Park Emulates Pak to Become Youngest US Open Champ

Inspired by Pak Se-ri’s triumph 10 years ago, Park In-bee became the youngest winner of the US Women’s Open title when she triumphed by four strokes at Interlachen in Edina, Minnesota.

Just short of her 20th birthday, Park replaced Pak as the youngest winner, having first been introduced to the game by watching her older compatriot win the same tournament 10 years ago.

The nine-year-old Park was awoken by her screaming parents, who were celebrating Pak’s victory on television in Seoul. Only days later, she played golf for the first time, determined to one day emulate her idol.

And she did it in style, dominating the final 10 holes as she left second-placed Helen Afredsson far behind. She said in an AP article:

“When she (Pak) made a putt, they were screaming. So I really could not sleep. I didn’t know anything about golf back then, but I was watching her. It was very impressive for a little girl. I just thought that I could do it, too. Really, I can’t believe I just did this, especially with all these big names on the trophy that have been very, very successful with golf. Hopefully, I’ll put a couple of my names on there. It will be great.”

Two birdies and a par on the way back to the clubhouse was enough to silence the pack as Park closed with two-under-par 71 for a four-round total of nine-under 283.

She picked up a cheque for $585,000 as well as a soaking from her compatriots Jang Jeong and Kim In-kyung, who poured celebratory beer all over her. Park became the third player in the last six years to use this tournament for her debut victory on the LPGA Tour.

Tied for third, one stroke behind Alfredsson were Angela Park, Kim and Stacy Lewis, who was attempting to win a major tournament on her pro debut.

While Park was becoming the young women’s US open champion, Kenny Perry was flying the flag for forty-somethings on the PGA Tour when he won the Buick Open for the second time.

The 48-year-old shot a six-under-par 66 in the final round for a total of 19-under-par 270 and a one-stroke victory over Woody Austin and Bubba Watson.

The triumph is probably enough to confirm Perry’s place in the United States team to contest the Ryder Cup against Europe this year at Valhalla.

Austin blew his chance to win the tournament after finishing with two straight bogeys for a fourth round of 68. Watson narrowly missed a play-off chance when he failed to hole a 12-foot putt on the final green.

Bob Tway, Ken Duke and Matt Jones tied for third on 271.

Perry’s main concern this year is to make the Ryder Cup because it is being played at a course that is near his home. It was also where he lost the 1996 PGA Championship in a play-off to Mark Brooks. He said on the PGA Tour website:

“I just feel like I needed to go back there. I want to go back, end of my career; it’s the icing on the cake for me to be able to play at my age. I’ll be 48 when it comes, and just in front of my home folks, just something I wanted to do.”

On the European Tour, Spain’s Pablo Larrazabal held off a strong chasing pack to win the French Open at Le Golf National with a total of 15-under-par 269.

Larrazabal, whose footballing compatriots won the European Championship later that night in Austria, carded a final round of four-under 67 to finish four shots clear of former Order of Merit winner Colin Montgomerie.

Denmark’s Soren Hansen was third on 274 with Australian Richard Green a further two strokes back in fourth place.

Larrazabal, who was a caddie for his brother five years ago, had to come through two rounds of qualifying to play in the tournament and was an outsider given his ranking of 481. Even he was at a loss to explain his victory, as he said on the European Tour website:

“I promise you I don’t know what I did. I know that today I played great golf. Today and yesterday was probably the best golf of my life. I played great golf at the qualifying tournament as well. Montgomerie is probably one of the greatest players in the history of The European Tour. I feel great. Right now I know that I can play like those guys so this is amazing.”

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