Las Vegas Golf’s ‘Queen’, In Bee Park, Wins US Women’s Open

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Image June 30, 3008–The name Inbee means 'Queen' in Korean, and now that Las Vegas' Inbee Park has won the U.S. Women's Open, the name is a perfect fit for possibly the next big star of women's golf. The 2008 U.S. Women's Open champion has strong ties to Las Vegas. Park still lives in Las Vegas–in Summerlin–and she and her sister, Inah, attended Bishop Gorman High School here (Inah was a Nevada State High School champion). Park even attended UNLV for about two days before turning pro. As an amateur, Inbee also played in several LPGA Tour Takefuji Classic events that were held in Las Vegas, finishing twice in the top 10. And now Park becomes the youngest champion in U.S. Women's Open history at just 19. "I really can't believe I just did this," said Park, who also claimed her first LPGA Tour win. "I mean especially with the — with all these big names on the trophy that have been very, very successful with the golf. They've done so much for golf and that's just great." Women's Southern Nevada Golf Association President Sherry Corsello watched Park from inside the ropes as she was the chair of the television rules committee. She captured the adjacent photo during the celebration on the green and just after Park was doused by friends with two bottles of Budweiser. Posted by Brian Hurlburt, with assistance from Corsello.

"I feel very, very happy," said Park. "I really don't know what's happening right now. I have no idea what's happening right now. I am very honored to win this championship as a first win for my career. And hopefully there will be a lot more coming up. But I'm very honored and this is a very special tournament for me and I won't forget this moment."

Park's hero and fellow South Korean, Se Ri Pak, was the youngest-ever U.S. Women's Open champion at 20. Park took to the game as a 10-year old when she watched Pak win the Open.

Park becomes the first golfer with very strong ties to Las Vegas to win a major championship. Several others, including Natalie Gulbis, Jim Colbert, Robert Gamez, Chad Campbell and others, have won tournaments but never one of this magnitude.Park and her sister (Inah now lives in California and recently won a team state high school championship playing on a co-ed team against all boys) also spent many years working with Las Vegas golf pro Sean Callahan, one of the head pros on the staff of the Butch Harmon School of Golf at Las Vegas' Rio Secco Golf Club. They no longer work with him, but Callahan keeps in touch.

"I talk to her from time to time so there's no hard feelings," said Callahan as Park was playing the final round of the Open. "But I'm glad to see her doing well. We shared a few text messages over the last few days."

Image Late last year, when Callahan was still working with her, he said that the two of them were just working on ways for her to become more consistent, and that she was on her way to becoming a terrific player. It appears that plan worked.

And this writer, penning an article about Inbee–who originally hails from South Korea–for VegasGolfer Magazine in November 2007, opened the story with the following words:

You can almost picture Inbee Park standing on the 18th green of some LPGA Tour tournament in the not too distant future, immediately after securing her first tour win. The tournament host gives her the oversized check; the television announcer talks to her about how she finally won; and then LPGA Tour commissioner Carolyn Bivens presents her with a crown and dubs her the 'Queen' of the tournament. Well, maybe being names the queen of the tournament is a stretch, but it might not be too long before Park collects a check and a trophy, and ascends to top-tier status on the LPGA Tour, just where a girl named Inbee should be.

Let the coronation begin. Trophy photo courtesy usga.org

The following is the complete post-round press conference, courtesy USGA and ASAPSports.com

RAND JERRIS: It's a great pleasure to introduce the 63rd United States Women's Open champion, Inbee Park.

Inbee, can you tell us your thoughts on what it means to know that your name will be on that wonderful trophy?

INBEE PARK: I feel very honored that I win this championship at the Interlachen Country Club, and especially with Annika's last event, I really want to share this win with her, too.

Very honored to win this championship, and this is very, very special to me, and I will never forget this moment.

RAND JERRIS: In addition to being the youngest United States Women's Open champion you're the 5th player to win the Girls Junior and the Women's Open. And the other players who have done that are Mickey Wright, Joanne Carner, Amy Alcott, and Hollis Stacy, three very accomplished players. What does it mean to have your name in the company with some of the real legends of the game?

 INBEE PARK: Really can't believe I just did this. I mean especially with the — with all these big names on the trophy that have been very, very successful with the golf. They've done so much for golf and that's just great.

Hopefully, I'll put a couple more of my name on there, it will be great.

 

Q. Was there ever a point especially on the back nine where you realized you were about to win this tournament, you had a big lead and everything?

