For the past nine months, Se Ri Pak has made the rounds in what has been a farewell tour of sorts for the living legend. It’s been an opportunity for Pak to say her goodbyes while friends and fans pay their respects to the pioneer of Korean women’s golf. In February she made the announcement that 2016 would be her last season on the LPGA Tour but stunned players and fans alike when she decided to call it quits at the U.S. Women’s Open in July where she played her final Tour event in the States.
While Pak has spent months sitting for all the obligatory interviews that come with the ending of a Hall of Fame career, a decision three years in the making, the reality of her choice has yet to sink in. “I know we have a couple more days to go here, and I’m not even sure that it’s going to hit me once we get through this tournament,” Pak told the media at this week’s LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship in Korea.
While the present remains too much to grasp, Pak has turned her attention to the future, where she envisions expanding her influence from golf to the larger world of sports where she hopes to impart the lessons she gleaned from her 18 years on Tour with other athletes.
“As an athlete and as a golfer, and most of this is based on my experience, although our players are playing better, and this isn’t just for golf, the game of golf, but for all athletes, I feel like we could have a better program or system in place where there is a place or a facility to practice or have a more systematic program in place that helps all athletes who are representing their families and more importantly Korea,” Pak told the media. “I want to really improve those things. That’s really the next phase of my career, and that’s why I’m so excited. I’m happy to retire.”
Pak’s impact on the game is one that will long be felt with 34 players from the Republic of Korea now members on Tour, many of whom point to Pak’s 1998 U.S. Women’s Open victory as the single biggest influence in launching their career. The 25-time LPGA Tour winner put golf on the map for her country when she stood barefoot in a water hazard at the 1998 U.S. Women’s Open to capture her first major title and become the first Korean born player to win on Tour. This week, 200 credential members of the media will cover this week’s LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship in Korea, a testament to the growth Pak inspired.
“But if there’s one thing that I want to be remembered for, for Se Ri Pak, is someone who really greatly impacted the game beyond just what happens inside the ropes. As you’ve seen with Mr. Arnold Palmer, who unfortunately passed away not too long ago, I want to be remembered in a way that everybody cherishes and respects that I’ve done, whether that’s from all the little girls who are watching and playing golf today or anybody else that I love and ever loved me. I want them to remember me as a person who has impacted the game in various ways and really helped improve the game of golf around the world.”
Pak is playing in her final LPGA Tour event this week in Korea where she is paired with Shanshan Feng and Lexi Thompson on Thursday. The group will go off the first tee at 10:40 a.m. local time.