- Alistair Tait
Se Ri Pak’s Enduring Legacy
Here’s a question to mull over: Who’s been the most influential golfer ever to wield a mashie niblick?
Tiger Woods? Arnold Palmer? Seve Ballesteros? Harry Vardon? Gene Sarazen? Bobby Jones? Allan Robertson? Young Tom Morris?
Eagle eyed readers will note the gender of the names above. Not one woman on that suggested list. Here’s one that bears inclusion: Se Ri Pak. She might deserve to head the list.
Where would women’s golf be right now if not for Pak? More to the point, where would Korean women’s golf be if not Pak?
Jin Young Ko’s victory in the BMW Ladies Championship in her homeland isn’t just her 11th LPGA victory, it is the 200th LPGA win by a Korean-born player.
“This is a tremendous honour,” Ko said. “And I think it's very fortunate that I am the player, the 200th win player, and I actually think that it's really fortunate that it was an event held in Korea as well.”
How many Koreans would have won if not for Pak breaking onto the scene when she won the 1998 U.S. Women’s Open, thereby influencing future countrywomen to follow in her footsteps? Of those 200 wins by Korean born players Pak leads with 25, five of them majors. Inbee Park is next in line with 21, including seven majors and the 2016 Olympic gold medal.
Ko is equal 4th with Jiyai Shin on 11 each, one behind Sei Young Kim.
Including Pak’s U.S. Women’s Open victory, Koreans have won 34 of the 110 women's majors.
Grace Park became the second Korean major winner when she triumphed in the 2004 Kraft Nabisco, soon to be the Chevron Championship. Including Park’s first major win, Koreans have won 30 of the 80 held.
The irony is that no Korean player won a major championship this year, the first time that’s happened since the 2010 season.
There’s no disputing the influence of the men listed in the second paragraph. Woods and Palmer’s influence on men’s golf is all to obvious. They took the game to new audiences. Seve saved the Ryder Cup. Vardon taught us how to hold the golf club. Sarazen made bunker play easier for everyone. Jones was the ultimate amateur and gave us the Masters. There probably wouldn’t be an Open Championship if not for Robertson, the game’s first professional. And no old claret jug if not for Young Tom.
No doubt other names come into play too. Francis Ouimet for taking down Vardon and Ted Ray in the 1913 U.S. Open: LPGA founders like Patty Berg, Louise Suggs, Babe Zaharias, Betty Jameson. Abe Mitchell, without whom there might be no Ryder Cup. Throw in your own choice…
However, Pak’s contribution to women’s golf can never be underestimated. She literally changed the face of women’s golf.
Two hundred wins say it all. It’s an enduring legacy.
#JustSaying: “The most competitive product South Korea has ever shipped abroad.” Samsung spokesperson after paying Pak a $296,000 U.S. Women’s Open bonus