The pursuit of balance: a dream for professional LPGA players

The pursuit of balance: a dream for professional LPGA players

By Kaylee Smith

PALOS VERDES ESTATES, Calif., - It’s been 27 years since World Golf Hall-of-Famer Seri Pak won her first major championship back in 1998. It’s only been a year since Ruoning Yin claimed the 2023 LPGA Championship: her first major win. As the Fir Hills Seri Pak Championship approaches, this LPGA event will recognize the female trailblazers that have paved the way for the future generations of women’s golf and display the talents of differing generations competing alongside each other.

Back when she was playing the LPGA Tour, it was a dream of Seri Pak’s to have her name on a Tour tournament. Achieving that dream and accomplishing more, Pak reflected on that goal and recognized where her true passion lied after she finished with the LPGA.

“I realized that my dream is giving someone else’s dreams to make it happen. That’s what makes it a lot to means to me, so after I retire, do many things to helping some golf for the junior events...” says Pak. “They grow up, they have dreams.”

Rooted in Pak’s aspirations to keep younger athlete’s dreams alive is her pride within South Korea. She gave hope to the country and kept younger South Korean’s dreams lively with just one underdog shot in 1998.

“But my shot from the water, the hazard, that giving it hope...that means a lot to my country. I know we have a hard time, but we can finish. We raise up. We stand strongly.”

Pak went on to win the U.S. Women’s Open that year. It was especially meaningful because of the economy problem that was happening in South Korea, and it provided a moment of light amidst the darkness happening domestically. Pak lit the spark that allowed for other South Koreans to pursue golf and created a route for other international players to play in the LPGA and better their game in America.

“KLPGA, we are a tournament in Korea, it’s not the same as an LPGA event. The way they come to the U.S., when they practice or the equipment, they are giving a lot of time for the players,” says Pak.

She continues and says that all sports need great conditions, including a practice facility and great program with competitive players that push each other constantly in bigger playing fields. Rose Zhang, a current LPGA Tour winner and current Stanford student, turned professional in 2023 and plays in these “great conditions” Pak speaks of. Coming back to play at Palos Verdes Golf Club brings back memories for Zhang.

“Representing the university versus me now as a professional coming here, it does feel a little bit different...so for me to come out here and see the golf course a little bit more and making sure I have that game plan intact, it’ll help me with that grind in the next couple of days,” says Zhang.

She also is pushed in other ways that are unrelated to golf. In pursuit of her communications degree, Zhang is a student at Stanford and is challenged academically in her studies and time management skills. With a final exam scheduled 30 minutes after the conclusion of this press conference, and a 15-page research paper due the same night, Zhang embodies the college lifestyle while also pursuing her professional career.

“I’ve realized balancing 20 units in the ten weeks has not been super easy. I have had to time manage myself a little bit better while it was my off-season. So, I was able to kind of have a life outside of golf, school, but it’s -- you know, I’ve given and taken a little bit of practice time to do so,” says Zhang.

Another competitor also found that balance boundary after she won the tournament last year, claiming her first major win. Ruoning Yin shared what the biggest thing she learned was after receiving a lot of attention.

“I think the thing I learn is to say no. I just found out the famous you get you have the less time for yourself,” says Yin.

As Zhang and Yin navigate their time management skills, Pak recalls how she struggled to find a balance between her athletic career and her own personal life.

“I don’t think I never take care of myself at all, only golf, golf, thinking about it, and there was never a break, and that’s why I have a burnout,” Pak revealed.

Pak is hopeful that the incoming youth will find the right balance for themselves, just like how Zhang is finding her balance as a college student, and Yin is finding her balance as a new defending LPGA Tour champion.

“They’re probably great for the future of the Tour,” said Pak.

Zhang and Pak will be competing in the Fir Hills Seri Pak Championship alongside Yin, who is returning to defend her champion title. With the competitors finding balance within their lives outside of golf, these professional athletes are excited to compete this upcoming Thursday in the sport they love.

March 20, 2024
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