 INBEE PARK: Yes, I tried not to think about it for all day. But I'm a person and I got to think about that moment.

I started thinking about it about at the 15th hole when I knew that I was three strokes ahead of everybody. But I just try to stay focused and just try to stay calm all day. That just happened. And I was able to handle myself out there. I'm very happy with that.

 

Q. You've been in contention a lot this year.

INBEE PARK: Yes.

 

Q. What do you think the difference was this Sunday to have a good round?

INBEE PARK: You learn from your mistakes. I've been in the last group a couple — some times this year, and I just did not play good on the last day, just gave it away all the time. I guess it just happened just to win this event, I guess.

You've got to learn from your mistakes, and that's what I did. I am very confident now and I think I can do it again.

 

Q. Can you just talk about the start where you have a couple of birdies to start and all of a sudden you look up and you go from being behind to up two real early, just how important that was?

INBEE PARK: Can you repeat that question, I couldn't hear you, I'm sorry.

 

Q. You started the day behind, but you birdied the first couple of holes, and all of a sudden you have a two or three shot lead early. Just talk about how important it was to get off to that big start.

INBEE PARK: I think it was very, very important. First and second hole birdie was, I think, a very big part of that, especially on the first hole, chipping in from outside the green in the rough. That was very, very big.

And the first two birdies — after that I think I just shot even par after that. That was very important. I was able to get my momentum going from there and it was very — I was really calm and focused out there today.

 

Q. Where did you live when you were winning those junior titles, and where do you live now?

INBEE PARK: I lived back in Florida when I won the Girls Junior.

 

Q. Where?

INBEE PARK: Eustis, Florida. And now I live in Las Vegas, Nevada.

 

Q. You live in a high rise; is that right?

INBEE PARK: Yes, I did live in a high rise, but we actually move inside the golf course in Summerlin.

 

Q. I heard you talking earlier about Se Ri Pak, and this is the 10th anniversary of her.

A. Yes.

 

Q. Could you talk about her influence she had on you?

 INBEE PARK: I really would like to thank Se Ri for what she's done for golf, for Korean golf. And 10 years ago I was watching her winning this event on TV. I didn't know anything about golf back then. But I was watching her. It was very impressive for a little girl and just looking at her.

I just thought that I could do it, too, so I just picked up a golf club maybe a couple of days after that.

 

Q. Did she say anything to you today?

INBEE PARK: I didn't see her today.

 

Q. During the week?

INBEE PARK: During the week? I saw her the first two days.

 

Q. Along those lines, if you didn't know anything about golf, what were you doing watching a golf tournament?

INBEE PARK: Well, my parents were just watching like 3:00 in the morning, so I was like — I didn't know what they were doing. I just woke up and was like, "What are you guys doing?" And they were like, "We're watching golf. And Se Ri Pak is leading the tournament, and she's the first Korean winner if she wins this tournament." I sat down there, but I was half asleep, I was watching TV. Yes, I was watching.

 

Q. The television woke you up?

INBEE PARK: It did, because they were like — when she made a putt they were like screaming, so I really could not sleep.

 

Q. They're golfers, your parents?

INBEE PARK: Yes, they are all golfers. All my family plays golf. So, yes.

 

Q. There are a lot of 19 year old Koreans doing really well. What do you think it is that makes you so mentally tough as a culture?

INBEE PARK: Se Ri did a lot to inspire a lot of 19 year old girls, because they were all born in 1988. Everybody — I think a lot of them started playing golf because of Se Ri back then. She did a lot.

I think everybody really is mentally strong and being so young they really have nothing to be afraid of and they just go for it.

 

Q. You said you started playing two days after that. Was that the first time you ever touched a club?

INBEE PARK: Yes.

 

Q. What was that first golf experience like? Were you typically a ten year old with a bunch of whiffs? How frustrating and how long did it take for you to be good?

INBEE PARK: Yes, I was — I think I was pretty good when I was young, actually. My dad gave me a woman's club, woman's golf club, and I think I broke that club in like two months after hitting that. So he bought me a men's club.

I started competing after four months I started playing golf. But I remember shooting 128 in one tournament. But it hit about a year, after I started playing golf, I started playing really good and started playing in junior competitions.

 

Q. How much did you practice per day?

INBEE PARK: Back then I had to go to school and everything, so I didn't get to practice too much. Maybe a couple of hours a day.

 

Q. Not only are the young Koreans good when they get over here, but they're very successful right away. For you personally bringing your game to this country on a full-time basis, what was the most difficult adjustment you had to make to playing in this country and being in this country?

