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.'
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Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.

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Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.


CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.

@tommyfleetwood_1

A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.