LPGA's Park nearly "Retired" at 23
GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP, NJ --- Golf is a wonderful, testing, invigorating game. Oh, it’s anything but easy. If anything, it’s perplexing. It’s a game with a myriad of twists and turns which send some players to a championship while others to golf’s funny farm.
“It’s a game that can be hard to figure out, one where you think you have and all is well one day and the next comes unexpected adversity,” commented none other than Phil Mickelson several years ago.
One can have all the credentials, yet still not become a star. Mental challenges can outweigh physical ones. As Dennis Milne, the late Trenton Country Club pro, once told me, “I had a perfect shot on a par-3 hit the flagstick and bounce out of bounds.”
And this is fun?
For years Annie Park build an impressive resume winning at the junior, collegiate and professional level, claiming top honors on the Symetra Tour. She graduated to the LPGA Tour in 2016 with high expectations but little to show for it. Park and the Tour just didn’t click.
What was supposed to be an easy transition didn’t happen, and so so efforts were interspersed with missed cuts and confusion.
Putting was a problem, and admittedly she went through eight different putting techniques.
At the depths of 2017 she seriously considered “retiring” from professional golf and dusting off her game for a job in journalism or marketing.
It wasn’t until her older sister Bo sat her down and gave a motivational kick butt talk that screwed Park’s head back on straight. “In a nutshell, she said I had talent, I was doing good things, but was overanalyzing things, letting things get inside my head,” said Park in the Stockton Seaview clubhouse this week. “Yes, I was struggling, but I also had a lot going for me. Everyone has a goal of playing the Tour, and here I was with my ticket. I had the game to make it work.
“I got a great talking to from Bo, that I needed to give it a shot, by best shot. Nothing less. She didn’t want me looking back with regrets. It struck home to me.”
Something Bo said struck a responsive chord, and Park began slicing and dicing the building blocks required to make it happen. With practice and dedication the long putter began working, and pitfalls became opportunities.
At the 2018 ShopRite LPGA Classic presented by Acer Park entered the event closest to her native Long Island with optimism. Seaview’s Bay Course was, as usual, windy, difficult but fair, and Park was up to the challenge. She had confidence from a sixth place finish there the prior year, and was dedicating game toward optimism rather than worries.
Park completed three trips around the Donald Ross designed Bay Course in 16-under-par 197 that earned her a winning check of $262,500. That was slightly more than she had earned in her prior 47 LPGA events. Her closing 63 was sparkling effort.
The LPGA’s best, such as Juli Inkster, Betsy King, Stacy Lewis, Annika Sorenstam and Nancy Lopez had already won here, so Park’s name is in Hall of Fame company.
“Last year here was magical,” said Park, holding her young puppy Lexi. “It was a major weight off my back. I have confidence and believe other good things are coming.
LPGA NOTES --- The tournament has generated more than $34M in charitable donations over the year, and each season’s event generates more than $19M in economic development for the greater Atlantic City area…The event recently signed on to host the tournament through 2023.