Chip Shots with WGSA number one, Carrie Park

Carrie Park’s victory at the Sanlam SA Amateur Stroke Play Championship in April put an exclamation mark on the blossoming potential that carried the 17-year-old Gauteng North amateur to the number one spot in the Womens Golf South Africa Senior Rankings in March.

Park underlined her growing stature when she drained a 10-footer for birdie at the 16th hole to catch up to tournament leader Michaela Fletcher at Stellenbosch Golf Club. Knowing Fletcher had three-putted for bogey, Park held her nerve to par the 18th to seal a one shot victory and the biggest achievement in her career.

However, the WGSA Golfer of the Year for 2013 has been in threatening form since she broke through for her first senior provincial title at the Ackerman Championships.

Park also won the 2013 Gauteng Junior Championship and reeled in seven top five finishes, including runner-up spots in the Eastern Cape and Boland Championships.

The GFG Academy member began the 2014 season with victory at the Border Championship in February and vaulted to the number one spot in the WGSA Senior Rankings when she lifted the KwaZulu-Natal Stroke Play Championship title in March.

Park supplemented her triumphs with third place finishes at the Eastern Province Championship, Curro SA World Junior International and the Nomads SA Rose Bowl Championship, and fourth at the Gauteng North Junior Girls Championship.

“Carrie’s individual achievements in the last 12 months have been impressive, but she has also proven her value in team competition,” said WGSA president, Cynthia Rayner.

“She was a member of the victorious Gauteng North B-team that claimed the Challenge Trophy at the 72 Hole Teams Championship at Maccauvlei Golf Club in May and aided the Gauteng North A-team to seal their seventh successive Pick n Pay SA Women’s Inter-Provincial title at Port Elizabeth Golf Club.

“In addition, Carrie made her mark among the amateurs that competed on the recent Sunshine Ladies Tour and finished sixth, third and second respectively at the Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies tournaments at Houghton, Glendower and Blue Valley.

“Her victory at the Sanlam SA Amateur Stroke Play is the result of hard work, dedication and determination and this sets an excellent example for the next generation of young players who have their sights on the top amateur trophies.”

We caught up with the talented golfer during the Sanlam SA Amateur Stroke Play Championship to learn more about the girl behind the dimpled smile and the lethal swing.

WGSA: How did you get into the game and who inspires you?

CP: We were still living in South Korea and my dad used to take me with to the golfing range with him. I decided to play golf when I was 12, so I started to practice. I kept with it when we moved to Australia and eventually here to South Africa. My golfing idols are Annika Sorenstam and Ji-Yeh Shin. I am also a great fan of Hendrik Stenson and Adam Scott.

WGSA: How did you end up living in SA?

CP: I came to South Africa in Grade 9 with my dad. He sent me to boarding school, because he was impressed with Southdowns College and he liked the GFG golf program.

WGSA: How do you balance golf with your other obligations, like school work?

CP: I don’t procrastinate. I try to do my work immediately as possible.

WGSA: You are ranked number one in South Africa and you’ve won the Sanlam SA Amateur Stroke Play. What else is left?

CP: I would like to finish the season as the number one in the senior and junior rankings and improve my stroke average. It is sitting at 71.98 at the moment and it would be great to get it below 71.

WGSA: Four victories since October, and you have also been incredibly consistent and always seem to be threatening. What is the reason for your success and what are you and your coach, Graeme Francis, working on?

We caught up with the talented golfer during the Sanlam SA Amateur Stroke Play Championship to learn more about the girl behind the dimpled smile and the lethal swing.

CP: Thanks for the compliment. I really think it comes down to number of hours of practice and number of rounds of golf I play. I am more experienced than last year, and I’ve learned more. I would say that the proper golf training, mental coaching and fitness training are essential to success.

We are working on keeping my club square and connected because it has a tendency to get shut and long on my back swing.

WGSA: What has been the best moment of your career and why?

CP: Winning the Ackerman Championship was one of my highlights, because that was my first victory in a senior event. It was kind of a big moment for me, because I waited for a long time and I won under really tough, windy conditions at Rondebosch Golf Club. The second, and biggest highlight, was winning the Sanlam SA Amateur Stroke Play.

WGSA: So, we take it that was your AHA moment?

CP: Absolutely. It meant so much to me, because I’m in matric and I didn’t prepare as well as I would’ve liked for the tournament. I wasn’t hitting the ball well so had to rely on my confidence to know I was good enough, and I just had to play my own game.

WGSA: What advice would you give young girls just taking up the game?

CP: I want to tell girls that golf is really a lot of fun, but yes, it is true that it takes up a lot of your leisure time. Do not be intimidated by the boys, and hitting far is not everything in this game.

WGSA: What can be done to further improve the state of women’s golf in South Africa?

CP: I think girls who are interested in golf should be encouraged to play provincial golf, so they can increase their number of rounds and gain experience. The top ranked girls should play with them, so the young girls can learn and be motivated to keep up their practice as this will positively effect growth in junior golf.

Parting Shots

The thing I miss most about home when I travel is my mom, because she is just amazing!

If I got banned to an island, the three things I couldn’t live without would be coffee, because it’s compulsory in the morning, a mirror because I like to admire myself (hahaha) and my phone, because it has all the songs I love and can’t live without.

My fantasy fourball would include Henrik Stenson, Luke Donald and Annika Sorenstam. I’m a great fan of both players and I think that would be so amazing and worthwhile to play with them and I’d like to get an up-close look at Luke’s short game. I would love to talk to all of them not only about golf but stuff they like to do, their superstitions or whatever!

The question I get asked most is if I am Chinese…nope, I’m Korean.

I never travel without dark chocolate

If I were an animal, I would be a polar bear – cute and fluffy!

Before I die, I still want to bungee-jump, visit 50 countries and shoot a round of 59.

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