Greens Have Become Park ’s Place

Hot Putter Carries California Teen Into Women’s Am Final

By David Shefter, USGA

 

Gladwyne, Pa. – Throughout much of Saturday’s semifinals at the U.S. Women’s Amateur, thunder could be heard in the distance. Fortunately, any visible signs of lightning stayed away from historic Philadelphia Country Club.

 

But the day wasn’t devoid of any pyrotechnics. Jane Park provided her own electricity, thanks to a putter that was hotter than any Fourth of July firecracker.

 

Jane Park did not just carry a hot putter into the semifinals on Saturday. She also was dialed in with her iron game as well. (John Mummert/USGA)

All the 16-year-old from Oak Valley, Calif., did was hole virtually every key putt during her match against fellow teenager and Californian Paula Creamer, 17, of Pleasanton. Park faced 11 putts of 10 feet or less and made 10. She recorded six birdies to Creamer’s five in posting a tough 2-and-1 victory to earn a spot in the 36-hole final against 21-year-old Virada Nirapathpongporn, who eliminated 15-year-old In-Bee Park, 3 and 1.

 

Just how good was the golf in the Park-Creamer match? Three times they halved holes with birdies. At the par-5 12th hole, Park drained a 13-foot birdie putt before Creamer made hers from 5 feet.

 

Four holes later, with Park holding a 2-up lead, Creamer stuck her approach shot from the right rough to within 15 feet. Park, facing a downhill pitching-wedge approach from just inside 100 yards, stuck the shot to 3 feet. Creamer made the putt to stay alive in the match, but Park easily holed hers to maintain the 2-up lead. At the 17th hole, Park lagged a 75-foot birdie putt to 2 feet.

 

"That was from a different area code,” said Park of the cross-country putt.

 

In fact, the only short putt Park missed the entire match was a 6-footer for par at the 15th hole following a bunker shot. Creamer also bogeyed the hole.

 

And Park did all of it with the kind of cool demeanor not normally seen from an 11th-grader.

 

"I get it from my mom,” said Park, smiling. “She is calm except when she is angry at me. But that’s not very much because I’m a good girl.”

 

Park has certainly been good this summer. She qualified for the Women’s Open and was one of seven amateurs to make the cut, finishing in a tie for 30th, ahead of high-profile juniors Morgan Pressel and Michelle Wie. A few weeks later, she advanced to the third round of the Girls’ Junior, losing to the eventual winner, Sukjin-Lee Wuesthoff.

 

Wielding a hot putter on some of the trickiest greens she has ever faced, Park has posted 22 birdies in her five matches. When Creamer took a 1-up lead at the second hole, it was the first time Park had trailed in a match, a span covering 52 holes.

 

"She played great golf,” said Creamer, who lost a head-to-head battle with Park at the Betsy Rawls McDonald ’s Girls’ Championship, a 54-hole stroke-play tournament a week prior to the Women’s Amateur. “She really wanted it … (and) she definitely has a great chance to win tomorrow.”

 

Added Park: “I just stuck my head in the game and stayed focused, made some putts and came out on top. I have been on these greens for almost a week now and I think I have learned to just trust my line. I just stand over the ball, just see and feel the putt and stroke it in.”

 

While Park’s parents both were born in Korea, she is an American who originally was born in Chicago before the family moved to southern California, first to the Los Angeles suburb of La Crescenta and then two years ago out to Oak Valley near Palm Springs. Her father and coach, Byung Park, is involved in the women’s apparel business. But it’s her cousin, Jung Park, who has caddied for her in all three USGA events this year. He grew up in Upper Darby, Pa., which is not far from Philadelphia Country Club, but his family moved to Chicago long before he reached high school

 

Jung, 30, works in the food business and used to be a solid player. “Now I just caddie for her,” said Jung Park.

 

Park played well at the 2002 U.S. Girls’ Junior, beating Brittany Lang and Morgan Pressel in marathon 21-hole matches before falling to Allison Martin in the quarters. She tried to qualify for the Women’s Open that year but failed to advance out of the sectionals. Last fall she participated in the inaugural Junior Solheim Cup, which pitted 12 USA junior girls against a similar team from Europe just prior to the main event in Minnesota.

 

That was the building block for 2003, which has her on pace to possibly capture the biggest prize in women’s amateur golf, and possibly a spot on the 2004 USA Curtis Cup team.

 

"Do I have a chance?” said Park incredulously. When told she has a good chance, she added: “You are positive?”

 

Indeed, Park’s chances look good. A win over Nirapathpongporn on Sunday just might solidify it.

 

School? Who Needs School?

Park was asked what kind of grades she receives at Beaumont (Calif.) High School.

 

"She used to be a straight-A student,” said her father, Byoung.

 

"Now it’s slacking off a little bit because I have something to fall back on,” added Jane Park. “I’m okay. I’m 3.0.”

 

Park will likely miss a week of school in September if she is chosen for the 2003 Junior Solheim Cup team that will compete in Sweden. She is currently fourth on the points list. Creamer also is high on that list.

 

David Shefter is a staff writer with the USGA. He can be reached at dshefter@usga.org.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Home - History - Players - Course - Results