RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – Nobody experienced the range of emotions Annie Park felt in Thursday’s first round of the ANA Inspiration.
She awakened excited to play the year’s first major, only to discover the back window of her car was smashed and her golf clubs were stolen from the parking lot of her Palm Desert hotel.
A few hours later, she was inexplicably charging up the leaderboard, with an unfamiliar mish-mash set of clubs frantically pieced together, a set that included her caddie’s irons with “super stiff” shafts, a hodgepodge of new wedges, a hybrid and a putter that she bought from the Mission Hills pro shop. The pros in the shop also got her a Callaway Epic Sub Zero driver.
What a round for Annie Park. She woke up to find her clubs were stolen out of the back of her car at her hotel last night, playing with an emergency mish-mash set, courtesy of Mission Hills & LPGA club tech Paul Boehmer. She's 2-over after 16. pic.twitter.com/nnOLOfZ1Gs— Randall Mell (@RandallMellGC) April 4, 2019
“It was a crazy day,” Park said.
After chipping in at the first hole and making birdies at the fifth and sixth, Park was tied for the lead at Mission Hills.
Not bad considering she was in tears about 2 hours and 45 minutes before she was scheduled to tee off.
“I had a little meltdown for about three minutes,” Park said. “But it didn’t last. I had to gather myself pretty quickly. I was on a time crunch, and I had to figure things out.
“I think I handled it pretty well.”
That’s an understatement.
Park, 23, winner of last year’s ShopRite Classic, couldn’t keep her hot start going. The unfamiliarity of her new tools caught up with her when the winds kicked up over the Dinah Shore Course in the afternoon. She ended up signing for a 4-over-par 76.
Park’s start was remarkable, considering she had less than an hour to hit balls with the new mish-mashed set.
“I didn’t have distance control,” she said. “I didn’t know my distances.”
Paul Boehmer, the LPGA’s club repair technician, was impressed back in the tour trailer watching Park move up the leaderboard. He fashioned a 3-wood for her, worked on grips and helped adjust some loft and lies on some of the clubs.
“She really handled things well,” Boehmer said. “She had a stiff set of irons you’d find on the PGA Tour. I mean, I wouldn’t try to hit those.”
Park’s caddie, Joshua Williams, was traveling with his Cobra King Forged CB irons. Park used those. Her manager, Tom Brown, scrambled to help fill the rest of the bag out.
Park said she has a backup set of clubs, but unfortunately they were also in the car and stolen in the break-in. So were her golf shoes and her rain suit.
Her stolen clubs consisted of a Callaway Epic Flash driver and 3-wood and Apex irons.
Park said she may just stay with the same hodgepodge set of clubs on Friday as she bids to rally and make the cut.
“I know I can make some birdies with these clubs,” Park said. “I’m just going to go out and do my best with them again tomorrow.”