There’s no place like home, unless it’s the next best thing. Inbee Park was all smiles after her longer-than-normal pro-am at Wilshire Country Club before the first round of the DIO Implant LA Open. That’s because the Hall of Famer feels like she has the best of all worlds in the shadow of the Hollywood sign.
“Yeah, this is definitely one of my favorite courses of the year,” Park said. “I think this golf course really, really suits my game really well.”
But rather than jump into the architecture or the conditioning of Wilshire – both of which do, indeed, suit Park’s precise ball-striking and magical putting – she went straight for the outside-the-ropes vibe that makes the area a favorite for Korean players.
“We’re really close to Koreatown,” Park said. “It's like we're playing back home. It feels very comfortable. The weather is great. Yeah, I'm really used to the west side of the country, so glad to be here.”
“Close” is an understatement. Koreatown is, literally, across the street from the club’s entrance. Players of all nationalities enjoy the food, shopping and cultural immersion of Korea without having their passports stamped, and with better weather. Seoul is still chilly this time of year. Some of the mountain areas near the DMZ might even get a spring snowstorm. Los Angeles in April is 70 degrees and sunny. Everyday.
“This (place) is, I think, really a true Koreatown,” Park said. “Just so much of this really reminds me of Seoul. I'm staying in K-Town. which is really in the middle of everything. It reminds me of where I live (in Korea). I was really surprised that we had this ant termination guy (an exterminator) and I was expecting a non-Korean guy for that job. But it was a Korean guy and he recognized me, so I was really surprised.”
Even with her Hall of Fame career, Park can go to dinner in most American cities without being noticed. But when you get off a plane in Incheon International Airport, her face is one of the first you see on large posters welcoming you to Korea. Having a place in the States where even the bug exterminators know you is a special treat.
“I'll definitely eat probably the best (this week) out of all the weeks on tour,” Park said. “I think just the atmosphere. And we have a Korean sponsor this week. Played in the pro-am with all the Korean people who came from Seoul and Busan. So, yeah, I don't know how you know we're in America. It's a bit confusing.”
She laughed at her own joke, something that’s not unusual for Park, but that also shows how comfortable she is here.
“I really love this area,” she said. “I mean, it especially reminds me of a lot of home. The food plus like the drive. You know, drive from the place where I'm staying to here is like pretty crazy drive with tough left turns and tough parking. It's just like Korea.
“So, yeah, everybody parks on the curbside, the same as Korea. I'm used to it. My husband and I were kind of joking that it's tough driving in the city. We were like, Yeah, but we're Seoul drivers. This is nothing. So, things like that.”
Things like that can make all the difference. Being comfortable outside the ropes is important to how you perform inside them. For Park and a lot of other Korean players, home away from home could be just what they need.