Pak Already Standing at Hall of Fame Doors

By Associated PressNovember 10, 2007, 5:00 pm
ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- Se Ri Pak presided over a table of 10 at a Chinese restaurant in Las Vegas, ordering all the food and making sure everyone had enough to eat. When the fortune cookies arrived, she cracked hers open and read it slowly and softly in her halting English.
'You will lose the small ones, but win the big treasure,' she said.
After taking a second to let it soak in, Pak looked up at her guests with a smile that could light up the Strip.
Se Ri Pak
Se Ri Pak has had plenty to celebrate in her now Hall of Fame career.
'Tonight,' she said, 'we go to casino.'
Chairs were pushed back in unison, laughter filled the air and her entourage followed her out the door and across the street to the blackjack tables. It was her second year on the LPGA Tour, and Pak already had quite a following.
It turned out to be greater than she ever imagined.
Pak will be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame on Monday night on her record alone. The LPGA Tour uses a strict system of points, and the 30-year-old from South Korea reached that level three years ago.
She won five majors, two of them during a rookie season in 1998 that gave women's golf its biggest boost since Nancy Lopez. She picked up her 24th career victory earlier this year. She was so good so young that Pak will be the youngest player to be inducted.
Her legacy, however, will be as a pioneer who inspired a nation.
Pak was not the first South Korean to play or win on the LPGA Tour, but her success served as a catalyst for more young players to believe they could compete on the strongest circuit in women's golf.
She was among three South Koreans as a rookie. Ten years later, the LPGA Tour has 45 players from South Korea, which accounts for 38 percent of the LPGA population.
They aren't just here, they are winning. Three others have won majors (Grace Park, Birdie Kim, Jeong Jang), and four others have followed Pak as the LPGA rookie of the year.
'It's a lot of pressure on me, because I'm the big sister for them,' Pak said earlier this year. 'And probably because of that, I'm a role model for them. So I have to show them the way. But now, they are already good enough and they all work so hard. And so I'm very proud of it. And I'm proud for myself and proud of them, and I stand beside them.'
And they stand behind her on just about every occasion.
The last requirement for Pak to qualify for the Hall of Fame was 10 full seasons on the LPGA Tour, and she reached that at the McDonald's LPGA Championship in early June. Organizers staged a news conference after the first round at Bulle Rock, complete with a cake, and Pak was stunned to see a dozen South Korean players in the back of the room.
'She set the standard for the Korean gals,' Juli Inkster said. 'All the Korean gals look up to her, how she lives. I don't think that was her plan. She was just so successful.'
At the Kraft Nabisco Championship this year, where Pak was in contention on the weekend as she tried to complete the career Grand Slam, among those in her gallery was Birdie Kim, who had missed the cut.
No other South Korean had won a major until Kim holed out a 90-foot bunker shot on the final hole at Cherry Hills in 2005 to capture the U.S. Women's Open. She made it clear that day Pak was, and always will be, her idol.
'I met her eight years ago when I was young, like middle school student, and at that time she was very big player in Korea,' Kim said. 'So me, just I follow her always, watching her, always try to keep close, play like her. We have really good player like Se Ri Pak, everybody follow her. That's why we can make it more easier.'
Pak will be inducted along with two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange, U.S. Open and PGA champion Hubert Green, former British Open champion Kel Nagle of Australia and three-time British Amateur champion Joe Carr of Ireland.
It wasn't always easy for Pak.
There were stories about how her father made her spend the night in a cemetery to improve her mental toughness, and walk up stairs backward to strengthen her legs. Having already won 30 times before turning pro at 18, then finishing no worse than second in 13 out of 14 events, she qualified for the LPGA Tour on her first attempt.
In her first tournament as a rookie, Pak was paired with Kelli Kuehne, who had turned pro with great fanfare and a big Nike contract. Pak wasn't a total unknown. Laura Davies had seen Pak play, and she placed a bet on Pak winning her rookie debut when she learned the odds were 66-to-1.
Jim Ritts, the LPGA Tour commissioner during Pak's rookie season, also knew something about her. He was at the Samsung World Championship in Korea in 1996 when Pak was 19 and received a sponsor's exemption. She finished third behind Annika Sorenstam.
'My first impression was how I felt about Ernie Els,' Ritts said. 'Here was a person who was clearly a gifted athlete and could have chosen to be a star in various sports, and yet she chose golf. I could never have predicted what she was going to do. She didn't speak much English, but she had such joy on the golf course. It was extraordinary to watch.'
But it came at a price.
'Pak-mania' ruled in the summer of '98, especially after she won the U.S. Women's Open at Blackwolf Run in a 20-hole playoff against amateur Jenny Chuasiriporn. Press centers were packed with South Korean media, as many as 70 reporters and photographers. It was pure chaos inside the ropes. When she returned to South Korea that fall, she had to be hospitalized for exhaustion.
Television cameras even came into her hospital room to give the latest news.
'She started out as a raw talent, a great ball-striker, very robotic with a flawless swing,' Inkster said. 'When she was in her prime, she was the best. But the thing about Se Ri is she played because that's what she did, not that she really loved the game.'
That showed when Pak went into a deep slump brought on by burnout. She plummeted to 102nd on the money list with not so much as a top 10 in 2005, eventually taking the rest of the year off to cope with injuries. But she slowly seized control of her life, and returned in 2006 with a smile bigger than ever.
She added another major, nearly holing out with a 4-iron hybrid in a playoff against Webb in the LPGA Championship, leaping into the arms of her caddie in sheer exultation.
'First time I jump on the golf course,' Pak said.
The number of South Koreans keeps growing, most if not all pointing to 'big sister' Pak as their inspiration. The pinnacle for Pak comes at the World Golf Village on Monday night when she will be the first South Korean to be inducted.
'In a way, being first means that I am a pioneer for my country,' she said. 'And it makes me proud.'

