FIR HILLS SERI PAK Championship: The inspiration for international female golfers

FIR HILLS SERI PAK Championship: The inspiration for international female golfers

By Kaylee Smith


PALOS VERDES ESTATES, Calif.- Palos Verdes Golf Club, often referenced as the “hidden gem” in Southern California, has a diamond’s worth of history of holding women’s golf events. A diamond is said to be a girl’s best friend, but looking ahead to the upcoming FIR HILLS Seri Pak Championship, it’s safe to say the admired diamond has been replaced by iron golf clubs.


The FIR HILLS Seri Pak Championship is a newly named championship taking place March 18-24 at Palos Verdes Golf Club in suburban Los Angeles. Seri Pak, one of the most accomplished professional golfers in history from the Republic of Korea, is teaming up with global investment firm FIR HILLS to host the championship. FIR HILLS is dedicated to fulfilling the needs of long-term strategic investors and industry leaders in the U.S. and Republic of Korea amidst shifting economic environments.


This will be the third consecutive year Palos Verdes Golf Club hosts an LPGA Tour event. The field will feature 144 of the world’s best professional golfers competing in over 72 holes on March 21-24 for an elevated purse of $2 million; a $250,000 increase from 2023.


With heritage being a big part of what Pak stands for, a big part of collaborating with Fir Hills is to embrace her roots. As a Korean American herself, she not only prides herself in her home country, but has an underdog background when it comes to looking back on her experience in South Korea.


"Back then nobody knew the South Korean that they had golf players...they asked about how many golf courses you guys have in your country, you know?” says Pak. “So that much our country doesn't have many golf courses anyway, but it's really hard conditions to be players to come to the LPGA event, LPGA Tour.”

Pak holds a sense of patriotism as well when she looks up to her mentor and former World No.1 player, Jiyai Shin. Wanting to see more female athletes and players from South Korea, she holds an optimistic outlook and hopes she can be a mentor to the younger generations. Just like how Shin was to her.


“I want to see more friends of my country.”


In fact, Pak’s decorated profile and achievements have not only represented her and her country well but have also accomplished her hopes in inspiring other Korean women: one of them being Korean American pro-golfer, Andrea Lee.


“I've always looked up to pros like Seri and Jiyai...what they have accomplished are some of the things that I hope to achieve in my career in the future,” says Lee.


Because of players like Seri and Jiyai, Korean golfers have been representing their country well in the Rolex rankings. 41 of the top golfers are international and 19 of those golfers are Korean or Korean American, including the leader in the Race to CME Globe Season, Lydia Ko.


Other notable golfers are Jin Young Ko, and Hyo Joo Kim, who tied the 36-hole record at Palos Verdes at 132.


However, this course was not made to make it easy for these pros. Designed by the same creators of Riviera CC, Bel Air CC and Los Angeles CC, Palos Verdes Golf Club presides on a bunch of hills, leaving a tough walk for these pros. Along with the great ocean views, this course also carries kikuyu grass, which is something you don’t typically see on the LPGA Tour. Adding to the narrow fairways, are the tricky greens containing bent and poa annua grasses. And to top it all off the extensive use of natural hazards and bunkers make up for the shortness of the course in length.


Pak, 46, retired from the LPGA in 2016 after transforming the women’s game and paving the way for future South Koreans to follow her lead. Playing again in the LPGA for the first time in a while may be a challenge for Pak, but with her driving accuracy of 59.87% and putting average of 29.57, the course may be a bit forgiving towards her. The only thing troubling her could be those bunkers.


Seeing the impact Pak has had on Korea itself has given Lee hope that she could one day give back to the future women who will change the game, along with other top players who are currently influencing younger athletes.


“It's amazing to see these legends of the game come back and want to give back to future generations. I feel like women's golf has really taken off in the last decade or so, and it's so international, and you see players from all over the world,” states Lee. “I mean, you see so many players from Thailand and Japan and Korea, and it's really incredible to see.”


The cut will be after Friday’s round, with 65 players and ties moving on to the next two rounds. Round One will officially begin on Thursday, March 21, and conclude on Sunday, March 24.

March 19, 2024
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