NAPLES – Sunday caps off what was a dream season for Inbee Park.
In 2015, Park picked up five victories, including two major championships, the Career Grand Slam and a stint at world No.1.
Now, she’s eligible for the LPGA Hall of Fame.
“Going into the Hall of Fame is something I’ve been dreaming of all of my life,” said Park. “That was the biggest goal in my career. Everything else is a bonus. I got a bonus.”
At just 27-years of age, Park qualified for the Hall by winning this season’s Vare Trophy, awarded to the player with the lowest scoring average for the season. With that honor, Park earns the 27th and final point needed for induction into the Hall of Fame. She will be eligible following the completion of her 10th active season on Tour. She completed her ninth season on Sunday.
Now a two-time recipient, it serves as validation for the effort and sacrifices Park made to pursue her dreams, moving at an early age to America from her home country of South Korea to pursue a career in golf.
“There’s a few times I really wanted to maybe quit golf and live a normal life. There was a few times that golf was getting really hard. But obviously I was able to work on all of that and to be where I am.”
Park trailed Lydia Ko in the Vare Trophy standings entering the CME Group Tour Championship, but the margin between them was too close to determine who would win upon the season’s finale. It wasn’t until the 72nd hole on Sunday Park clinched this year’s award, carding a final round 3-under, 69 to finish one-stroke ahead of Ko. The world No.2 finished sixth for the week, her nerves getting the better of her down the closing stretch which resulted in a bogey at the par 3, 12th.
“The Hall of Fame was really on my mind all this week. I think I got too nervous like the last five or six holes coming in,” said Park. “Obviously that hole ruined the day. I had a couple of birdies after that. No. 17 birdie putt was a big miss too, but it’s just that kind of week. I missed a lot of short putts out there this week.”
While the Tour is done for the year, the work isn’t done for Park, who is headed next week to Korea for the Champions Trophy, a KLPGA event where she serves as a tournament ambassador. She may walk a little taller next week, with the pressure of achieving the Hall now off her shoulders.
“I didn’t know if I was going to be able to achieve that honor,” said Park. “I have to put so much pressure on myself to get to one point. I have to maybe wait all year. I don’t know what’s going to happen. That definitely put a lot of pressure off of me and I can really enjoy golf even more.”
If that’s what Park can accomplish under pressure, imagine what 2016 holds for the newest Hall of Famer.