Se Ri Pak ready to retire, start new chapter

By Randall MellMarch 18, 2016, 3:59 am

PHOENIX – Se Ri Pak said hello Thursday upon returning to competition for the first time in nine months, and then she did something she has been wanting to do for three years.

She said goodbye.

After posting a tidy 3-under-par 69 at the JTBC Founders Cup, she signed her scorecard and then stepped in front of a Golf Channel microphone and announced she will be retiring at season’s end.

“Basically, 2016 is my final season, full time,” Pak said.

Pak’s voice didn’t waver, didn’t crack. She marched into the media center after that and told reporters retiring was a difficult decision, but she was just as strong and just as resolute as she answered their questions. But then she put the microphone down, stepped off the stage, and she let her guard down falling into the arms of LPGA commissioner Mike Whan.

When Pak left the room, all the emotions she was holding down started coming up, leaking out one tear at a time. She dabbed her eyes in the hallway.

“This is not about my golf, it’s about my life,” Pak said.

Pak reiterated that she began thinking about retiring three years ago, but she had a big problem. At 35 back then, she didn’t have a clue what she wanted to do with the rest of her life.

She knows now.

When she figured that out, she knew it was time to retire.

Pak says when she looks back at her career, she is proud of what she accomplished, how she became the first South Korean to win a U.S. Women’s Open, how her victory ignited the popularity of golf among young girls in her homeland. She is proud of her 25 LPGA titles, her five major championship victories, how that success won her a place in the LPGA Hall of Fame. She is proud of how her feats inspired a nation to become a women’s golf super power.

“I’ve done everything I can do as a professional, as a golfer,” Pak said.

But Pak, 38, said when she looks back at her career with ruthless honesty, she sees something else, too.

She sees an incomplete person.

“I took care of my golf,” Pak said. “I didn’t take care of myself. My golf, it’s good. As a person, I don’t think I’m good, not good enough.”

Pak says the next part of her life is about addressing this deficiency she feels. It’s about completing herself. But she believes the best way to do this is by addressing the deficiencies she sees in the monster she created back in her homeland. It’s by helping young players make sure they work on completing themselves, too.

Pak would like to open a school to train athletes, but not just train them for sport. She wants to train hearts, minds and souls, too.

Pak believes she can find the fulfillment that she aches for as a person by helping young South Korean athletes find fulfillment as complete human beings.

“Life not all about winning, losing, practicing and then winning, losing, practicing,” Pak said. “It’s balance, feeling right balance. It’s practicing life. I’m still developing myself, and I’m so far behind.”

Pak is a role model. She knows that, but she wants to be an even better role model.

In some ways, Pak feels guilty about the monster she created back in South Korea – the monster ambition, monster drive and monster work ethic. She believes she created monster expectations, too, and she wants to make sure young players don’t let those expectations devour them the way they almost devoured her.

“Se Ri is so good with the young players now,” said Na Yeon Choi, the 2012 U.S. Women’s Open champion from South Korea who calls herself one of “Se Ri’s kids.”

Choi finds it interesting that this new wave of young South Koreans want to talk to Pak about golf, but that Pak always wants to steer the conversation to other places.

“Se Ri sees the young players practicing all day long,” Choi said. “On the road, they’re going from the hotel to the golf course, hotel to the golf course, hotel to the golf course. Se Ri has regrets. She regrets she didn’t have more fun, and she tells these young players to make sure they get out and go places, see things, be with friends. She tells them to take care of themselves.”

The stories about Pak’s worth ethic, how her father trained and pushed her to excellence, echo beyond South Korean borders. A track star before taking up golf at 14, Pak was trained hard by her father to be a champion, often waking her up at 5:30 in the morning to run 15 flights of stairs in their apartment building. He would make her run them forward and backwards. He pushed her so hard to overcome fear, the famous story goes, that he made her stay all night in a cemetery to overcome her fear of them.

Sean Pyun, the LPGA’s Korean-American managing director of international business affairs, says Pak’s influence radiated beyond golf. He says she set a standard that drove men and women in all walks of Korean life. He stood in the back of the media center Thursday fighting emotions while realizing what she meant to him and his parents.

“My parents have a photograph of Se Ri in their living room,” Pyun said. “I don’t think they have a photograph of me in there.

“I know, too, that I wouldn’t be doing what I do if it wasn’t for Se Ri Pak," he said. "I stood in the back of the room tonight realizing that I’ve never really thanked her for that.”

Pak’s grateful for what golf has given her, and she doesn’t take it for granted, but she wants to give back more than golf to the young people who grew up inspired by her. She wants to give them the fuller life she now seeks with them.

