Retiring Korean legend seeks ‘Arnold Palmer’ legacy
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