It’s unclear when we’ll next see Inbee Park. The gold-medal winner is scheduled to see her doctor on Monday to evaluate the thumb injury that has pestered her now for nearly a year.
“I don’t want to play with the pain anymore,” she said in a phone interview from South Korea. “I want it to heal perfectly.”
Park decided to skip wearing tape during the Olympic Games in Rio so that she could have a better feel when putting. She felt more pain, as a result, but the gain certainly was worthwhile.
A self-described slow starter, Park typically builds up as the year progresses, peaking at the big-name events in the summer. Coming in cold at Rio off a two-month break was unknown territory for the South Korean. Park said she can’t explain how she managed to put together such a dominating performance.
“I just didn’t give up,” she said. “I wanted to test my skills and test my limit, which is what Olympians should be doing.”
Park said the podium ceremony was unlike anything she’d ever experienced. She could feel her compatriots cheering for her back home in the wee hours of the morning.
“I felt like whole Korea was behind my back,” she said. “This gold medal was not made by me, but made by a lot of people together. It’s something that we’ve never seen before.”
Park, a seven-time major winner who qualified for the LPGA Hall of Fame in June, said she saw emotions from her family she’d never seen before after Rio. She believes her notoriety in South Korea has doubled after winning gold, with non-golfers now recognizing her on the street.
Se Ri Pak, who captained South Korea’s teams, told Park she was happier in Rio than after she won her first LPGA title.
Park said all her trophies – from junior golf to majors – are kept in a museum of sorts at her father’s business in Korea. The gold medal will head there soon, once everyone she knows – sponsors, friends and family – have had the chance to touch it and admire.
World No. 1 Lydia Ko barely took off her silver medal in the hours and days after receiving it. She even wore it while watching TV.
“I think that’s why my neck is a bit tight,” she said.
Ko is back in action this week in Canada, where she’s trying to win the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open for a fourth time in five years.
She opened with a 5-under 67.
The 19-year-old Kiwi said her collection of trophies resides on bookstands by the television in her Orlando, Fla., home.
“I’m sure (the medal) will be next to the other trophies I have,” she said. “Even though this is a silver medal, it’s going to be one that’s as special or even more special to me.”