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[Opinion] Pak Se-ri Returns

Posted June. 13, 2006 03:08,   


Misfortunes rarely come in single. When things start to go wrong, it becomes more and more difficult to get out of the mess. This was exactly the case of Pak Se-ri. After winning her 23rd career title in the Michelob Ultra Open held in May 2004, she sank into a slump for no clear reason. Last year, she stopped golfing in the middle of the season due to injuries to her shoulder and finger. As she left on a “sick leave” after playing 12 tournaments, rumors spread that “Pak’s days are over.”

She was once known as the “walking textbook of golf swings.” Supporting her body with strong legs, she exercised vigorous power with a simple swing. The American press used the term “machine-like” to express it. However she floundered around in the roughs last year. She also recorded three humiliating games in which she shot more than 80. Although analysis and speculations flourished, a clear-cut prescription was never written. Some even argued that her problem was “mental” rather than “technical.” Nonetheless, nobody could know what affected her mentality.

After falling to 102nd place on the money list, Pak has revived in full splendor. In the LPGA Tour McDonalds Championship which ended yesterday, she lifted another championship trophy after beating Karrie Webb on the extra hole. Finally and dramatically, she escaped from the slump after two years and a month. She resurrected as a champion in the very same tournament in which she delivered a message of hope to the Koreans of 1998 who were in the depths of despair after being hit by the financial crisis. In the same year, at the U.S. Women’s Open, she saved herself by getting into the pond after taking her socks off.

Tiger Woods, the “Emperor of Golf” who lost his father recently, said, “I get more nervous than anyone else at the moment I lay my ball on the tee. But I don’t submit myself to the pressure. I rather enjoy the tense moment.” Kathy Whitworth, who has the most number of career titles, 88, said something similar. “Even a professional golfer should ‘enjoy’ the game, not just ‘play’ it.” Maybe their words could be the secret of Pak’s revival. A psychiatrist helped her “train her mind” to enjoy golf as a part of life.

Song Dae-keun, Editorial Writer, dksong@donga.com