Ever since being awakened by cheering in the middle of the night as a 9-year-old, Inbee Park has wanted to be a successful golfer. The shouting came from her parents, Sung Kim and Jungyu Park, at 2 a.m., as they sat in front of the television as South Korea’s Se Ri Pak captured the 1998 U.S. Women’s Open title.
The moment that inspired a generation of South Korean golfers led Inbee Park to take up the sport days later and move to tiny Eustis, Fla., as a 12-year old to pursue a golf career. An outstanding junior career and a move to Las Vegas followed, leading to the 2008 U.S. Women’s Open title at Interlachen in Minnesota. At age 19, Park became the youngest winner in tournament history.
The follow-up to that fast start was high expectations. The U.S. Women’s Open win remained the sole victory in Park’s LPGA career before last week’s victory at the Evian Masters. She even began playing more golf in Japan, where she has won four times in the last three years.
“I wasn't playing good on the LPGA Tour after the win in the U.S. Open,” Park said. “After that I was just trying to find a place that I felt more comfortable. But I was never going to give up the LPGA. The more I played over in Japan, the more I was getting confidence over there. Playing over here with that confidence helped me a lot.”
With four consecutive top-10 finishes, renewed confidence and speedier greens at the Evian Masters Golf Course, Park was set for a return to the winner’s circle. The 24-year-old needed only 22 putts in a final-round 66 that culminated with three consecutive birdies for her second career win. The precise putting touch has been on display this season as Park leads the LPGA in Putts per Green in Regulation (1.72) and in Putting Average (28.1 per round).
“It’s such a relief to get the second one,” said Stacy Lewis, paired with Park in the final group at the Evian Masters and also a first-time major championship winner (2011 Kraft Nabisco Championship). “She plays in Japan and plays well there, too, so I think it was just a matter of time.”