Park adjusts to unusual place for LPGA player: spotlight
Wednesday, July 10, 2013
When Inbee Park left Sebonack Golf Club on Sunday evening after her historic U.S. Women’s Open triumph, she and her team went for a celebratory dinner at Mount Fuji of Southampton, a Japanese fusion restaurant. The weary but jubilant group arrived in New York City at 2 a.m., and Park got little shuteye before embarking on a media blitz unprecedented for an LPGA player.
The hottest player in golf walked the streets of New York with the U.S. Women’s Open trophy in tow, making appearances on "Today," ESPN’s "SportsCenter" and Golf Channel’s "Morning Drive." She also taped segments that were aired on NBC and ABC affiliates nationwide.
Media tours like that don’t happen for LPGA players in the U.S.
“I thought I’d never get to do that in my life,” said Park, whose phone rang nonstop in the days that followed. She received letters from the president of her native South Korea, Park Geun-hye, and golf's king, Arnold Palmer. The word from back home is that she’s now a superstar.
From New York, Park crossed the country to house hunt in Las Vegas. She toured about a dozen homes and put an offer down on two. Little sister Inah came in from Korea, and Park took her shopping, showering her with presents. “I’m happy to do that,” big sis said.
Park also was happy to escape the desert’s triple-digit heat and come to Waterloo, Ontario, for this week’s Manulife Financial LPGA Classic. She’s grateful for the cloud cover and ready to contend for her fourth consecutive title.
“I think I'm calmed down a lot now,” she said.
Kathy Whitworth can’t relate to Park’s historic run at the majors, but she certainly knows what it’s like to collect trophies at a torrid pace.
“Winning can be a nice habit,” said Whitworth, winner of 88 tournaments, the highest number in all of golf. “After a while, you can’t play any other way. The blindfold comes down and you’re oblivious to everything but that.”
Whitworth, 73, also knows what it’s like to be hounded by a press corps eager to write a record-breaking story. When Whitworth eclipsed Sam Snead’s then-record of 84 victories (since revised by the Tour to 82), she said it was a great relief.
Park, who turns 25 on Friday, must find her own way to deal with fans and media who share a one-track mind: Grand Slam or bust.
“I try to not think about it,” Park said of what awaits her at St. Andrews, “but I think about 50 people reminded me.”
It only gets worse from here.
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FROM THE CADDIE SHACK: Jessica Korda and former caddie Jason Gilroyed have moved on after their very public U.S. Women’s Open split. Korda switched caddies at the turn on Saturday at Sebonack, bringing her boyfriend of 18 months, Johnny DelPrete, inside the ropes to carry her bag.
Gilroyed started with Anna Nordqvist this week in Canada and is expected to be on her bag for the rest of the year. Korda picked up Patrick Horstmann, a caddie from the Web.com Tour.
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OPEN FOR COMPETITION: There’s a tournament within a tournament going on this week in Waterloo, Ontario. Five spots are on the table for the Ricoh Women’s British Open at St. Andrews. Those with the lowest 36-hole score among players not already qualified will punch their tickets. In the case of a tie, officials will go to 54-hole scores and then 72-hole scores, if necessary.
Free play: Brooke Mackenzie Henderson, a 15-year-old from Smiths Falls, Ontario, is playing in the Manulife on a sponsor exemption. Henderson made the cut in her U.S. Women’s Open debut earlier this month, finishing T-59. She holds the record for youngest player to win a professional event, at 14 years, 9 months and 3 days.
Former Alabama standout Jennifer Kirby received the event’s second exemption.
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CONVERSATION STARTER: I went on a radio show after the USWO, and guests were given the choice to talk about Michelle Wie’s withdrawal or Park’s three major victories. Most everyone wanted to talk Wie.
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EARLY EXIT: Brittany Lincicome withdrew from Waterloo with foot pain caused by plantar fasciitis. She had plans to see an acupuncturist.
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MISSING PERSON: Jiyai Shin is the only player among the Rolex Rankings' top 10 who isn’t in this week’s field.
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SOLHEIM UPDATE: As it stands now, the two players who would make the U.S. team based on their Rolex Rankings are Lizette Salas (18) and Morgan Pressel (51). (By the way, Stacy Lewis, at No. 2, is the lone American ranked in the top 10.)
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BALD AND BEAUTIFUL: Hats off to Vandy coach Greg Allen and Alabama’s Mic Potter for parting with their hair in a show of solidarity for Kim Evans. The longtime Auburn coach is battling through chemo treatments for ovarian cancer. Evans did the honors for Allen, shaving his head in her backyard.
“Greg Allen came by for a haircut today!” Evans wrote in a text on Sunday. The next morning, she sent along a picture of a bald-headed Potter, whose wife Kim gave him a shave.