Wherever I go, people seem to be excited about my attempt to win the women's British Open at St. Andrews this week. I'm trying to become the first professional golfer to win the Grand Slam in a single calendar year, and so many of my family members, friends and fellow Koreans—and fellow Americans—are thinking about it, which is great for me: If they're thinking about it, I don't have to. So thank you!
I love watching Tiger Woods play golf, but I don't approach the game the way he does. I don't go to a tournament and say to myself, "I must win!" My goal is simply to be prepared mentally and physically, and try my best. That's it. I can't control the weather, other players or luck, so I don't worry about those things.
So far it's working well. Our first major of the year was the Kraft Nabisco, also known as the Dinah, held on a modern course in the California desert in April. I played my best golf of the year and won by four. At the second major, the Wegmans LPGA Championship, held on a wet, narrow, traditional course near Rochester, N.Y., my driving was crooked but my putter was on fire, and I won in a playoff. In June at the U.S. Women's Open, on Long Island, we played a hilly, tricky course where you never played the same shot twice. I made the necessary adjustments and won by four.
Now comes the British Open, at the most historic course of all, the Old Course. I have never won a British Open, so this is my chance to complete a career Grand Slam as well as the single-season Grand Slam. No woman has ever won our four most significant events in a row. I'm not trying to make history. But if I did, that would be very cool.
I grew up in South Korea with my mom and dad and younger sister. My first golf hero was my fellow Korean Se Ri Pak. In 1998, Se Ri became the first from our country, man or woman, to win a major when she won the U.S. Open. I was nine and watched it on TV. What she was doing looked so cool and glamorous, I decided that's what I wanted to do. My father, who owns a labeling business, was a good golfer and got me started. I was hooked immediately. Years later, when I met Se Ri, I could hardly breathe. Now she's a friend.
When I was 12 my mother, sister and I moved to Mount Dora, Fla., so we could focus more on golf. My game improved quickly. Korean athletes tend to be disciplined. We're strict with ourselves, and our parents and coaches are strict too. We work on things until we get them right, and that's what I did.
Sometimes our approach makes our golf more mechanical than artistic. When I look at tape of my first U.S. Open win, in 2008, when I was 19, it doesn't look like I own my swing. Since then I have revamped my swing with my coach, Gi-hyeob Nam, who is also my fiancé. (We are getting married in December 2014.) Now my swing reflects who I am. I have a short backswing, I never try to kill the ball, and I focus on just one swing thought at a time. I'm more like Matt Kuchar than Bubba Watson.
Focus is critical. Between shots you have to let things go, then get over the ball and think about just one thing. My caddie, Brad Beecher, helps me a lot in that. He and I discuss the shot in English, and I think about it in a strange combination of English, Korean and no language at all. Of course, golf uses body language, too, like the fist pump. I have tried to practice my fist pump in front of hotel-room mirrors and have concluded that the fist pump is not me.
In Korean, inbee means good queen. Park is a common family name in Korea; 10 of the top 500 women's players have that surname. The men's British Open has been won by three Parks, all Scotsmen. Willie Park Sr. won four Opens, including the first one, in 1860. His son Willie Jr. won two, and Mungo Park, Senior's brother, won one. If a Mungo Park can win an Open, why not an Inbee Park?
Officially the LPGA says there are five majors: the four we've been talking about plus, this year for the first time, the Evian Championship, to be played in France next month. If I don't win the British but do win the Evian, I'm going to count that as the Grand Slam. Life is hard, and I think you have to be nice to yourself where and when you can. But for now, I'm focused on St. Andrews. I haven't been there since our last British Open on the Old Course, in 2007. I remember I had to play a shot off that cart path on the right side of number 17, the Road Hole. Everything has a name at St. Andrews. The Swilcan Bridge: So many of golf's great figures have crossed that little bridge on the 18th hole, which is called Tom Morris.
I wonder if Mungo Park knew the Inbee Park mantra, "Try your best." I'm sure he did. Bobby Jones must have, too. I know Jack Nicklaus did. Try your best. When you think about it, is there anything more to golf, or life, than that?
Where would an LPGA Grand Slam rank among sports feats?
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