Sung Hyun Park couldn’t help but smile.
The Korean, who often comes across as mysteriously shy and reserved, had just fired a final round 64 to win the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open for her second victory of 2017. Wearing Sunday red, Park held the trophy with both arms as she was flanked by two members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, who donned their own signature red uniforms. Park traded her cap for one of the Mountie’s tan, wide brimmed hats. She wore it with a huge grin, brimming from ear to ear.
A year later, the defending champion still has plenty of reasons to smile.
Park returns to Canada fresh off her third win of the season after defeating Lizette Salas in a playoff at the Indy Women in Tech Championship Drive by Group 1001. With her victory, Park returned to No. 1 in the Rolex Rankings.
“I am so excited and happy to be ranked No. 1,” Park said Wednesday through a translator. “It does put a little bit of pressure on me, but I just want to maintain that type of play. I’m still going to focus on what I need to get done this week.”
Park’s goal was to win three times in 2018. With that accomplishment checked off her to do list, she’s turning her focus to the season’s final major in three weeks at the Evian Championship and the UL International Crown in October in her home country of Korea.
“I think it’s just going to be important I represent my country well week by week,” Park said.
The week-to-week grind of her second season on the LPGA Tour has taken it's toll.
The reigning co-Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year made history in 2017 by taking home both titles. She also became the first rookie to reach No. 1 in the world. But sustaining that high level of play has been a challenge for Park in 2018. While she didn’t miss a single cut in 2017, she has six missed cuts through the first eight months of 2018. And although she has three victories, she has only one other top 10 this season.
“Since it’s my second year on the Tour I have a lot more experience, even though I’ve had a couple missed cuts this season,” Park said. “I feel like this is a really great season for me and I think I can win more tournaments this year.”
The season’s final major championship is one that Park could win. In her two prior starts, she’s opened with rounds of 63 to lead the Evian Championship. In 2016, she finished runner-up. Last year she faded after that round of 63 with rounds of 73-77 at the weather-shortened event. But for now, Park is focused on the week at hand and is excited to be back as defending champion.
“I love Canada,” Park said. “I love coming here and the environment makes it feel very comfortable for me.”
Winning again at a place she loves? That will make Park smile.