SOUTHERN PINES, NC – Fifteen years ago at Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club, Johnny Miller called Angela Park’s swing the best in women’s golf. A then 18-year-old Park tied for second with Lorena Ochoa at the 2007 US Women’s Open and looked poised to become a force on the LPGA.
In a few short years, however, Park was off the tour. She won $2.1 million in four seasons on the LPGA and then abruptly moved on.
“I ultimately decided to step back from the game because I no longer had the desire to play,” said Park via email. “It was just simple as that.”
Park, 33, requested an email exchange because her hands are now literally full with 3-month-old Noah, her first child with husband of four years, Steve.
Park turned pro on the same day as close friend Inbee Park, on the Monday after the 2006 Kraft Nabisco Championship (now the Chevron). Both were 17 years old and bound for the Epson Tour.
Inbee, of course, is now an LPGA Hall of Famer and seven-time major winner. Angela never won on the LPGA but certainly had more than enough talent to hoist many trophies. She was the 2007 Louise Suggs Rolex LPGA Rookie of Year, topping both In-Kyung Kim and Inbee Park.
Angela Park celebrates a birdie on the 18th hole during the final round of the US Women’s Open Championship at Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club on July 1, 2007 in Southern Pines, North Carolina. (Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Getty Images)
“I do, of course, wonder how my life would have been different if I just kept playing,” said Park, “but I do believe all things happen for a reason, and I was bound to live the life I live now.”
Park can’t remember the last time she picked up a golf club. The job of mom is more difficult, she said, than competitive golf. She lives in Southern California and is going back to school to become a pharmacist.
“I had many different jobs in different fields since I had no idea what I would find joy in again,” she wrote. “It took a long time to finally decide on this route. It’s a bit late, but I think better now than never.”
Park spent the first nine years of her life in Brazil, but her South Korean-born parents wanted a better education for their children and moved the family to California. It was in the US that Park fell in love with the game. Her mother stayed behind in Brazil to run the family’s embroidery factory while her father oversaw her development.
Morgan Pressel grew up playing junior golf against Park, and said the pair pushed each other.
“A spectacular player,” said Pressel, “really solid all around, nothing overly flashy.”
Lorena Ochoa of Mexico (L) wipes her eyes as she and fellow runner-up Angela Park attends the trophy ceremony at the US Women’s Open Championship at Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club on July 1, 2007, in Southern Pines, North Carolina. (Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Getty Images)
Park remembers being hyper-focused at Pine Needles, executing “some amazing shots under pressure.” Those memories fuel confidence in her ability to accomplish other goals. She led after the first round at Pine Needles and co-led after the second. A final-round 70 put her in a share of second, two back of winner Cristie Kerr.
Park doesn’t really follow the LPGA or speak to many of the players she used to compete against.
“I just kind of fell off the map,” she said, “and went a completely different route.”