Will Park retire after Rio?

By Rex HoggardAugust 17, 2016, 7:42 pm

RIO DE JANEIRO – Going out on top is no easy thing, particularly for an athlete whose life since she was 10 years old has been defined by an uncanny ability to filter out distractions and doubt.

But if Inbee Park sounded as if she had little interest in the latter on Wednesday at the Olympic Golf Course, there was no escaping the former.

Park arrived in Rio following two months on the disabled list nursing an ailing left thumb and has grown weary of answering questions about the injury.

“I don’t want to speak about my thumb,” she said. “The injury is not going to be a problem this week.”

If her first-round 66 was any indication the South Korean’s insistence that all was well with her thumb was more than just a mind game to keep her focused on the task at hand.

Park hit 13 of 14 fairways and 15 of 18 greens in regulation on Day 1 of the women’s competition to move to within one stroke of the first-round lead, and her round could have been even better.

The 28-year-old missed six putts for birdie inside 10 feet and failed to birdie any of the Olympic course’s closing three holes, which are widely considered the key to scoring on the Gil Hanse-designed layout.

VIDEO: Park (66) highlights from Round 1 of the Rio Olympics

Olympic golf coverage: Articles, photos and videos

“The one thing that I'm really happy about is that I had that many opportunities out there today,” said Park, who trails front-runner Ariya Jutanugarn of Thailand by one shot. “I always like to deal with missed opportunities more than not even having an opportunity.”

Simply put, Park did what Park does best – avoid trouble and unforced errors. Not bad for a player who hasn’t played an LPGA event since June’s KPMG Women’s PGA Championship and missed the cut two week’s ago at a relatively weak-field Korean LPGA tournament.

“That girl's good,” said America’s Gerina Piller, who was paired with Park on Day 1. “She makes everything she looks at. I'm going to have to go ask her for a putting lesson after that. She's kind of plain vanilla, she gets it done.”

That’s the story of Park’s career – unabashed brilliance in an unassuming cover. What she may lack in Q rating has always been secondary to an incomparable competitive moxie, winning 17 times on the LPGA, seven major championships and this year becoming the youngest LPGA player to ever qualify for the Hall of Fame.

For Park, substance has always trumped style.

Which is why this week’s Olympics are such a curious case for Park, who has hinted in recent months that she could be much closer to the end of her career than one might think.

Asked this week if she has a timeframe for when she may step down from competitive golf, Park continued to be vague.

“I'd like to have a family soon and that's probably my priority maybe the next couple years,” she said. “I really don't know what's going to happen. If I have a baby or after I have a family, whether I'm going to come back or not come back. I'm just in between how to plan the rest of my career.”

There’s no need for a translation: Retirement is coming for Park; the only question is when the world’s fifth-ranked player will make her break for the golden years.

Some this week have suggested the Olympics could be Park’s swan song – although she said on Tuesday that she hopes to be able to play next month’s Evian Championship in France if her ailing left thumb permits.

Although she has struggled this year largely because of injury, in 2015 Park won five times, including two majors. That doesn’t exactly sound like a player on the verge of an early exit, but in the context of her career it’s conceivable that she’s pegged the Olympics as the perfect departure point.

For a player who has accomplished nearly everything in professional golf – in fact, the only missing piece to the resume would be winning the Evian, which she won before it was decreed a major – a medal, particularly of the gold variety, would be the perfect bookend for the trophy case.

Although Park, like the vast majority of golfers both male and female who traveled to Rio for golf’s return to the Olympics, danced around comparisons between winning a major vs. a medal, back home in South Korea a trip to the podium on Saturday would eclipse everything she has accomplished.

“The Olympic Games will be bigger [than a major] in Korea probably,” Park said. “A lot of golf fans are interested in golf and I think the Olympics is all the people who enjoy sports, and even people who don’t enjoy sports, I think they get to watch and cheer. So I think it is quite big.”

On Wednesday the competitor in Park didn’t feel inclined to address either her injury or her future plans in the game, but she left little doubt where a victory this week would rank on her Hall of Fame resume.

“This could be the highlight of my career,” she said.

Whether it would also be a magical swan song remains to be seen.

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 Web.com 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.