Pettersen chases childhood dream of being No. 1
PHOENIX – Suzann Pettersen kept a golf diary when she was a schoolgirl. Actually, she kept several of them, but one in particular is on a shelf in her Orlando, Fla., home. The cover of the book is a montage of images of Tiger Woods and Annika Sorenstam. Inside, she lists her goals and dreams, details of her practice sessions and how she planned to reach No. 1.
“I guess there's a dream inside of me that kind of still is very much alive,” said Pettersen, “but it's not something that I kind of run around and think about every day.”
Pettersen, currently ranked No. 2 in the world, went on to say that she really doesn’t care about the rankings, especially during the season.
“I mean, it's kind of harsh to say,” she said.
What she cares about, what she focuses on, is winning tournaments. And, as Inbee Park will tell you, winning takes care of everything.
Norwegian pros were in Orlando last January for a 12-day training camp and Pettersen pulled her diary off the shelf. She’s not entirely sure why Greg Norman’s picture is plastered about, but apparently he meant something to her back then.
A 12-year-old Pettersen cut out letters from different magazines to list her goals. Next to her dream of winning majors, she pasted pictures of each trophy. She set a goal of making the European Solheim Cup team in 2003, but beat that by one year, debuting in ’02 at Interlachen.
“Every time it feels like you're pulling up old love letters,” said Pettersen, who admits she’s not nearly as organized these days.
Pettersen said the Norwegian Federation fed its young players with information on fitness, nutrition and countless drills.
“I’m one of those types that if someone happened to run around the block 10 times, I run 12,” Pettersen said. “If they asked me to write down this, I probably did it and even more.”
Moments after Pettersen left the interview area, the woman chasing her, Stacy Lewis walked in the door. She never had such a list. In fact, growing up she didn’t even want to be a professional golfer. Didn’t even watch the game.
“Even now I don’t want to have (a list) because then once you’re done with that list, then what do you do?” asked Lewis, who briefly rose to No. 1 last year after her Founders victory. “I don’t want there to be an ending point ever.”
Park, the reigning No. 1, was inspired by the achievements of compatriot Se Ri Pak and moved to the U.S. as a young girl to pursue the LPGA.
Last year she reached a stratosphere that proved well beyond the scope of her dreams, winning the year’s first three majors.
Park has been ranked No. 1 for 49 consecutive weeks but tries not to think about the scenarios that would knock her off. (For perspective, consider that Lorena Ochoa holds the record for the longest streak at No. 1 with 158 weeks. Yani Tseng lasted 109.)
For Park, the hardest part about being No. 1 is strangely enough the coolest part. Everything she does is in an effort to be the best. She wants to be the one everyone looks up to, the one on center stage.
But center stage can be a scary place, a place where every action, every word is studied and scrutinized.
It requires a maturity that Park said has built up over time.
Her start to 2014 – 2nd, T-4, 1st – is undoubtedly the best opening stretch of her career. The victory came at an LET event in China, where Park was pitted against Pettersen in a similar showdown to 2013, only this time the unassuming South Korean came out on top.
“I trained a lot (in the offseason) in Australia, like physically,” Park said, “and I feel like I’m striking the ball a little bit better than last year and probably hitting it a little bit farther than last year.”
Pettersen might not spend much time thinking about rankings. But, if she wants to satisfy what’s pasted into her childhood dream-book, she better be thinking about Park.
The competition isn’t going away.