SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – Months ago, when Annie Park first referenced Sebonack Golf Club, the U.S. Women’s Open venue in the Long Islander’s backyard, she likely would have drawn a good-sized crowd to the ropes simply for being a local.
But then the 5-foot-9-inch Park graduated high school a semester early in nearby Levittown, N.Y., swept the postseason at USC, and, finally, qualified for the Women’s Open by going 36 holes without a bogey at sectionals. Not surprisingly, when Park arrived at Sebonack on Tuesday, a crowd flocked to her side at the practice range asking for autographs. Park, looking surprised, accommodated each request.
Park has barely slowed down since NCAA postseason. In addition to Women’s Open qualifying, there was the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links. There, Park cruised to co-medalist honors with Trojan teammate Doris Chen, only to fall in the first round of match play. In an unpredictable development, she lost to the No. 64 seed at the WAPL, 6 and 4.
“I like to shock people,” Park joked Tuesday. “… I really wasn’t focusing on myself when I should have been. I changed my mindset for match play.”
Park said that loss hit her hard, and is hoping to put it out of her mind for the Women’s Open. Second-guessing oneself in a major championship, as she recognized, will never do. Luckily, and appropriately, Park has the love of the local crowd.
On Tuesday, Park called Southampton’s near 90-degree heat unusual for this area. In the past handful of times she’s played the course, she has seen freezing temperatures, rain and extreme wind.
“I think this is one of my favorite golf courses so it’s nice to just play this course at the U.S. Women’s Open,” Park said.
Park will rent an apartment closer to the golf course for the week, rather than fight traffic in from Levittown, about 60 miles southwest, each day. It’s not as if Park has been resting there much lately, anyway. She took a red-eye home from Los Angeles late Monday evening after accepting the prestigious Honda Sports Award back in California. Park was supposed to land in New York at 7 a.m. on Tuesday, but that was delayed until 9 a.m. thanks to an emergency plane landing in Denver.
Real practice begins tomorrow, tournament eve, with current USC teammate Kyung Kim and former Trojan Lizette Salas. The three are scheduled for a practice round, but as far as Trojan allies are concerned, there are many here from which to choose. There are 11 current, future or former USC players in the field.
Among the other current USC players is Doris Chen, at Sebonack after a lopsided loss to Lauren Diaz-Yi in the WAPL final on June 22. Chen chalked that 10-and-9 loss up to fatigue. She simply went too hard, too early in the week and calls that “a very big mistake.”
“I could get away with it the first couple matches, but not the last round,” Chen said. “… I think my friends were shocked by the way I played.”
But Chen, nicknamed D-Train by her teammates, is a hard player to stop. After just one day of rest between the WAPL and the Women’s Open, she was back on the course and the practice facilities on Tuesday at Sebonack.
“I was still very upset about it,” said Chen, who will seek redemption this week. “I’m going to try my best to be (positive).”