End of an era as pioneer Pak bids farewell

Thu Oct 13, 2016 8:51am EDT
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By Peter Rutherford

SEOUL (Reuters) - It has been 18 years since Pak Se-ri shed socks and shoes and stepped gingerly into the water to play a daring recovery stroke at the 1998 U.S. Women's Open, a shot that both defined her career and helped change the face of women's golf forever.

Pak's victory over American Jenny Chuasiriporn after a 20-hole playoff in Wisconsin would open up the LPGA Tour to an "Asian invasion" and proved to be a stepping stone for women's golf to reach new markets.

After a retirement ceremony for the 39-year-old trailblazer on Thursday at the co-sanctioned KEB Hana Bank Championship, Pak said it had been difficult to get through the round.

"I reached 18 and I didn't think I could hit the tee shot," she said. "I cried all the way down the 18th. I'd had a lot of victories but that was one of the happiest moments of my career."

Looking back on her 1998 groundbreaking win, Pak said the shot from the water, or rather, making that decision to get into the water and play from an "impossible" position, made her who she is today.

"I know it was impossible but I wanted to try it," she added. "In that moment, without trying it, I don't think I would here as 'Seri Pak'".

It would be difficult to overstate Pak's influence on the women's game.

Comparisons have been made to Tiger Woods and Seve Ballesteros, game changers who brought the sport to new audiences and encouraged a generation to play the game. But for many, Pak's influence is unrivalled.   Continued...

Golf - LPGA KEB Hana Bank Championship - First Round - Incheon, South Korea - 13/10/16. Pak Se-ri of South Korea putts on the eighteenth green. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji