Angela Park tied with Stacy Prammanasudh for the lead after the first round of the Fields Open in Hawaii.
Park leads way as Korea golfers thrive
Five of the top nine scores in the first round were posted by players from the co-leader's homeland
The Koreans took it easy on the rest of the field at last week's SBS Open, but it was a different story during the opening round of the $1.2 million Fields Open in Hawaii.
|Se Ri Pak
Five of the top nine finishers yesterday in the second LPGA Tour event of the season are of Korean ancestry, including Angela Park, Se Ri Pak and Kyeong Bae. Park shared the first-round lead with Stacy Prammanasudh, thanks to a steady 6-under 66 in the tougher morning round.
Pak played in the afternoon and is alone in third at 5-under 67. Bae is tied for fourth with American Meaghan Francella at 4-under 68. Two more Koreans are among four tied for sixth at 3-under 69. They are Jeong Jang and Jee Young Lee. American Pat Hurst and Chile's Nicole Perrot also managed 3-under rounds in conditions better suited for wind surfing.
"Does anybody know the weather forecast for tomorrow?" Pak asked at her press conference.
More of the same, was the reply.
"Good," Pak said. "I want it to stay windy now that I've played in it for so long. It blew hard all day."
Most of the players thought the trades were bad enough at last week's season-opening tournament at Turtle Bay. But when the best in the world arrived at Ko Olina on Monday, they were smacked around by wind and rain usually reserved for the windward side.
The rain stayed away yesterday, but the wind kept the scores up somewhat, with 42 players finding red numbers. Another 15 finished at even-par 72, with the remaining 81 competitors landing on the plus side of the LPGA ledger. Those who played in the morning wondered what course Park was on as the tour rookie fashioned a blistering 5-under 31 on the front and a 1-under 35 on the back for the best round of her career.
Growing up in Brazil and now living in Florida, Park always believed she could compete with the world's best. The 18-year-old won five events on the American Junior Golf Association circuit and managed a tie for third in 16 events on the Futures Tour. She tied for fifth at the LPGA Final Qualifying Tournament and is quite comfortable with the attention coming her way.
"I never knew it was going to be this exciting," Park said. "It wasn't really hard to fit in or get adjusted to the new situation or new tournaments or new people. I just felt really right in place. I felt really comfortable coming out here even though I didn't know half the field. It was nice to see people I've seen on TV and to be able to play against them."
Prammanasudh has been plying her trade on tour since Park was only 14. Entering her fifth season on tour, the former Tulsa standout has managed only one win and decided the best way to improve on that mark was to hire instructor Bill Harmon. He has been working with some technical aspects of her swing that Prammanasudh is still struggling with, even yesterday.
"We've been working together four or five lessons now," Prammanasudh said. "It's still a foreign concept to me, but we're working on it and I've just got to constantly keep working at it every day.
"Dad taught himself by books and magazines. I've never really had a formal lesson. I figured playing great golf last season that I just need something that's going to make me really consistent throughout the entire year, instead of having ups and downs."
The ups and downs of golf left Pak out of the winner's circle all of 2005. She was so tired of the game, Pak wondered if she would ever win again. But all that changed last year. She beat Karrie Webb in a playoff at the LPGA Championship to secure the fifth major of her career.
Making her first appearance in Hawaii in eight years, Pak talked about playing earlier in the season than in the past and what that could mean for her later in the coming campaign.
"For me, yes, it's not easy," Pak said of playing so soon. "I feel that I'm ready, but I don't feel like I'm mentally ready and like really strong. But the wind actually woke me up right away. I come out and I don't want to screw around. I'm here for winning and I'm here to play well."
Park is in an equally positive mind-set. After graduating from high school, she contemplated whether to go to college or turn pro. She talked it over with her family and decided the best course of action was Q-school. Park is confident she made the right choice.
"I knew this is what I wanted to do at a young age," Park said. "This is my dream. So I'm living my dream. It was basically an easy decision. Today was a great round. Everything that I looked at went in. I was so confident. Everything went well, to be honest."