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 1:00 pm

This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.

The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.

Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.

The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.

And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.

Masters victory

Article: Garcia defeats Rose to win Masters playoff

Article: Finally at peace: Garcia makes major breakthrough

Article: Garcia redeems career, creates new narrative

Video: See the putt that made Sergio a major champ

Green jacket tour

Article: Take a look at Sergio's crazy, hectic media tour

Article: Garcia with fiancée, green jacket at Wimbledon

Article: Watch: Garcia kicks off El Clasico in green jacket

Man of the people

Article: SERGIO! Garcia finally gets patrons on his side

Article: Fan finally caddies for Sergio after asking 206 times

Article: Sergio donates money for Texas flood relief

Article: Connelly, Garcia paired years after photo together

Ace at 17th at Sawgrass

Growing family

Article: Sergio, Angela get married; Kenny G plays reception

Article: Garcia, wife expecting first child in March 2018

Departure from TaylorMade

Article: Masters champ Garcia splits with TaylorMade

Squashed beef with Paddy

Article: Harrington: Garcia was a 'sore loser'

Article: Sergio, Padraig had 'great talk,' are 'fine'

Victory at Valderrama

Article: Garcia gets first win since Masters at Valderrama

Getty Images

Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 12:30 pm
Getty Images

Montana parents can't watch kids play high school golf

By Grill Room TeamDecember 11, 2017, 9:47 pm

Well, this is a one new one.

According to a report from KTVQ in Montana, this line in the Montana State High School Association rule book all but forbids spectators from observing high school golf in that state:

“No spectators/fans are allowed on the course except for certain locations as designated by the tournament manager and club professional.”

Part of the issue, according to the report, is that most courses don't bother to designate those "certain locations" leaving parents unable to watch their kids compete.

“If you tell a parent that they can’t watch their kid play in the Thanksgiving Day football game, they would riot,” Chris Kelley, a high school golf parent, told KTVQ.

The report lists illegal outside coaching as one of the rule's chief motivations, but Montana State women's golf coach Brittany Basye doesn't quite buy that.

“I can go to a softball game and I can sit right behind the pitcher. I can make hand signals,” she is quoted in the report. “I can yell out names. I can do the same thing on a softball field that might affect that kid. Football games we can yell as loud as we want when someone is making a pass or a catch.”

The MHSA has argued that unlike other sports that are played in a confined area, the sprawling nature of a golf course would make it difficult to hire enough marshals to keep unruly spectators in check.

Meanwhile, there's a lawyer quoted in the report claiming this is some kind of civil rights issue.

Worth note, Montana is one of only two states that doesn't allow spectators on the course. The other state, Alaska, does not offer high school golf.

PGA Tour suspends Hensby for anti-doping violation

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 11, 2017, 8:02 pm

Mark Hensby has been suspended for one year by the PGA Tour for violating the Tour’s anti-doping policy by failing to provide a sample after notification.

The Tour made the announcement Monday, reporting that Hensby will be eligible to return on Oct. 26, 2018.

The statement reads:

The PGA Tour announced today that Mark Hensby has violated the Tour Anti-Doping Policy for failing to provide a drug testing sample after notification and has been suspended for a period of one year. He will be eligible to return on Oct. 26, 2018.

Hensby, 46, won the John Deere Classic in 2004. He played the Tour this past year, playing just 14 events. He finished 142nd on the money list. He once ranked among the top 30 in the Official World Golf Ranking but ranks No. 1,623 today.

The Sunshine Tour recently suspended player Etienne Bond for one year for failing a drug test. Players previously suspended by the PGA Tour for violating the anti-doping policy include Scott Stallings and Doug Barron.

The PGA Tour implemented revisions to its anti-doping program with the start of the 2017-18 season. The revisions include blood testing and the supplementation of the Tour’s prohibited list to include all of the substances and methods on the World Anti-Doping Agency prohibited list. As part of this season’s revisions, the Tour announced it would also begin reporting suspensions due to recreational drug use.

The Tour said it would not issue further comment on Hensby's suspension.