Pak still has game and wisdom to succeed

Se Ri Pak tees off during the second round of the 2011 Ricoh Women's British Open at Carnoustie.

Se Ri Pak tees off during the second round of the 2011 Ricoh Women's British Open at Carnoustie.

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – B.J. and Bo Wie should sit down for a serious chat with Se Ri Pak. Maybe that conversation would force them to realize the obsessive approach they’re taking with daughter Michelle is counterproductive.

Pak seems to have life all worked out after 14 years in the game. She certainly had Carnoustie worked out in Round 2. Her 8-under 64 around Carnoustie helped her into contention for her sixth major victory.

Pak, the first Korean to make a mark in the royal & ancient game, has had to take a back seat in recent years to a host of girls she inspired to take up the golf following her breakthrough victories in the 1998 LPGA Championship and US Women’s Open.

Pak blazed a trail many have followed. So it pays to listen when she speaks.

The 25-time LPGA winner knows all about the work ethic bred into every Korean kid. She’s had the blisters and sore arms from working dawn to dusk on her game to prove it. It’s a recipe many of her younger countrywomen have copied. However, Pak seems to have seen the light.

After 14 years of near total dedication to the game, she’s decided there are more important things in life.

“I’m trying to make a better balance of my life and game,” Pak admitted. “Still the game is the biggest thing in my life, but the other thing I’m doing is more, let’s say, social, like with friends and a couple of beers here and there.”

Korean girls and beer? Heaven forbid.

However, Pak says she’s realized that it’s one taboo that, actually, isn’t too taboo.

“I thought one beer maybe didn’t help my game, but it doesn’t really affect anything. Just a little mentally, thinking you’re a little off the line a little bit, that you shouldn’t do that.

“That’s the way it was before. But now with players, with my caddie, with friends, and having dinner together, now I’m drinking beer instead of coffee, which makes it a little more relaxed.”

There was a time when Pak wouldn’t have dreamed of drinking beer during a tournament, or any other time for that matter. Now she wants to do it just to be like everyone else.

“(I’m doing) things I’ve never done before, just being like normal people. It’s pretty important, but I’ve never done it before. I really work hard all day, and off the golf course I’m trying to relax with friends. It’s pretty hard to do and it’s pretty difficult to learn, but now I’m getting there, getting better.”

The Wies should sit down and listen to Pak. They should take a leaf out of her book if they want to do what’s best for their only child.

Witnessing Wie’s practice routine after Round 1 was depressing. Despite teeing off at 7:14 a.m., she was still on the putting green at 6:30 p.m. Parents B.J. and Bo were orchestrating the practice session as Wie tried hard to master the belly putter. They were the ones pointing to holes she should putt to. Bo would stand behind Wie as she putted, while father B.J. would crouch down behind the hole, the better to watch the putting stroke.

And anyone who thought Wie was keen to be on the practice green might have been disappointed. It was one of the most joyless practice sessions this journalist has ever witnessed.

Wie left the putting green just after 6:30 p.m., but she wasn’t headed for her hotel room and some much-needed rest. Her parents escorted her to the driving range to stand over her as she hit balls.

Wie cut a lonely figure as the only player on the range firing balls into the twilight.

Considering she’d probably been up at 5:30 a.m. for her 7:14 tee time, Wie was heading for at least a 13-hour day focused solely on golf.

Parents making their offspring focus on golf 24/7 won’t necessarily make their children better players. Just the opposite.

“Part of it with the parents is going to be very difficult (getting them to see the value of down time),” Pak said. “Some parents won’t understand.”

That seems too obvious in the case of the Wies.

Instead of escorting their daughter to the range, it might have been better if they’d marched her to the bar for a cold one with Se Ri.

It certainly seems to be working for Pak.

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