Thursday, October 20, 2016

Se Ri Pak: A True LPGA Legend Retires


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Se Ri Pak, a true LPGA legend retired, this past week. As I checked through the sports sections of the newspapers, there was not a lot written on this subject. There were a few nice articles on the web, but if you blinked twice, you may have missed them.

Pak played her final round of professional golf last Thursday at the KEB LPGA Hana Bank Classic. It didn't have a story book ending. With an ailing left shoulder she would shoot a round of 80. She withdrew after the round, which was the plan all along no matter what she shot.

It didn't matter what her score was this final day. Se Ri had made her mark on the LPGA, and with Korean fans, long ago.

Pak won 25 tournaments on the LPGA tour (5 of them Major Championships), and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2007.

That does not even begin to tell the Se Ri Pak story. What Se Ri did for golf in Korea, is comparable to what Arnold Palmer did for golf in the United States. She has inspired a generation of Korean golfers to take up the sport. Before Se Ri, only one  South Korean woman, Ok -Hee Ku had won an LPGA event. Now we have had approximately 40 different winners, totaling more than 150 tournaments from that country. 

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Se Ri had an emotional on course sendoff.

I had the pleasure of talking to Se Ri earlier this year in the media room of the United States Open. She is one of the most honest people you are ever going to meet. Of all the things she said that day, the thing that stands out in my mind is when she said the following, "I was always very happy when I was on the golf course, but that was the only time I was happy. When I left the golf course and went back to my room, I was very lonely." 

She went on to say that she looks forward to being much happier in "the next part of my life."
She said that would include going back to South Korea to help young girls pursue their dreams. 

She certainly has done that already.

Here are some of her career highlights:
In 1997, qualified for the tour by winning the final LPGA qualifying tournament.
Ranks eight all time in earnings with over $12,500,000.
Ranks 23rd on the LPGA's all time win list with 25.
Has a career playoff record of 6-0
Captured the 2007 Jamie Farr Open, becoming just the third player to win the same event 5 times.
In 2003 she became the first Asian player to win the Vare Trophy (lowest scoring average)
Won 14 times on the KLPGA tour.

Awards:
LPGA and World Golf Hall of Fame inductee in 2007.
1998 Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year.
2003 Vare Trophy winner.
2006 Heather Farr Player award.

Let me finish by sharing a personal experience. Back in 2011 at the U.S. Open in Colorado Springs, Colorado, my wife and I hung around the course after play had long been finished. It was a rainy day. Play had been stopped several times. It was near dark and Se Ri was the only golfer on the practice green. I think my wife and I were the only fans still left on the course (or one of the very few). We sat down and watched Se Ri putt for about 20 minutes. When she was done, we saw her and her caddie walking towards us. When they got to us Se Ri asked her caddie for a ball. She then signed it and handed it to me. She then took off her glove, signed that, and handed it to my wife.

Good luck Se Ri, on all your future endeavors.


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1 comment:

  1. I agree, Tony, always the consummate professional, always gracious, always friendly to fans and media alike. In my opinion, the biggest change in the environment since Lorena left. I will never forget her blushing and thanking me for telling her she is the original Seoul Sister. Like she wasn't aware of that. She will be sorely missed, but her legend will always be there.

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