CHAMPIONS
Park Now Has a Place in Hall of Fame December 4, 2015 | Far Hills, N.J. By David Shefter, USGA

Inbee Park burst onto the scene by winning the 2002 U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship at the age of 14 at Echo Lake Country Club in Westfield, N.J. Her mellifluous swing and metronomic putting stroke combined with a harmonic demeanor created a perfect blend of physical gifts and mental fortitude.

She looked a star in the making then and she delivered on her promise, which will culminate with her impending induction into the LPGA Hall of Fame.    

Park, whose first name translated into English means Queen Bee, successfully transitioned from junior phenom – she was a U.S. Girls’ Junior finalist in 2003 and 2005 and a U.S. Women’s Amateur semifinalist in 2003 – to the pinnacle of women’s professional golf. In mid-November, she became the third-youngest to achieve the necessary 27 points for enshrinement in the LPGA Hall of Fame. By her 10th start in 2016, Park, who turns 28 in July, will have met the 10-year LPGA Tour requirement for the Hall of Fame, and will be the youngest inductee.

Karrie Webb, the youngest (25) to achieve the 27-point total, didn’t meet the 10-year requirement until she turned 30, while Se Ri Pak, who inspired a generation of Koreans golfers, including Park, with her 1998 U.S. Women’s Open victory, was 29 when she reached the 10-year mandate.

Park, the 2008 and 2013 U.S. Women’s Open champion, earned the necessary 27th point when she clinched the Vare Trophy for the lowest scoring average following the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship. For most of the year, she battled Lydia Ko, 18, of New Zealand, for the No. 1 spot in the Rolex World Rankings, a spot currently owned by Ko.

“I said the Hall of Fame would be my last goal, but it really came early,” said Park, who owns 25 worldwide victories, including seven majors. “I’ve achieved pretty much everything I set out to do so far in my career. Going into the Hall of Fame is something I’ve been dreaming of all my life.”

Park’s career didn’t take off immediately after turning pro in 2006 at the age of 17. But she did make her maiden victory a major one, rallying for a four-stroke win over Helen Alfredsson in the 2008 U.S. Women’s Open at Interlachen Country Club in Edina, Minn., becoming at 19 years, 11 months, the youngest champion. But it would be four more years before her next LPGA Tour title, the 2012 Evian Championship, which ironically came one year before the event became a major championship.

Park has claimed 14 of her 17 LPGA Tour titles and six of her seven major championships since 2013. In 2013, she joined the legendary Babe Didrikson Zaharias (1950) as the only female players to have won three consecutive majors in one year. Park and Hall of Famer Annika Sorenstam are the only two golfers to have won three consecutive Women’s PGA Championships, and when she won the 2015 Women’s British Open at Trump Turnberry, Park became just the seventh player to capture four different major championships.

Now that the LPGA has added the Evian Championship as a fifth major, debate has spawned over whether she owns the career grand slam.

What can’t be argued is Park’s Hall-of-Fame résumé.

David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at dshefter@usga.org.

Inbee's USGA Championship Trio

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