NAPLES, Fla. – Inbee Park revealed the secret to her success this season.
Reilley Rankin explained how family gave her the strength to come back from a broken back to play golf.
They both received standing ovations at the Rolex Award Celebration Friday at the Ritz Carlton at Tiburon.
Park, 25, the first South Korean to win Rolex Player of the Year, told the audience she was more nervous speaking there than she was over any putt at the U.S. Women’s Open, but she delivered an eloquent speech.
“Many people say I look effortless,” Park said. “Some say I look emotionless. Some even call me the silent assassin.
“Just because I don’t show my emotions doesn’t mean I don’t feel anything. What I have gone through this year is more challenging than anything I’ve gone through in my life. The season seemed endless.”
Though Park never showed it in her historic run winning three consecutive majors, handling all her interviews and public responsibilities with patience and grace, she said she struggled with the unrelenting attention, the feeling she was always being scrutinized.
“There wasn’t a moment I felt completely relaxed,” Park said. “I felt so uncomfortable standing in front of a crowd whose eyes were all on me. I wasn’t prepared to deal with all of it.”
Park’s admission makes the way she handled people in her run all the more impressive. She never betrayed the slightest irritation over the demands upon her.
“I understood it was part of the job,” Park said.
The secret to her success? Park said it was focusing on something larger than scores.
“So, in answer to the media’s question, who is the silent assassin?” Park said. “I am someone who believes in finding happiness. My goal at the beginning of the year was simple. Let’s be happier than last year. At most, let’s win just one more tournament. Don’t we all want to be happy? Aren’t we all doing what we do to be happy?
“Unexpectedly, as soon as happiness became my goal, I achieved more than I ever had. I had my best season yet.”
Park thanked her parents.
“In the midst of this perfect storm, my family kept me grounded,” Park said. “I don’t think I tell my family thanks enough for their voice of reason and for their love.”
Park thanked Suzann Pettersen and Stacy Lewis for pushing and inspiring her in their competition. She also gave special thanks to her coach, Gi Hyeob Nam, who is also her fiancée. And to her caddie, Brad Beecher.
“My fiancée just makes me smile,” Park said. “He took a tremendous risk when he decided to stand by me and support me on the tour. Despite not speaking English, he made the decision to come to a foreign country with only one thing, faith in me.”
About Beecher, she said: “Brad is much more than just a caddie for me. He has been one of my best friends throughout my many years on the tour. Off the course, I never hear him complain when I ask him to do some tedious task.”
Rankin, 34, received the LPGA’s Heather Farr Perseverance Award for determination in overcoming an obstacle in pursuing her golf career. While playing at the University of Georgia, Rankin broke her back and sternum and bruised her heart and lungs jumping into a lake from a cliff. She was in a back brace for three months but went on to become a three-time All-American who led Georgia to an NCAA Championship and then earn her LPGA card.
Rankin said she drew inspiration from her family and cited strength her mother gave her: “She had a saying in the house, you only see the obstacles when you take your eye off the goal.”
The other awards presented were:
The William & Mousie Powell Award – Amanda Blumenherst, 27, was honored for showing the spirit, ideals and values of the LPGA.
Patty Berg Award – Peggy Kirk Bell, 92, one of the pioneers of the women’s games, was honored for the kind of sportsmanship and goodwill characterized by Berg’s career.
Ellen Griffin Rolex Award – Kathy Murphy, a golf educator at Penn National Golf Club & Inn, was recognized for her demonstration of the love of teaching the game.
The Commissioner’s Award – Golf Channel was recognized for outstanding coverage and support of the LPGA.