Se Ri Pak had dreamed of this day since she qualified for the LPGA more than six years ago. She never dreamed it would get here so soon. Once it did, she didn’t want it to end.
“Sunday, today, May 9th,” Pak announced, “is the best of my life.”
Big words from a woman who has won 22 LPGA titles, including four major championships. This day, however, was different than all others because her victory at the Michelob Ultra Open helped Pak achieve the first golf goal she ever set: Entrance into the LPGA Hall of Fame.
After flying under the radar for three days at Kingsmill Resort, Pak shot 6-under-par 65 to come from four shots behind and win by two over Juli Inkster and Lorena Ochoa. Pak shot 70-71-69-65 for a 9-under 275 total to collect $330,000, the third-richest prize on tour this year.
To make her Hall of Fame induction official, Pak, 26, must wait until the end of the 2007 season to meet the stipulation that a player must complete 10 years on tour.
Midway through the final round it appeared as if Pak would have to wait at least another week to capture her Hall-clinching victory. When Ochoa, the third-round co-leader with Cristie Kerr, made birdie on the par-5 seventh hole, she was two ahead of Pak. But bogeys on Nos. 9 and 10 followed by a slow-play warning to her group on the 11th rattled Ochoa enough to where she could not recover.
“I got out of rhythm,” said an emotional Ochoa, 22, who has finished second three times in the last 12 months. “I didn’t take the time I should have and made a couple of bad shots. But I tried very hard and it didn’t happen. I don’t like the feeling of losing.”
As the top of the leaderboard shifted numerous times, the two players with the largest galleries never were in contention. Annika Sorenstam (69-71-71-71) tied for eighth at 281 but never made a serious charge because of her continued struggles with the putter.
Michelle Wie, competing for the third time on tour this season, closed with a 1-over 72 to tie for 12th at 284. Wie, 14, had two early birdies Sunday, four consecutive bogeys (Nos. 9-12), an eagle on 15 and a bogey on the final hole.
She flew back to Hawaii to complete final exams for the ninth grade, then will return to Georgia next week to begin preparations for the Curtis Cup.