PHOENIX – Inbee Park’s entire trophy collection resides in the front entrance of her father’s packaging company on the outskirts of Seoul. Junior golf trophies, major championship replicas, the Olympic gold medal. It’s the ultimate brag wall.
Park visited her father’s company during her six-month break from competition and had a revelation.
“I told myself, I think I need to erase all of this in me and start new,” she said. “Obviously if I didn’t have any of that, I can be appreciative of anything that I achieve, whether it’s top 25, top 10, just a win. … I’m starting to write my career again.”
A profound moment for a player who has seemingly achieved it all by age 28. Park said at some point being No. 1 in the world or earning Player of the Year no longer motivated her like it once did. Golf was “getting boring” and she saw herself taking for granted what she had achieved.
The left thumb injury forced Park to confront those realities as she took a prolonged break from the tour.
“Once you lose motivation, that’s a really unlucky way to play golf,” she said.
Now back for her 11th season on the LPGA, Park stunned the golf world with a victory in Singapore in only her second start since the Olympics. Her spectacular putting display on Sunday sent a strong message to the horde of heavy-hitters who gave chase.
“I won’t underestimate her again, ever,” said on-course analyst Jerry Foltz.
Park’s visit to the media room at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup in Phoenix marked her first time sitting down with the American press since she qualified for the LPGA Hall of Fame in June of last year.
Back then, Park seemed lost on the golf course. The thumb injury kept her from finishing events much less contend.
With so many people in Korea telling her she should give up her Olympic spot to someone else, Park wrestled with the notion of backing out.
“Deep in my mind I had a thought that maybe I should because I don’t want to be embarrassed with bad golf,” she said. “I don’t want to waste my reputation and all those things.”
It was her husband, Park said, who gave her the bravery and confidence needed to compete. He didn’t want her to miss an opportunity, and Park responded by working harder than ever in the lead-up to Rio.
“I like to win golf tournaments,” she said, “but I was never that desperate before. I really wanted to play good and make my country proud, myself proud.”
Nancy Lopez knows what it’s like to come back to competition after injury, and tips her cap to Park’s tenacity.
“I got a taste of not so much pressure in my life and I kinda liked it,” Lopez said. “You can go the other way. You kind of like that softness in your life where you don’t have to get up and be motivated.”
Park’s goal for her 11th season on tour is to win another major. The triumph in Singapore reminded her of the joy success brings.
“I missed a lot of things that I haven’t missed before,” she said. “I am approaching things a little bit differently this year, definitely.”