The Kid Had a Great Time Thursday


The first impulse is to look at her and exclaim, Wow, shes just a kid, though that applies to so many of the entrants here in the Kraft-Nabisco Championship field. Angela Park is only 17, just a 12th grader at Torrance High School in the Los Angeles area - and shes totally unafraid to be here.
Angela (it seems sort of stilted to call her by her last name - Park) toured the Mission Hills course in 68 strokes Thursday morning. At the time she finished, 16-year-old Michelle Wie was 6-under-par. Lorena Ochoa, almost an old lady at 24, was leading the field at 8-under ' she would eventually set a tournament record at 10-under.
There are six girls ' young ladies? ' who are still in their teens. Another five are 20, having just crossed the threshold to young woman-dom. Lordy lordy, theyre playing in a major before they can drink a margarita!
It must say something about the excellence of the American Junior Golf Association. Paula Creamer, Morgan Pressel, In-Bee Park, Angela Park, Aree Song ' all were AJGA stars only a year or so ago, traipsing about the country all summer doing their golf thing. Of course, the boys play AJGA, too. But for whatever reason, boys dont have nearly the impact at a tender age as do the girls.
Angela was in a media room at a major event for the first time after her round Thursday. This is making me kind of nervous, she admitted ' then proceeded to do the interview in a most professional manner.
She had a very difficult time remembering her five birdies and one bogey, needing considerable prodding to recall the details for the press. But once she began talking, no one needed prod her any longer.
She is turning professional after this tournament ' she was invited as an amateur and had to stay the same to play here. She will play the Futures Tour the rest of the year and hopes to qualify for the LPGA next season.
Angela is of Asian descent, but was born in Brazil and moved to the L.A. area when she was 8 years old. Her father was in business in Brazil and moved to the States to continue the business. Mother worked in an embroidery factory in Brazil ' and still does, Angela says.
Angela tried several sports when she came to the U.S. ' swimming, tennis ' you name it before she tried golf at the age of 9. I came to love golf when I first started, she said. I didnt even know how to hit the ball (sounds like a lot of us), but it was so much fun out there on the range.
And on the range she stayed, since there were no courses near the area where she lived. She would hit 3-400 balls a day on that driving range. And eventually, this little girl who was having the time of her life just puttering around the range ' became very good at striking the ball.
She has been coming to this tournament as a spectator for four or five years, she says, but she never had any idea she would be tearing up this course as a tournament participant. But Thursday was her big day. The media room unsettled her a bit. The golf never did the entire day.
I wasnt nervous because I played in the (U.S.) Open last year, she said. I was nervous then. My hands were shaking. I was shaking.
Today, I felt I was really prepared. I just went out and played my game ' played the best I can play.
Her caddy, Don Brown, said she was totally relaxed the entire day. I never detected a bit of nervousness from her the entire round, he said.
She has a number of friends and acquaintances from Los Angeles who are waiting until the weekend to come watch her ' and thats assuming she makes it to the weekend. But that Thursday 68 puts in a very enviable situation.
Everybody is telling me, Angela, you have to make the cut ' then Ill go watch you, said, giggling. Im trying. Hopefully, if I make the cut, there will be a lot of people out here on Saturday and Sunday.
And if there is, the crowds wont bother her one bit. She has a little of the ham in her. And she has a whole lot of golfer in her.