Since Hurricane Sandy swept through the Northeast, Annie Park’s practice time near her Levittown, N.Y., home has significantly decreased. There are more important things in the wake of such a storm, and with power outages, storm damage and long waits at the gas pump (Park’s closest practice facility is at 20-minute drive), golf has taken a backseat.
As snow and colder weather move into the region, Park declares “I’m so ready” to pull up junior-golf roots and move west to Los Angeles. Park, a member of the graduating class of 2013, will join the USC roster a semester early.
Even before the hurricane, Park was excited to start her college golf career under head coach Andrea Gaston and join the Trojans, No. 3 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings.
“It’s a better fit for me to go early,” Park said. She began thinking about that possibility early in the year, and was delighted to find out she had enough high school credits to make it happen. She is planning a low-key National Signing Day as she closes out her high school career.
Even though the Trojans fared well in the fall, ending with a team victory at the Stanford Intercollegiate on Oct. 21, it would be hard for anyone in that camp to argue that Park won’t be a welcome presence. Perhaps even a much-needed one. USC’s roster contained only five players in the fall. With Park comes the opportunity for one of those women to take a breather, should she need it. There once again will be intra-team competition.
Park is only a third of what is arguably the best freshman class of any school in the country. Karen Chung, No. 5 in the Golfweek Junior Rankings, and Gabriella Then, No. 17, plan to arrive next fall.
“I think we’re pretty strong for the upcoming players,” said Park, No. 7 in the rankings.
Park, a three-time AJGA winner and a semifinalist at the 2011 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links, admits Then had a lot to do with her decision. Despite living on opposite coasts – Then grew up in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., about 50 miles east of the USC campus – the two players have been friends since they were 10 years old. They met even before their AJGA days, at the Callaway Junior World Championships.
“Gabby was the one that kind of wanted me at USC,” Park said. “She kind of pushed me to visit.”
Then, winner of the 2011 Rolex Tournament of Champions, has verbally committed and expects to sign with USC soon.
Chung, of Livingston, N.J., also will join Park from the Northeast. One of the most highly sought-after players in the class of 2013, Chung, who won the 2011 Thunderbird International Junior and was runner-up at the U.S. Girls’ Junior in 2008, gave her verbal commitment early in the summer after narrowing her decision to Duke, Stanford, UCLA and USC. She plans to sign her national letter of intent on Wednesday.
“I know most of the coaches focus on golf, but I think Coach Gaston focuses on you as a person,” Chung said.
With the arrival of the class of 2013, the future looks promising for USC. Freshman Kyung Kim, reigning U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links champion, was the low scorer for the Trojans in the fall, and won the individual title at Stanford. She is No. 7 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, and sophomore Doris Chen, the 2012 Pac-12 champion, is No. 16. Junior Sophia Popov is the third USC player inside Golfweek’s top 25, at No. 21.
“I just saw myself there for four years,” Chung said of USC. “… It’s going to keep me going in the right direction.”
Chung and her fellow freshmen can do the same for the team.