Stoking the embers

By Randall MellJuly 11, 2011, 8:38 pm

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – The words lift Se Ri Pak, but they stab at her, too.

“When I was young, Se Ri was my hero,” South Korea’s So Yeon Ryu said moments after defeating fellow countrywoman Hee Kyung Seo Monday to win the U.S. Woman’s Open in a playoff. “Se Ri was all of our heroes.”

The words have become a mantra in South Korea. Pak’s kids keep multiplying, her story as a pioneer keeps resonating with yet another winner this week detailing how she was motivated by Pak’s American success. After Monday’s triumph, Ryu told the familiar story of how she watched Pak’s breakthrough victory at the U.S. Women’s Open at Blackwolf Run in ’98. It’s staggering how gifted young South Koreans keep coming along to tell that story.

“Se Ri was like a god,” Ryu said.

The adulation moves Pak, but it can also overwhelm her.

Being looked upon as a golf god isn’t easy, especially when today’s youth can make you feel so mortal.

“That’s the hardest thing in being who she is out here,” said Mark Wuersching, Pak’s caddie. “It’s the responsibility she feels, the interruptions, the distractions. Se Ri gets 40 girls a week wanting to say hello to her.”

The hardest part of being viewed as a golf god is wanting to play like one again.

Despite a disappointing finish in the final round, Pak waited around to follow Ryu and Seo in their playoff. Pak was there in the end, racing onto the 18th green celebration to help soak Ryu in champagne.

Pak was so proud, but there were other feelings.

At 33, while Pak understands she created something larger than herself, she quietly struggles with the legacy.

As much as Pak wants to help her young protégés, she also wants to beat them. She’s on fire to beat them. She wanted to be out there with Ryu and Seo in that playoff.

That’s the back side of the Pak story Monday. Her past glory isn’t only fueling South Korean kids. It’s fueling Pak again, fanning old embers into a fire again.

Where Pak once seemed burned out by the game’s demands, she burns once more to win another major.

“This stirs her,” Wuersching said of the All Korean Playoff. “She appreciates the respect that’s shown her, and it’s important to her to show respect back, but she also wants to play golf for herself now. She has more desire now than when she was 20. She wants it badly again, and it’s her biggest issue. It hurts her in the biggest events.”

Pak’s Hall of Fame record includes 25 LPGA titles, five of them majors. She ended a three-year winless spell with a victory at the Bell Micro LPGA Classic last year. Her last major championship triumph was the LPGA Championship five years ago.

With a left wrist injury aggravated in Wednesday’s practice round, Pak played this U.S. Women’s Open on pain killers. After getting herself into contention halfway through the championship, she closed with 77 and 76.

“Days like today and yesterday, they really hurt her,” Wuersching said. “She was probably over prepared this week. She wanted it too much.”

Ryu’s victory brought terrific memories of Pak back to life. It sent reporters rushing to Pak to ask her about the South Korean pipeline she created. Where once there was only Pak at the top of the game, now there’s 18 South Koreans among the top 50 in the Rolex World Rankings, more than twice the number of Americans.

“I just opened the door for them to play, to give them more confidence, it was the beginning,” Pak said. “Now, they aren’t afraid to come out and play with the best golfers in the world on the LPGA. I’m very proud of them.”

Ryu’s victory ended a drought that was getting a lot of attention back in her homeland. It was the first victory by a South Korean this year. That fact just highlights the monster expectations Pak created. Since Pak became the lone South Korean on the LPGA in ’98, South Koreans have won 90 LPGA titles. They’ve won 42 times in the last five years.

Just about every South Korean who wins an LPGA event points to Pak. Just about every South Korean who joins the tour wants to meet Pak, to be paired with her in an event.

“Sometimes, I feel a lot of pressure, just to make sure I’m leading the right way, the better way,” Pak said. “They are doing really, really great without me much helping. They are so different than I was.”

When Pak joined the tour, she spoke little English. She didn’t have other South Koreans to pal around with. She says she’s impressed with how the younger players are learning English today, how well they’re handling pressure.

“I’m very proud of them,” Pak said.

Pak burns to keep making her prodigies proud of her. She also burns to show them she can still beat them in the big events.

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Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 3:52 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.

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Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 11:27 pm

Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.

The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.

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Rose leads Indonesian Masters; Snedeker WDs

By Associated PressDecember 15, 2017, 2:04 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose completed the final two holes of his second round early Saturday for a 3-under 69 and a one-stroke lead at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose, who had a first-round 62, was among a quarter of the field forced off the Royale Jakarta Golf Club course after weather delays on Friday.

The Englishman, who bogeyed his last hole, had a two-round total of 13-under 131.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who completed his 64 on Friday, was in second place.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters. He has been affected by a rib-sternum injury for most of the season.