Korean talent enjoying success on LPGA Tour
Sometimes, the smallest change can have the greatest impact.
After a subtle offseason swing change, Korea’s Inbee Park has enjoyed a stellar 2012, notching nine consecutive top-10 finishes to take over the top spot on the LPGA Tour money list. Park also claimed her second career victory after winning the Evian Masters, a triumph that ended a nearly four-year winless streak that was, at times, frustrated for the young talent.
The youngest player to win the U.S. Women’s Open at 19 years, 11 months, 17 days in 2008, Park has 34 career top-10s, more than $4.6 million in career earnings and has risen to seventh in the Rolex Women’s Golf World Rankings. Park stands atop the 2012 money list with $1,669,608 and is all smiles heading into the final quarter of the LPGA Tour season.
“It feels great to be on top for sure,” she said. “This was the place I always have been dreamed of, and I did it this season. I’m really happy with the way I’ve played this year with little bit of swing change in the offseason. I am able to hit the ball a lot straighter and more consistent this season.”
In addition to increased accuracy from the tee and fairway, Park is deadly with a putter. She is tops on Tour in putts per round (28.25) and putts per green in regulation (1.73), feats that have translated into considerable success.
“For the putter, I really rely on my feel instead of techniques,” Park said. “That has really worked for my entire career and especially this year with better ball striking since I’m giving myself a lot more opportunities for birdie than any other season.”
The past three seasons, Park kept racking up top-10s, but was without a victory. It was a period of time she learned a great deal from.
“It sure felt like longer than four years, but I had good seasons here and there during those four years, so I tried to give myself confidence and tried to trust myself,” she said. “After a few of those close ones, I finally did it this year and am so proud of myself. I want to give myself more credit for this win than the first win.”
Park has specific goals for the rest of 2012 and for her career in general.
“My goals for this year would be winning low scoring average and money list,” Park said. “And for my career, I want to become the No. 1 player in the world and be a Hall of Fame member.”
Speaking of the Hall of Fame, when Park won the 2008 U.S. Women’s Open, she joined a group of just four women who have won that title along with a U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship. Their names? Mikey Wright, JoAnne Carner, Amy Alcott and Hollis Stacy.
Park honed her skills in amateur golf – where she was a nine-time AJGA champion and five-time Rolex Junior All-American – and the Symetra Tour. She also earned her way into four LPGA events as an amateur, experiences that gave her a good taste of what professional golf was like.
Park finished third on the 2006 Duramed Futures Tour money list to qualify for exempt status for the 2007 season and has never looked back.
“It definitely helped me getting know what the Tour is going to be like and to compete at the professional level,” she said. “It helped me to prepare for the next level.”
Her fellow Koreans have been dominating the LPGA Tour for years, a fact that makes Park beam with pride.
“I’m very proud of Korean golfers,” she said. “We are all very close friends and rivals at the same time. I think that makes us keep going and keep improving.”
Known to be handy at a piano from a young age, Park now spends her time away from the course with a prized pet.
“I don’t play piano as much as before because, when we moved, we removed the grand piano from my room,” Park said. “But now I really enjoy my off time spending time with my dog. I love my dog and any dogs!”
What she also loves is being a member of the LPGA Tour and competing against the best each week. In short, life is good for Inbee Park.
“I’m enjoying it more and more as time goes by,” she said. “Is there a better life than doing something you love for a job and making money at the same time?”