Park to end successful, at times painful LPGA career


PITTSFORD, N.Y. – She didn't know if it would be the last scorecard she would sign, but Grace Park left an emotional mark on it.

She left tears on it.

Park, 32, announced after Friday’s round at the Wegmans LPGA Championship that she is retiring from the tour. She signed for a 75 at the end of the morning rounds, leaving the scoring tent uncertain if she would make the cut and have a final weekend to play.

In an emotional back nine, Park gave a spirited run. She played it in 3 under par. She left the course at 6 over with the cut at 4 over, but with windy, tough conditions she gave herself a chance. In fact, by the time Park left the media center, the cut was up to 5 over. By day's mid-afternoon, she was inside the cutline and stayed there. Still, it was a trying day.

“She was crying when we finished,” said Amy Yang, a fellow South Korean who grew up watching Park. “It was sad. When I was starting to play, Se Ri Pak, Grace Park, Hee Won Han and Mi Hyun Kim were the players we all watched. I can’t believe that she’s really done.”

Photos: Wegmans LPGA Championship

Park, a six-time LPGA winner, said injuries and fading desire ultimately led to her decision. Consumed by the game growing up, she conceded she lived a one-dimensional life. Golf was so much of who she was, it leaves her wondering who she will become, outside competition. She isn’t even sure what she wants to do with the next chapter of her life, but she’s going to enjoy finding out.

“I just want to have some time off,” Park said. “I don’t even know what I like doing, because I pretty much devoted my entire life to being the best golfer I could be. I am going to take some time off to see what I enjoy doing.”

Park, who lives in both Scottsdale, Ariz., and in South Korea, is engaged to be married in the fall.

A promising young star, Park’s family moved to Hawaii when she was 12. She was the Rolex Junior Player of the Year twice. She was the collegiate women’s Player of the Year at Arizona State, where she helped the Sun Devils win an NCAA national championship. She won the U.S. Women’s Amateur in ’98.

After turning pro, Park didn’t slow down. She won as a rookie. She won in each of her first five seasons on tour, including a major, the Kraft Nabisco Championship in 2004. That’s also the year she won the Vare Trophy for low scoring average.

In ’05, though, the game got hard, thanks to a back injury. Park would suffer through neck and hip injuries that derailed her game and her ambition.

Finally healthy last year, Park resolved to dedicate herself to another strong run.

“I wanted to give it one last chance at becoming one of the top golfers again,” Park said. “I worked really hard. I thought I could do it again, but the reality was my game just wasn’t there. Honestly, it just wasn’t fun.”

That pretty much sums up why Park’s leaving the game, but she does so with some rich memories. Park was a trailblazer, helping make an early mark in the United States for South Koreans along with Pak. She did so as one of the tour’s dazzling figures. She charmed galleries with her game, her stunning looks and a graceful swing.