Mina Harigae competes at the US Women’s Open

SOUTHERN PINES, NC — Following Mina Harigae’s press conference Thursday night, shortly after shooting a par 64 seven-under to take a one-shot lead in the first round of the U.S. Women’s Open, she divulged the magic behind his career-best round at the major.

“It must be the Dior shoes, of course,” Harigae said with a laugh.

The Jordan brand aficionado received a pair of custom Jordan Dior from his agent, Alex Guerrero, during a practice round Tuesday afternoon at Pine Needles Golf Club. The gesture was the result of the 32-year-old brand’s year-long journey.

Guerrero works primarily with professional male athletes and is used to his clients receiving free products. So he sent a note to Jordan Brand explaining that Harigae felt comfortable playing in Jordan ADG golf shoes during US Women’s Open qualifying last year. From there, Jordan began a relationship with Harigae, while she and her fiancé and caddy, Travis Kreiter, became full-fledged Jordan sneakerheads.

“I’ve received about 10 new pairs in the past two months,” Harigae said Thursday. “But Travis has so much more.”

Kreiter said he has around 50-60 pairs of shoes, but the new Diors are his favorite because of their exclusivity. Guerrero ordered a pair of Jordan 1 bottoms and sent them to shoe artist Tyler Liber so he could customize them for the couple. The gift recognizes how far she has come in the last year, more than a decade since Harigae made her US Women’s Open debut at Pine Needles Golf Club in 2007 at just 17 years old.

“Feeling wanted and loved is half the battle in this game,” Guerrero said.

The couple received the shoes on Tuesday after a delayed flight from Phoenix pushed their arrival time up a day. Instead of worrying, they focused on what they needed to do to prepare for Day 1.

Krieter drove the first eight holes to scout the revamped Pine Needles course, and Harigae practiced.

“In my eyes, it’s often easy to be stressed at major tournaments,” Kreiter said. “The longer you’re here, the worse it gets sometimes.”

On the range, they recognized that the gap in distance between Harigae’s driver and the three woods might be too big for the week. So they worked with Harigae’s club sponsor, PXG club rep Scotty Kim, to fine-tune his three-wood setup. They tried four separate stems before deciding to increase his stem length from 43 to 43.5 inches and swap out his Ventus Blue stem for a Ventus Red stem to maximize height and carry.

“Because Mina has good pace, I thought she would be able to handle the slightly longer club length,” Kim wrote in a text.

With the changes, Harigae increased his ball speed, max height, and overall distance without giving up any control. Harigae got her first taste of the course after its renovation in 2021 on Wednesday, playing the final 10 holes for the first time in 15 years when she finished T-66 at the 2007 US Women’s Open.

The three-wood adjustments immediately gave Harigae a boost on Thursday afternoon. His second shot on the first hole, a par-5 for 507 yards, was 224 yards from the front. Instead of leaving an awkward shot from 20 yards, Harigae hit her three woods and found herself 4 yards in front of the green. The Monterey, Calif. native chipped it within 8 feet of the cut with a bump-and-run sand wedge, setting her up to make her first of nine birdies during the round.

“I do that a ton,” Harigae said when asked not to play all 18 holes until the first round. “I think it’s just more about keeping the ball in front of me, picking conservative targets and not aiming for the pins.

“Honestly, any golf course, any tournament, as long as you hit where Travis tells me to go, I feel like I’m ready to go.”

Harigae entered PXG’s “Hercules” model in last week’s Bank of Hope LPGA match play, which Kreiter received on the Friday before the Las Vegas tournament. Kreiter recalled the last time Harigae used her putter, she finished in second place at the 2021 Marathon Classic.

“You can steal my putter as long as you keep birdying,” Kreiter joked.

Harigae’s PXG ‘Hercules’ putter as shown by fiancé Travis Keiter (Kent Paisley/Just Women’s Sports)

They tweaked their preparations by having him hold his putter more level, which led to more consistency on the greens. On Thursday, she recorded 24 putts, her lowest tally since hitting 23 in the first round of the Honda LPGA Thailand in March.

“She was closer than the results showed,” Kreiter said. “Even 12th place, we barely did anything outside of 10 feet.”

After recording her first round in the 60s at the US Women’s Open in 37 rounds, the 13-year-old veteran heads into Friday’s round with the first 18-hole lead of her LPGA career. Harigae, however, doesn’t go overboard. With his Jordans onit intends to remain present on one of the biggest stages in golf.

“I’m just appreciating where I am, really enjoying the moment, but at the same time I’m not trying to set as much precedent on the magnitude of the moment,” Harigae said. “It’s another day on the golf course, another hole.”

Kent Paisley is a contributing writer for Just Women’s Sports covering golf and the LPGA. He also contributes to Golf Digest. Follow him on Twitter @KentPaisley.

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