Inbee Park played in 43 majors between 2010 and 2019 – she won six of them and had 21 other top 1os. Nobody in the game has been so spectacularly brilliant.
In 2013 the Korean superstar won the first three majors and came to St Andrews with the ridiculous prospect of the Grand Slam still on the table – after 10 holes she was 6-under par before the Old Course’s back nine and everything else caught up with her.
Two years later she ticked off the Women’s British Open at Turnberry, a closing 65 giving her her sixth major win in just 15 starts and seventh in total. As things stand she sits tied with Karrie Webb and Juli Inkster.
In 2016 she missed playing in three of the five majors but what happened in Rio went beyond all that. Se Ri Pak might have set the Korean powerhouse into motion but Park took things on another level with her five-shot win in the Olympics.
When she finally received her gold medal, the first woman to do so in an Olympics since 1904, it was after 2am but still three different Korean networks broadcast it live. Even at that time it brought in 10 times the ratings an LPGA event gets there.
Her countrywoman Na Yeon Choi gave a good insight into how much pressure, despite the outward serenity, will have been on the Koreans’ shoulders.
“I almost cried on air,” said Choi. “I’m sure Inbee had so much pressure on her, because back in Korea they really expect athletes to win medals. I saw Inbee and the Korean players in practice on Monday and Tuesday, and they were smiling, but you could sense all the pressure on their shoulders.
“I was texting with Inbee during the week, and she sent a text saying she felt sorry for some of our athletes who didn’t win medals. She felt badly seeing some of them crying and apologising for not winning medals.”
Park’s previous win had come in November the previous year and she had been blighted by thumb and back problems, so much so that there were calls for her to drop out of the Olympic set-up. In the two months leading up to the Games she had played just one event – and missed the cut.
But her renowned putting stroke – many believe that she’s the best in the business of either sex – was spot on and three of her rounds totalled just 66 shots.
“We were all called Se Ri’s kids, and I think Inbee will have that kind of influence on juniors who watched her win the gold medal. I think they are going to have that Olympic dream, too,” added Choi.
“There were people in Korea watching Inbee on TV who didn’t know anything about golf but they were watching because it was the Olympics and she was going for gold. We knew that from comments we were seeing during the telecast. We were having to explain what a par was and other golf terms.”
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