Advertisement - Click to support our sponsors.

Bill Kwon

Sports Watch

By Bill Kwon

Tuesday, February 15, 2000

‘Amazing Grace’
on LPGA Tour

GRACE Park has a lot of fond memories of Hawaii where she first took up junior golf. She'd like to add another, if possible.

Like winning her first LPGA Tour event here. She'll get two chances at it -- the Cup Noodles Hawaiian Ladies Open beginning Thursday at Kapolei and the LPGA Takefuji Classic at the Kona Country Club on the Big Island March 2-4, two days before her 21st birthday.

"It would be really nice since this is where I started my golfing career," said Park, playing in her first tournament here after leaving the islands in 1993 as a 14-year-old junior golfer with a bright future.

"Just flying in last night (Sunday) I was excited to be back," Park said. "I have a lot of family and friends here."

Fine-tuning her game in Arizona, Park twice was named U.S. junior golfer of the year and was voted the NCAA player of the year in leading Arizona State to two national titles.

In 1998 she became the first player in 50 years since Patty Berg to sweep all major amateur titles, including the U.S. Women's Amateur.

She joined the Futures Tour late last summer and won five of 10 events she entered to earn player of the year honors and an exemption to the 2000 LPGA season.

No wonder everyone's waiting for Amazing Grace to do as well on the LPGA Tour in her rookie season.

DOES she feel any pressure to succeed? Especially, since the LPGA Tour's last two rookies of the year -- Mi Hyun Kim in 1999 and Se Ri Pak in 1998 -- are native Koreans as well.

"The expectations are greater than it has ever been. But I've dealt with it pretty good over the years," said Park. "I think it's an advantage for me. It gives me confidence that a lot of people are looking for me to do well."

Certainly, a lot of focus is on Park, whom the Korean press is hoping will be the next Se Ri Pak.

Park is content to be Grace Park on the next level.

"My biggest rival is myself, not Se Ri," Park said.

Pak, Park and Kim make up what's known as the "Seoul Sisters" on the LPGA Tour. They were a big hit in last week's L.A. Women's Championship where Koreans made up more than 50 percent of the gallery.

Park made the cut in her first two events, but admits, "I'm not there yet," in terms of her game.

She's working on a swing change after taking too long of a much-needed break in November and December that led to some bad habits.

"I lost a lot of distance because of that," said Park, whose strength is her length off the tee. "I feel like it's getting better. I don't know when it'll get there. Hopefully soon."

PARK has no illusions about her rookie year.

She plans on working hard on her game -- four hours alone yesterday at the Kapolei Golf Course range and putting green -- and figures it'll come. It always has, on every level she has played.

The LPGA Tour has her full attention. She figures to play around 30 events and hopes she can qualify for the first major of the year -- the Nabisco Championship -- five weeks from now. She'll either have to win a tournament or be among the top 15 money winners.

Park has no endorsements as yet and that's by choice.

"I can wait six months or a year. Sacrificing that time might give me better endorsements than going ahead and doing things now," she said.

She also has turned down invitations to play in Japan and Korea.

"Since this is my rookie year, I'm going to do LPGA and LPGA only."

Bill Kwon has been writing
about sports for the Star-Bulletin since 1959.

E-mail to Sports Editor

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
[Stylebook] [Feedback]

© 2000 Honolulu Star-Bulletin