women's sports. In her game, she's right there with the world's No. 1-ranked Kerr, who's admired for her dogged determination, Natalie Gulbis, who has won just once on the LPGA Tour but has Hollywood looks, and Michelle Wie, who ...
For the life of me, I can't explain why Wie -- an overhyped underachiever from Day 1 -- is so popular.
Sometimes, there's just no explaining America's taste.
But back to Creamer, who has game and the substance to go with it.
Her win at Oakmont is a boon for the LPGA and not just because what's good for American women's golf is good for the ladies' tour. The LPGA desperately needs a new star after seeing Annika Sorenstam and Lorena Ochoa retire in their prime.
It could do a lot worse than Creamer.
I was blown away not just by her awesome golf but also by something she thought to say during her emotional little speech on the 18th green after accepting the Open trophy.
"All you little girls out there ... Work hard! You can be out here, too, one day. Live your dream!"
This is America, right?
Creamer is just a little more proof that dreams really do come true if you work hard enough to achieve them.