Tour Life with Sung Hyun Park is a season-long series that follows the 2017 LPGA rookie and her experience of playing her first year on the LPGA Tour.
Shut Up and Attack.
I Am Different.
Those are the nicknames Sung Hyun Park earned over the course of her career playing on the KLPGA. Now, she has a new title – LPGA member.
Park begins a new chapter in her career this week in Singapore at the HSBC Women’s Champions where she’ll make her first start as a member of the LPGA Tour.
Park may be a rookie but she knows what it takes to compete on Tour. She was a fixture on LPGA leaderboards in 2016. Last season, the world No. 11 finished in the top-13 in six of seven starts and contended in three of the season’s major championships. That strong showing earned her status on Tour for 2017 and she announced in November she would take up membership this year.
During the off-season, Park started making changes to set herself up for success on Tour – she moved to a new home, found an instructor and switched equipment.
That in and of itself is a lot to tackle, but an even tougher task given Park speaks little to no English. She and her mother relocated from Korea to Orlando, Florida where she set up her home base in the States.
“I didn’t feel a big change from previous years because I went abroad every winter for off-season training,” Park told LPGA.com through a translator. “However, the weather there has been amazing and conditions here are perfect for training.”
But Park had no one to train with. She worked with an instructor periodically in Korea but not on an ongoing basis. Park leaned on a referral from Hall of Famer Se Ri Pak, who during her final season on Tour worked with former PGA Tour professional and Orlando-based instructor Brian Mogg. The pair began working together in November.
“It’s been great to work with him so far,” said Park.
The feeling is mutual.
Mogg, whose students also include Y.E. Yang, made famous by his stunning victory over Tiger Woods at the 2009 PGA Championship, says he’s never been more impressed with an athlete than he has been with Park.
“She is going to be a star,” Mogg said emphatically on the phone. “This girl strikes me as being on a whole different level.”
Park has the it-factor.
She straddles the line of past and present - her swing harkens back to a bygone era reminiscent of Hogan but her demeanor and style are something of the future. She exudes a quiet confidence that’s strangely intimidating and begs the question, “What is she thinking?” Park is a presence not often seen in golf.
“She’s very self-reliant. She is mentally strong. She knows who she is and knows what she wants,” said Mogg. “The talent comes easy, but she is planning for success.”
The pair communicates through two female translators, but it’s a challenge Mogg shrugs off. He has an academy in Seoul, Korea where he, like Park, has earned his own nickname of Little Bit - a nod to his ability, or lack thereof, to speak Korean. Park is taking English classes and Mogg firmly believes that she understands much of what he’s saying but isn’t comfortable enough to respond in English - it’s a common trait among Korean players on Tour who seek perfection.
In the same vein, Park isn’t the type of player who is content to just make it on the LPGA Tour – she wants to win every time she tees it up. Sound familiar? It’s the mantra of the game’s greatest players and Mogg says everything about her appears wired for success. But even the greats have an Achilles’ heel and if Park has a flaw, it’s her short game.
Park has incredible wrist cock in her swing but when it comes to shorter chip shots she fails to release the club. To combat this problem, Mogg set Park up with a series of drills aiming at baskets positioned anywhere from two to 50 yards away. The idea is to get Park using more of the sole and bounce of the club to keep from de-lofting her wedges. Mogg isn’t quite sure which wedges Park put in her bag this week. During the off-season, Park also made a change in equipment. She switched from PING to TaylorMade and hadn’t yet settled on which clubs she’d be putting in her bag the last time she worked with Mogg.
Not surprisingly, Park’s schedule at The Brian Mogg Performance Academy is also unique. While he’s used to working with students twice a week, Mogg saw Park just a half a dozen times since November.
“When I give a lesson, the first question I get is ‘When do I see you next? ‘She’s like ‘I want to see you after I perfected this.’”
This week will reveal whether Park has perfected her new instruction as she makes her debut in Singapore.
“I am very thrilled and excited about making my debut on the LPGA Tour,” Park said. “It reminds me of when I was a rookie in the KLPGA Tour.”
If her success on the KLPGA is any indication of the future, Park is going to be adding another title to her resume in 2017 – LPGA Tour winner.