Re­tir­ing Korean leg­end seeks ‘Arnold Palmer’ legacy

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SPORTS -

RARELY can a sliced drive into the rough off the first tee have been greeted with so much ado­ra­tion and ap­plause.

But for the fans who turned out yes­ter­day to see the big­gest name in Korean golf in her fi­nal tour­na­ment, the ac­tual play came a dis­tant sec­ond to recog­nis­ing a ca­reer cred­ited with trig­ger­ing South Korea’s rise as a dom­i­nant force in the women’s game.

Pak Se-Ri’s (pix) vic­tory in the 1998 US Open – then just 20 years old and in her rookie LPGA sea­son – changed ev­ery­thing.

She was the first Korean – in­deed the first Asian – to win the old­est women’s ma­jor, and be­came the poster girl for a South Korean golf­ing boom that has since gone from strength to strength.

Pak won Rookie of the Year in 1998, and seven other South Korean women have emu- lated her since then. The same num­ber have won US Open ti­tles, in­clud­ing the 2015 cham­pion Chun In-Gee.

Many of those who have fol­lowed in Pak’s wake – in­clud­ing reign­ing Olympic cham­pion Park In-Bee – of­ten re­fer to them­selves as “SeRi girls”, cit­ing her US Open tri­umph as the mo­ment they de­cided to pur­sue the sport se­ri­ously.

It’s a legacy that Pak, now 39, clearly cher­ishes. “When all is said and done, I want to be re­mem­bered as some­one who was widely re­spected,” she told re­porters ahead of the LPGA KEB-Hana Bank Cham­pi­onship yes­ter­day.

Name-check­ing the late US golf­ing great Arnold Palmer, Pak said she wanted to con­tinue to play an in­flu­en­tial role af­ter she re­tires.

“I know I’ve got a long ways to go, but I’d love to be like Mr. Palmer and learn to be­come some­one who can make a ma­jor con­tri­bu­tion to golf.

“My goal is to be­come some­one who can be help­ful to young play­ers and peo­ple around me. I am not in­ter­ested in ful­fill­ing per­sonal de­sires,” she said. – AFP

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