Inbee Park a Major Player


U.S. WomenEDINA, Minn. -- This thing really all started 10 years ago when Inbee Parks parents were watching on television as South Korean Se Ri Pak was winning the U.S. Womens Open.
I was just a little girl, said Inbee Park. And I was half asleep. But my family was all screaming every time Se Ri made a putt. So I picked up a club a couple of days later for the first time.
And now, Inbee Park, like Pak, born in South Korea, is the youngest winner in the history of the U.S. Womens Open at the tender age of 19.
I cant believe I just did this, she said.
She is the second teenager in a row to win an LPGA major. The face of womens golf, which has been going decidedly international for more than a decade now, is going even more decidedly young.
Inbee Park, playing in the second to last group Sunday, shot 71-71 on the weekend at long and stern Interlachen Country Club which earned her a 4-shot victory over Swedish veteran Helen Alfredsson, who at 43, had to feel, at times, like a den mother.
I just tried to stay calm, said In-bee Park, who tied for fourth at last years Womens Open and won the U.S. Junior Girls way back in 2002.
She has a lot of talent, Angela Park said of Inbee Park. And she doesnt get ahead of herself. She plays her own game.
Those sound like clichs. But they are clichs for a reason. And perhaps the most noticeable aspect of Inbee Parks final round was the fact that her swing tempo never varied Sunday.
American Paula Creamer, like everyone else in the field, was hoping for a fast start Sunday in search of her first major championship. But a par on the first hole moved her from second place to a two-way tie for third.
That was because Inbee Park birdied the first two holes to sidle up to third-round leader Stacy Lewis and into a tie for first at 9 under. Alfredsson maneuvered herself next to Creamer with a birdie at No. 2 that left her at 8 under also.
Things would go from bad to worse for both Lewis and Creamer, playing together in the final pairing. Both double bogeyed the shortish par 5 second. And both finished with bitterly disappointing 78s. Creamer, believed by many to be the best player not yet to win a ladies major championship, wound up tied for sixth. Lewis tied for third with Angela Park and I. K. Kim.
For Angela Park it was her second top five in a row at the U.S. Womens Open, an event she has led after 36 holes each of the last two years.
In 2007 she tied for second with Lorena Ochoa, two shots behind winner Cristie Kerr. This time she wound up five back of winner Inbee Park at 9 under.
Finally, it must be mentioned that this was Annika Sorenstams final U.S. Open. At least for a while. The three-time winner of this event has announced she will step down at the end of the year. She will be married early in 2009 and has plans to start a family.
Sorenstam struggled with her putter all week but finished with a pulsating flourish when she holed a 6-iron from 1999 yards for an eagle on the 72nd hole. That boosted her into a tie for 24th. World No. 1 Lorena Ochoa wound up tied for 31st.
Annika was just running on empty, said her caddie Terry McNamara afterward.
Ochoa, for her part, said she will take three weeks off from competitive golf.
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