 INBEE PARK: Well, there are numbers of things that I really had to get used to it, especially language. I really had to get used to — I'm still not too good English person. But food, food and language.

This country is so big compared to my country. So traveling. I guess everything, everything is so different from my country, so I really had to get used to this when I was young.

But it was easier because I was going to school in United States and especially with the language, I think that helped a lot.

 

Q. What did you think this morning when you saw that the leaders came out and stumbled right off the bat like that?

INBEE PARK: I think I saw it on the 4th hole that actually they were both 2-over par after the second hole. I was surprised because first and second hole is actually easier holes on this golf course. And I definitely thought they would make a birdie on No. 2.

But I was just surprised and I think it's always — the winner doesn't win by herself, I think, it's second place who really makes the winner. I guess that helped.

 

Q. On the back nine you made good putts on 11, 12, and 13. Which was the most significant or important, do you think?

INBEE PARK: I think every putt was very, very important. Especially on No. 11 birdie was very, very big for me, I think. I really was able to get a momentum going after that, too, so —

RAND JERRIS: While we're talking about holes, maybe we could stop and just go through your card, yardages and putts. Just birdies and bogeys.

INBEE PARK: First hole, I hit an 8-iron out of the rough to the left, made that chip from the rough.

RAND JERRIS: How long was the chip?

INBEE PARK: The chip was about 20 yards.

No. 2 I hit a good drive, good second shot just short of the green, about 20 yard chip, hit that one very close, to about a foot. Made that one.

No. 6, I made a bogey. I hit — the hole played really long today. I hit a 5-wood into the bunker — actually just short of the bunker. I hit a good chip about six feet and did not make that one.

And No. 11, I hit a pitching wedge to about ten feet.

RAND JERRIS: From how far?

INBEE PARK: From 105 yards, I think, I made that one.

And No. 13, my third shot was just 30 yards off the green and got that one up-and-down about ten feet short of the pin.

17, bogey. I hit a 5-wood into the bunker left. It was pretty tough, I had a bad lie from there. Hit it a little short left and two-putted from there.

18, I hit a 5-wood, ended up left of the green, downhill chip. Had a good downhill chip and put it about a foot and made that one.

 

Q. Where were you on the first green? Where were you when you chipped in?

INBEE PARK: I was back left.

 

Q. Could we get your parents' names, how many brothers and sisters you have, and could you explain the emblem on your shirt?

INBEE PARK: This one (indicating)?

 

Q. Yes.

 INBEE PARK: This is Birdy & Grace, it's called, it's a clothing company who gives me clothing. It's actually a good friend of mine who designs the shirts, so I wear the shirt.

 

Q. Your parents' names?

INBEE PARK: My mom's name is Sung Kim, S-u-n-g, and last name Kim. And my dad's name is J-u-n-g-y-u, Park. And I have one younger sister who also plays golf. She's going to USC this fall. Inah Park, I-n-a-h Park. No brothers, just sisters.</ p>

 

Q. Didn't you used to have a hyphen in your name?

INBEE PARK: Yes, I used to. I decided to get rid of it, because it means the same thing.

 

Q. Just a couple more details. What was the name of the city you were living in when you watched Se Ri, and what was the name of the golf club you went to hit your first shot two days later?

INBEE PARK: What was the golf course name, did you say?

 

Q. What was your hometown?

INBEE PARK: Hometown, actually I lived just outside Seoul. It's called Pundang, P-u-n-d-a-n-g, I think.

And just — it wasn't a golf course I played, just a practice range I went to, first, just right by my house, I went there. And I couldn't really remember the brand of the club, because it wasn't a brand, it was just a — I don't know, just a golf club.

 

Q. Where did the first shot go that you hit?

INBEE PARK: First shot? Didn't go too far, I don't think (laughter).

 

Q. Is your friend going to be able to afford you after this tournament, for you to keep wearing those shirts?

INBEE PARK: I don't know, I got to ask her that. I don't know about that, yeah.

 

Q. As you look at the tournament as a whole what was the best part of your game this week, and is that usually the best part of your game?

INBEE PARK: Yes, it was the putting this week. I made a lot of good putting this week. I made about — a lot of 15 and 20-footers. I couldn't really hole a lot of putts earlier this year and I just changed my putter in March and it started rolling and I made a lot of putts since then, so very good.

 

Q. When you had a comfortable lead down the stretch did you ever think about not hitting driver or just playing it a little bit more safe, because you seemed like you just played your normal game.

