Could an eighteen-year-old win a second consecutive LPGA Major this year? Little known Na On Min will try to do just that this afternoon.
HAVRE DE GRACE, Md. – The first surprise at blustery Bulle Rock was that someone could make eight birdies and shoot 65. That gave way to a greater mystery Saturday at the LPGA Championship. Just who is Na On Min?
She is an 18-year-old playing in only her sixth tournament as a pro, and her first major championship. She idolizes Se Ri Pak, typical of most young golfers from South Korea, but her lasting memory is seeing a tan line around Pak’s ankles when she took off her shoes to hit a shot out of the water in a U.S. Women’s Open playoff 10 years ago.
And if she keeps playing like this, Min won’t need too many more introductions.
With four birdies over the last seven holes, Min shot a 7-under 65 in testing conditions â€” by two shots the best score at Bulle Rock â€” to give herself a one-shot lead over Suzann Pettersen and a chance to become the youngest major champion in LPGA history.
“I’m just really excited,” said Min, who was at 10-under 206. “This is my first major. I’ll do my best to keep focus on each shot.”
She will play in the final group with Pettersen, who recovered from two trips into the high grass that cost her three strokes and her torturously slow play â€” it took more than 4 1/2 hours as a twosome â€” to shoot 71.
Karrie Webb stayed in the mix with a 10-foot par save on the 17th hole and shot 71. She was two shots behind at 208, along with Angela Park (68), another 18-year-old rookie.
Pressel, bidding for the second leg of the Grand Slam, shot 70 and was only three shots behind.
But the score sure got her attention. Wind that brushed off overnight rain stuck around Bulle Rock and made it play as tough as it has all week. Min wasn’t the least bit bothered, overcoming a bogey on the par-5 second hole by keeping the ball in play, and close to the hole.
Pettersen finished her roller-coaster round with an 8-foot birdie on the 17th hole and was pleased to be in the final group of a major for the second time this year. Ten weeks ago, she had a three-shot lead at the Kraft Nabisco until a meltdown on the closing holes.
Michelle Wie was anything but that. The 17-year-old from Hawaii finished before the leaders even arrived at Bulle Rock, and left unanswered was whether she would return.
She shot 83, her highest score against men or women since she was in the ninth grade, and was in last place among 84 players. Her left wrist, which she broke during a fall in late January, clearly bothered her and Wie wrapped it in ice after signing her card.
She went to South Africa at age 12 to spend two years learning to play golf and speak English, played on the South Korean amateur team and then went to LPGA Q-school as an amateur. She missed her card by two shots and was given non-exempt status.
Min tried Monday qualifying without much luck, and finally made her pro debut in Mexico, where she tied for fifth. Min did well enough at the Sybase Classic and Corning Classic to earn a spot in the McDonald’s LPGA Championship.
I’m a fan of the South Korean golfers but knew next to nothing about Min going into this week.(That ultimate source on ROK Golfers, Seoul Sisters.com, even has only sketchy info on Min.) She has the lead but has plenty of competition to fight off. While not as exciting a setup as last year’s LPGA was going into the final round, this year’s tournament has all the makings for an excellent finish.
Other notes- Wie may really have a wrist injury. If you read this article, Wie has some serious issues on and off the course at present.
I will say one thing, Annika Sorenstam’s criticism of Wie is justified, but it can also be shown to be a case of the pot calling the kettle black. Annika has little regard for both the rules of golf and LPGA rules.
Nabisco champ Morgan Pressel is three shots back going into today’s final round. Who is younger, she or Na on?
Se Ri Pak officially became a Hall of Famer this week.
HAVRE DE GRACE, Md. — When Se Ri Pak’s final putt on the 18th hole dropped and signaled the completion of her first round at the LPGA Championship, she officially qualified for entrance into the LPGA Tour and World Golf Halls of Fame.
Pak will be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame at the annual induction ceremony at the World Golf Village in St. Augustine, Fla., on Nov. 12.
“This is the best moment of my life and I’m happy to be an LPGA member joining the Hall of Fame. This is my biggest dream and basically dreams do come true,” Pak said. “This is one of the things that Iâ€™ve dreamed about and finally I’ve made it.”
For Pak, this marks the end of more than a three-year wait, as she earned the requisite 27 points needed to qualify for membership into the Hall with her win at the 2004 Michelob ULTRA Open at Kingsmill. However, Pak had to wait for Thursday to complete the final requirement — completing 10 seasons as an active member of the LPGA Tour.
When Pak burst onto the LPGA scene in 1998, she recorded one of the best rookie seasons in Tour history. During that season, Pak captured two major victories, including her first of three LPGA Championship wins with a wire-to-wire victory. A mere month later, Pak became the youngest winner in U.S. Women’s Open history after winning a 20-hole playoff against amateur Jenny Chuasiriporn, making that tournament — at 92 holes in length — the longest tournament ever in womenâ€™s professional golf.
With two majors under her belt, Pak joined Juli Inkster as the only LPGA players to capture two modern major championships in her rookie year. Overall in 1998, Pak accumulated $872,170 in season earnings — ranking second on the LPGA official season money list behind Annika Sorenstam — notched four tour victories and ran away with Rookie of the Year honor.
During her following nine years on Tour, Pak continued to reign as a dominant figure at each tour stop. Pak posted four additional wins in her sophomore season, and five each in 2001 and 2002.
“The LPGA Tour and the World Golf Halls of Fame is one of the hardest in all of sports to qualify for, and Se Ri has accomplished a feat that only 22 LPGA members have done before her,” said LPGA commissioner Carolyn Bivens. “The entire LPGA family is so proud of her achieving this wonderful accomplishment.”
Nice words from Bivens. Who also seems to have a remarkable increase in memory now. Two years ago Bivens said Paula Creamer had the most impressive rookie year(2005) since Nancy Lopez’s debut in 1978. Four wins and two majors by Pak beats 2 wins and no majors by the Pink Panther any day.
Congratulations Se Ri. I think she has had more influence on professional golf today, than anyone else, that includes Tiger Woods. At a press conference earlier this week, many of the over 40 South Korean born golfers appeared to support and congratulate Se Ri on her acoomplishment. I think that was an acknowledgment of how much of a trailblazer Se Ri Pak has been to her fellow countrywomen.
Nine years after winning the LPGA herself at twenty-years-old, another ROK rookie looks to make a major championship their first tour win. Wouldn’t that be a tribute to Se Ri Pak’s influence.
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