Being able to caddie for a favorite player on Tour is a scenario most fans only dream of. But once a year, Se Ri Pak employs the services of one of her most dedicated fans, Jung Suk Won, as her looper for the week. Fittingly, the super fan was by Pak’s side on Thursday as the Hall of Famer played her final round on the LPGA Tour at the LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship.
“She's actually one of my longest and most avid fans. She has my picture on her SMS and cell phone, and in fact she's ready to fight for me against naysayers,” Pak said about Won. “I think it was really emotional for her too because she is my fan and she's used to seeing me on the course. I think she was crying with me on the whole course and the 18th hole.”
Won has followed Pak since nearly the beginning of her career when she won the 1998 U.S. Women’s Open that launched her into superstardom in her home country of Korea and wishing she too could have been part of Pak's journey.
“She mentioned that if she was only five years younger maybe she could have joined me as my caddie beginning with my career in the U.S. so she's an avid supporter,” Pak said.
Won wasn’t the only one who turned out for Pak’s retirement celebration, with fans coming from near and far to witness the end of an era in women’s golf.
“I actually have a fan from Arkansas who traveled all the way from the U.S. to be at my retirement ceremony, so I'm feeling a lot of gratitude right now,” Pak told the media. “I think I was very lucky and fortunate. I've had only good things happen in my career and I'm very grateful for that at this point.”
On A Hot Streak
For the fourth time in her last five starts, In-Kyung Kim is at the top of the leaderboard. Kim won on the Ladies European Tour the week before the Evian Championship and carried that momentum into France where she finished sixth. In her next start, she won the Reignwood LPGA Classic for her first win in six years on the LPGA Tour. This week, she’s once again in the hunt, sitting in a share of second at four-under par on day one of the LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship.
“I was quite happy to win Reignwood because I have a lot of people who were really happy for me and I have a lot of people supporting me. It was kind of a relief to be able to win that championship and say thank you to them in a sense,” Kim told the media Thursday. “That championship really put my mine at ease. I can't really describe what I'm feeling, but this is a completely different golf course. It's a different championship, so I'm trying to put that win behind me and really focus on the game at hand.”
Kim’s focus on golf has been a priority for her this season, which seems an ironic statement for a player who plays the sport professionally. But Kim admits to letting her interests away from the course become a distraction, which has affected her game. The 2007 rookie had gone without a win on Tour since the 2010 Lorena Ochoa Invitational before winning in China in September.
“I really wanted to find the balance between my other interests and golf,” said Kim. “This season I was focused on concentrating on golf. Even during my down time I usually have my guitar with me and I didn't bring it. During the down time I tried to relax and really prepare for the next game.”
Kim said she recently read a book on the Joseon Dynasty about Korean kings, whose place in history has evolved and changed over time, which resonated with her as she's coming to terms with her own struggles in recent years.
“So this kind of consoled me, because if you look at the big picture, all these little ups and downs at the end of the day didn't really seem significant. For me, I was consoled in the fact that sometimes my setbacks and failures, that maybe those failures and setbacks are happening for a reason that I may not realize right now.”
Right now, Kim is within striking distance of her third worldwide win of the year.
First round leader Alison Lee didn’t arrive on-site at this week’s LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship until Wednesday then went out and matched her low round of the year on Thursday, a testament the 2015 rookie says to having a year of experience under her belt.
“I would definitely say I feel more comfortable out here this being my second year on tour. Last year every tournament I played in was a brand new golf course. It was difficult for me to get used to a new green every week, a new golf course every week,” Lee told the media. “Having played already one year, I would come back to the golf courses and feel confident. I would definitely say it's a different approach.”
Lee made a late arrival this week after playing in the Lexus Cup in Vietnam with fellow Tour pro's Jessica Korda, Azahara Munoz and Beatriz Recari. Lee flew in on Wednesday morning and headed straight to the course to join her pro-am group, something she wouldn’t have considered as a rookie.
“So it would've been really difficult for me last year to have done that, but this year, since I've already played the golf course was a lot better. I know where everything was and how the course worked,” Lee said. “Also throughout the year I feel like it was a lot less stressful. Since I knew the golf course, I didn't really have to practice a full 18 every time or as soon as I got to the golf course. I was able to rest more and give myself free time instead of just having to grind out there and tire myself out through the week.”
Lee holds a three-stroke lead through round one.