Korean golf dynasty… During Thursday’s pre-tournament press conference honoring LPGA Tour great Grace Park, Cristie Kerr found herself nestled comfortably between two South Koreans who helped introduce the game of golf to their country.
This week, Park will be competing in her final LPGA Tour event and Thursday’s press conference offered a brief trip down memory lane for Park, Kerr, and Se Ri Pak.
“I am sitting with Korean golf royalty, both of these players,” said Kerr. “Grace paved the way for the rest of Korean players on our Tour. They are both amazing players on their own right. They bring strength, beauty, all the things that Korean people love to the game of golf. That’s why we have so many fans here in Korea. If you ask each Korean golfer on Tour, you know what, Grace has meant to the game, I think you will get some great answers. I always looked-up to her in junior golf and throughout the professional ranks. I always tried to dress better, I always tried to put make-up on better and tried to be elegant. That’s what Grace stands for.”
Grace Park, 6-time LPGA Tour winner
Cristie Kerr, Rolex Rankings No. 12
Se Ri Pak, Rolex Rankings No. 32
MODERATOR: Grace, how does it feel back to home back in South Korea?
Grace Park: It’s nice to be back home. I’ve been back for one year and four months and it’s nice to see familiar faces here. This last game will be a very special game for me.
MODERATOR : Cristie, you have been friends with Grace Park for many years. Do you have any funny story you can tell us?
Cristie Kerr : No. it is pretty embarrassing for me and Grace. We’ve known each other since we were 14-years-old and I just remember so many good memories, playing junior amateur golf. It is great to be here to support her today. She has been amazing career. There are just too many stories, pretty good memories. It’s great to see her again.
MODERATOR: Seri, how about you? Any funny stories?
Seri Pak: I’ve been playing in tour with Grace for more than 10 years. Now that Grace is retiring, I feel very sorry that we don’t have much time to have fun. Mostly I remember that we supported each other as golf players. We did not have a retirement ceremony last year, but now she announces her retirement. Last year and this year again I feel very sorry that we didn’t have much meaningful time together but she’s been a great example to our juniors. She’s been very warm to juniors, supporting and encouraging them a lot as a senior. She is finishing her career with a lot of good memory so that she may feel happiness. From now on I’d like to share good friendship not as a golf player but as an adult. I’m expecting a close and good friend from her.
Q.: Question for Grace, what are your expectations for tournament this weekend?
Grace Park: It was a very sudden decision to participate in this tournament so I was not able to prepare much. Since my retirement I haven’t gripped a golf club but after deciding to play this game, I have practiced some. During my career, I played golf in tournaments only for performance and record but this time I’m going to play for those who have supported me and I want to create some good memories throughout entire game. My goal is not shoot a good score, but rather to have a meaningful time.
Q: I have a question to Grace Park. What was your most regrettable and most memorable games?
Grace Park : There are numerous games that I can pick as regrettable games but the most regrettable game was the Rochester last year when I announced my retirement. When I concluded my golf career I wish I had finished with a good performance and in good condition but unfortunately, it was not the case. The most memorable is that 2004 CJ Nine Bridge Classic and the next most memorable will be this Hana KEB LPGA Championship, I guess.
MODERATOR: Cristie, how excited are you playing along with Grace?
Cristie Kerr: Before that question, I want to add that one of the earliest memories of playing junior golf with Grace was playing in Arizona and our fathers walking together during practice rounds. We just wanted to talk about shopping. To be able to play with her, alongside her and Se Ri in this tournament is very special to me and I get to play with one of my best friends.
MODERATOR: Seri, the same question to you. How excited are you to play with Grace?
Se Ri Pak: It’s been quite a long time since I played with Grace. After her retirement announcement, she came to Orlando and we practiced together. We were always together. While I play during this week, I guess every moment and every hole will give me a precious memory with her to me. For the next three days, I will spend time with Grace and make it as enjoyable as possible. Apart from being a player, I will try to make sure that she will have a wonderful memory in this last tournament.
Q.: I have a question to Se Ri Park and Cristie Kerr. Now that Grace is retiring, what kind of player Grace is going to be in your memory?
Cristie Kerr: I’ll start up the answer. I am sitting with Korean golf royalty, both of these players. Grace paved the way for the rest of Korean players on our Tour. They are both amazing players on their own right. They bring strength, beauty, all the things that Korean people love to the game of golf. That’s why we have so many fans here in Korea. If you ask each Korean golfer on Tour, you know what, Grace has meant to the game, I think you will get some great answers. I always look-up to her in junior golf and throughout the professional ranks. I always tried to dress better, I always tried to put make-up on better and tried to be elegant. That’s what Grace stands for.
Se Ri Pak : For me, most of my memories with her are in competition during tournaments. Every time when I saw her outside of golf course, I feel that she has a lot of energy and positive. She always leaves her bright image to the rest of players. During the career, difficult times outnumber good times. Even though it is difficult and lonely, she always shows bright face and makes some jokes, encouraging and supporting co-players. I believe that is the biggest advantage found in her. Every time I see her, I can smile and feel better. Grace is a cute junior to me but to many juniors she never forget smiling, which leaves good impression.
Q : I have questions for each one of you. First to Cristie Kerr, I admire her great passion. When I see her playing, she is very passionate with great immersion in games. Where does that energy come from? To Seri park, many of your close player are getting married. When are you going to give good news? To Grace Park, after retirement what is your plan or schedule?
Cristie Kerr : I’ve always been a very intense competitor. Where do I get that from? I think honestly from my parents. My mother and my father, they are both athletes, not the professional ranks but my father plays baseball and my mother was a swimmer. I don’t know I just have that fire inside of me and that’s where I get that.
Se Ri Pak : Every week the first question to me is that, why is it always first to me? I think marriage does not come easy to me. Though many surrounding me get married, getting married is only difficult to me. For reference, I wish you introduce a good person first before asking that question. Meeting a right person is not easy but also my life style does make it difficult. Finding important life time partner is not easy. As you can see from Grace Park, who got married last year, we have spent much time and effort playing golf. Though it is important to find life time partner, doing what I enjoy most , which is golf, is also important. That’s why I cannot decide and find a good person. But I am still looking for someone and if you find someone good for me, let me know.
Grace Park : That is also the question I’ve been ask most since retirement announcement. As for the plan after retirement, frankly speaking, I have no answer in terms of career. I haven’t given much thought on that. There was also one of the biggest decisions, marriage last November. I got married and enjoyed newly-married life. Looking back on my past 20 years of career, I didn’t have any single holiday or vacation. Like any other player, I ceaselessly ran for the past 20 years. As much as I complete my golf career excellently, I want to give good rest to myself. I am just enjoying my life as an ordinary person not as golf player. I also need to plan a family. I will set a post-retirement plan in a calm and orderly way.