 INBEE PARK: Yeah, just normal game. I like playing aggressive and my caddie does, too. We're pretty, just, everything pretty much just go for it, go for it plan.

I like playing aggressive and especially when you have a three or four stroke lead, I think you should go for it and make the fans really interesting, I guess.

 

Q. I think I missed something. How old were you when you came to America?

INBEE PARK: I was 12 when I came here.

 

Q. And went to Eustis?

INBEE PARK: Yes.

 

Q. Why Eustis?

INBEE PARK: I knew a friend there and he was a golf coach, so I went there and stayed — got his help a lot from there. And he was my coach earlier when I was younger.

 

Q. How did you wind up at UNLV and how long did you stay there?

 INBEE PARK: UNLV, I didn't go to UNLV for long. I think I went two times to school. I turned pro right after I actually went into the school, so I really had to — didn't get to go too much.

 

Q. Two times like two days?

INBEE PARK: Two days, yes. So I really didn't go.

 

Q. When you have a practice day at home how many hours typically do you practice for? How many balls do you hit? How many chips? How many putts?

 INBEE PARK: Well, when I didn't turn professional I had a pretty good amount of practice. But since I turned professional I was traveling so much and when I got back home I was just happy with the rest. But I'll say average about four hours a day practice. If I get to play, it's usually all day. Usually I go out about 9 or 10 in the morning and practice until about 12, eat lunch, go out on the course and finish 6, 7.

 

Q. Does that make you lazy for a Korean player?

INBEE PARK: I don't know. I'm not one of those players who practice a lot. As a Korean I think I'm pretty lazy, I think (laughter).

 

Q. Helen marveled at how calm you stayed today. With so much going on out there what allows you to stay so calm?

 INBEE PARK: Oh, usually I'm very — I don't get too nervous in the tournament days. Today I don't think I really thought about it too much. If I thought about it too much I don't think I could have done it.

I just tried to just played my game and just not think about that it's the U.S. Women's Open, I'm leading the whole field by three or four strokes. I just tried to white it out from my head and it worked.

 

Q. You were playing so well when you're coming up toward the end here, say the back nine, do you think people were saying, "Who is that? Who is she?"

INBEE PARK: Yes, in some ways, yes. People aren't too familiar with my face. I got to play better for people to recognize me then. So just keep playing good and people will follow, I guess.

 

Q. Was it disappointing for you that your father wasn't able to be here at all this week as you had this special tournament?

INBEE PARK: Yes, it is disappointing. But my father and my whole family is watching TV in Korea, so they probably caught almost all of it. They were probably up maybe 3 in the mornings, again, and probably watched until 6, I don't know.

 

Q. Have you talked to them yet?

 INBEE PARK: Yes, I talk to them every day when I go back home. And they were like, "Keep it going, you're doing good." My dad almost was going to fly to this event yesterday. But I'm like, "No, it's okay, stay home, you can watch TV."

 

Q. Did you talk to him today after your win?

INBEE PARK: No, I haven't talked to him yet.

 

Q. You just touched on this a little bit, but do you think there were some kids that you might have the same effect on a youngster back there like Se Ri had on you?

 INBEE PARK: There are a good number of people playing golf right now. If I could do it that will be very, very good. Maybe later in years I really want to teach all these little kids to reach their dreams, so it will be good.

 

Q. How are you going to celebrate this victory?

INBEE PARK: How am I going to celebrate it? I don't know, just — my mom's here so — my mom and my friends are here so, just go to good dinner and I don't know if I'm going to sleep tonight.

 

Q. Where do you have your U.S. Junior Girls Trophy? Where is it and where will that one go?

INBEE PARK: Sorry, I missed your question. Where was it? —

 

Q. No, the actual trophy?

INBEE PARK: Where is the trophy?

 

Q. Yes.

INBEE PARK: It's back to the USGA, you keep it for one year and give it back to them. It would have been great if I would keep them, but they took it away (laughter).

 

Q. I've asked this question of other Koreans before. You said there's a bunch of the 19 year olds like yourself who were inspired by Se Ri Pak. Are there not an equal number of Korean boys that were inspired in the same way?

 INBEE PARK: Well, I think there is a lot of actually Korean boys playing golf. And I think — a lot of them are very, very good and very talented. But it's just so hard to get to the PGA TOUR. But I'm sure there is a lot of good Korean players out there, men players. Maybe in a couple of years they will be out here, too.

RAND JERRIS: Well, congratulations on your victory.

INBEE PARK: Thank you very much. Thank you.

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