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Perez skips Torrey, 'upset' with Ryder Cup standings

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 2:19 am

Pat Perez is unhappy about his standing on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list, and his situation won't improve this week.

Perez won the CIMB Classic during the fall portion of this season, and he followed that with a T-5 finish at the inaugural CJ Cup. But he didn't receive any Ryder Cup points for either result because of a rule enacted by the American task force prior to the 2014 Ryder Cup which only awards points during the calendar year of the biennial matches as well as select events like majors and WGCs during the prior year.

As a result, Perez is currently 17th in the American points race - behind players like Patrick Reed, Zach Johnson, Bill Haas and James Hahn, none of whom have won a tournament since the 2016 Ryder Cup - as he looks to make a U.S. squad for the first time at age 42.

"That kind of upset me a little bit, the fact that I'm (17) on the list, but I should probably be (No.) 3 or 4," Perez told Golf Digest. "So it kind of put a bitter taste in my mouth. The fact that you win on the PGA Tour and you beat some good players, yet you don't get any points because of what our committee has decided to do."

Perez won't be earning any points this week because he has opted to tee it up at the European Tour's Omega Dubai Desert Classic. The decision comes after Perez finished T-21 last week at the Singapore Open, and it means that the veteran is missing the Farmers Insurance Open in his former hometown of San Diego for the first time since 2001.

Perez went to high school a few minutes from Torrey Pines, and he defeated a field that included Tiger Woods to win the junior world title on the South Course in 1993. His father, Tony, has been a longtime starter on the tournament's opening hole, and Perez was a runner-up in 2014 and tied for fourth last year.

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Woods favored to miss Farmers Insurance Open cut

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 1:54 am

If the Las Vegas bookmakers are to be believed, folks in the San Diego area hoping to see Tiger Woods this week might want to head to Torrey Pines early.

Woods is making his first competitive start of the year this week at the Farmers Insurance Open, and it will be his first official start on the PGA Tour since last year's event. He missed nearly all of 2017 because of a back injury before returning with a T-9 finish last month at the Hero World Challenge.

But the South Course at Torrey Pines is a far different test than Albany, and the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook lists Woods as a -180 favorite to miss the 36-hole cut. It means bettors must wager $180 to win $100, while his +150 odds to make the cut mean a bettor can win $150 with a $100 wager.

Woods is listed at 25/1 to win. He won the tournament for the seventh time in 2013, but in three appearances since he has missed the 36-hole cut, missed the 54-hole cut and withdrawn after 12 holes.

Here's a look at the various Woods-related prop bets available at the Westgate:

Will Woods make the 36-hole cut? Yes +150, No -180

Lowest single-round score (both courses par 72): Over/Under 70

Highest single-round score: Over/Under 74.5

Will Woods finish inside the top 10? Yes +350, No -450

Will Woods finish inside the top 20? Yes +170, No -200

Will Woods withdraw during the tournament? Yes +650, No -1000

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Monahan buoyed by Tour's sponsor agreements

By Rex HoggardJanuary 24, 2018, 12:27 am

SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance announced on Tuesday at Torrey Pines a seven-year extension of the company’s sponsorship of the Southern California PGA Tour event. This comes on the heels of Sony extending its sponsorship of the year’s first full-field event in Hawaii through 2022.

Although these might seem to be relatively predictable moves, considering the drastic makeover of the Tour schedule that will begin with the 2018-19 season, it is a telling sign of the confidence corporations have in professional golf.

“It’s a compliment to our players and the value that the sponsors are achieving,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

Monahan said that before 2014 there were no 10-year title sponsorship agreements in place. Now there are seven events sponsored for 10-years, and another five tournaments that have agreements in place of at least seven years.

“What it means is, it gives organizations like the Century Club [which hosts this week’s Farmers Insurance Open], when you have that level of stability on a long-term basis that allows you to invest in your product, to grow interest and to grow the impact of it,” Monahan said. “You experienced what this was like in 2010 or seen other tournaments that you don’t know what the future is.S o to go out and sell and inspire a community and you can’t state that we have a long-term agreement it’s more difficult.”

Events like this year’s Houston Open, Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, and The National all currently don’t have title sponsors – although officials at Colonial are confident they can piece together a sponsorship package. But even that is encouraging to Monahan considering the uncertainty surrounding next season’s schedule, which will include the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players to March as well as a pre-Labor Day finish to the season.

“When you look back historically to any given year [the number of events needing sponsors] is lower than the typical average,” Monahan said. “As we start looking to a new schedule next year, you get excited about a great schedule with a great group of partners.”

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Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.