Links love: Inbee Park aims for second Women's British Open title

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Links love: Inbee Park aims for second Women's British Open title

LPGA Tour

Links love: Inbee Park aims for second Women's British Open title

KINGSBARNS, Scotland – Inbee Park’s training for British golf started at an early age. She didn’t recognize it as such, of course, being on an island off South Korea. But winter training with the Korean National Team on Jeju Island in cold, windy conditions made her tough. They played in the snow, carried on even when temperatures dipped into the teens.

While other national teams traveled to Africa, Thailand or Portugal to train in the winter, Park layered up alongside future LPGA winners Na Yeon Choi and M.J. Hur. World No. 1 So Yeon Ryu, Park’s best friend, came through a year later.

“I think a lot of the (South Korean) girls out here have gone through that camp,” said Park, “definitely at least one time.”

Park traveled to Turnberry last Monday ahead of the Aberdeen Asset Ladies Scottish Open to see the course changes and bask in the memories from 2015. That’s where she completed the Grand Slam in 2015 after a brilliant final-round 65.

“It was fantastic golf,” longtime caddie Brad Beecher said. “It was, to say, almost effortless.”

It takes a special kind of talent to make links golf look effortless. The conditions two years ago at Turnberry were brutal at times. Park played her last 12 holes in 7 under to win by three.

“I still live with that memory,” she said.

Park loves links golf. She’s astute to know that the elements will, at times, fool her. She respects that, and says of the upcoming test: Prepare to be frustrated.

This marks the first time the LPGA has competed at Kingsbarns Golf Links and the first time the course has hosted a major. Situated only six miles from the Old Course of St. Andrews, Kingsbarns opens with a 165-yard par 3 that plays down toward the Firth of Tay. Park likes that. She won the 2015 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship at Westchester, which also begins with a par 3.

“It’s a very wind-dependent golf course,” said Park. “The greens are huge, and you have to be on the right tier. Obviously getting to the greens sometimes becomes a challenge when the wind blows hard. So you’ve got to know how to play knock-down shots and how to play low and how to hold it up in the wind and all sorts of shorts.”

Park rented a house on the beach in nearby Crail, a fishing village in the East Neuk of Fife. She’s here with her parents, sister and husband. The last time Park came to this area she’d won the first three majors of the year. That was back in 2013, and Park came to the Old Course in search of the grand slam. She tested herself in new ways that week, taking on a new level of pressure.

The experience helped shape the mind that came back from a months-long break to claim Olympic gold last August. (Park skipped last year’s WBO to heal her thumb.)

Despite qualifying for the LPGA Hall of Fame at age 27, Park remains an under-appreciated player. Those who follow the game closely, however, know better than to underestimate the 18-time winner.

Park came to Kingsbarns down on her ball-striking but confident with the putter. Certainly nothing she can’t work out with husband/swing coach G.H. Nam.

And so Park enters her 10th Women’s British Open in search of her eighth major title. She has seven top-11 finishes in nine starts at this major and won her most recent appearance.

“It’s one of my favorite tournaments to come and play,” she said. “Even though it is always the toughest week that we play all year, I think, because we are having such a tough time, it sticks in our mind for such a long time.

“You know, that’s why I still remember 2015 like yesterday.”

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