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Park Has Long, Hot Summer

August 14, 2003|Peter Yoon | Times Staff Writer

Jane Park's feet ache.

She has blisters from all the walking she's been doing the last three weeks, but she wouldn't have it any other way.

It means she's been playing well.

Park, 16, of Oak Valley, was the runner-up Sunday in the U.S. Women's Amateur Championship at Gladwyne, Pa. She lost the 36-hole championship match, 2 and 1, to Duke University senior Virada Nirapathpongporn after surviving two stroke-play rounds and five 18-hole matches.

It capped a noteworthy stretch in which Park advanced to the third round of match play at the U.S. Girls Junior then won the prestigious American Junior Golf Assn. Betsy Rawls Girls National Championship.

Including practice rounds, Park has played 21 rounds in the last 22 days.

Toss in a 30th-place finish at the U.S. Women's Open that earned Park a silver medal as second-low amateur and it adds up to a breakthrough year for the third-ranked girl golfer in the nation.

"I didn't really have any expectations this summer," Park said.

"So I don't know if it's a surprise. I know I've been improving a lot. My iron shots have been getting better and better and my putting has too."

Despite a successful junior career, Park has kept a low profile by limiting her schedule. She doesn't play high school golf, choosing instead to prepare for bigger events.

Three years ago, her family moved from La Crescenta to Oak Valley, near Beaumont, so Park could take advantage of the practice facility and generous junior program at the PGA of Southern California Golf Club. Park's father is her primary instructor, but Scott Wilson, head professional there, occasionally chimes in with advice.

"Mentally, she's pretty amazing for a 16-year-old," Wilson said. "And when she made the cut at the U.S. Open, her confidence just snowballed."

Park says she spends up to eight hours a day practicing but doesn't fear burnout. She is a self-proclaimed perfectionist and says golf will keep her interested because it is impossible to perfect.

"Something just drives me," she said. "I just love the feeling of hitting a perfect iron shot."

She has hit her share of those in recent weeks. Her run at the U.S. Amateur included victories over Becky Lucidi, the 2002 champion, and Paula Creamer, the top-ranked girl in the country. She defeated Creamer by four shots at the Betsy Rawls tournament and her third-round loss at the junior was to eventual champion Sukjin-Lee Wuesthoff.

Next up are AJGA tournaments in Arizona and Alabama, and the Junior Solheim Cup in Sweden. After that, she gets a few days off before beginning her junior year of high school.

Park has been staying with relatives in Chicago because it is closer to the tournaments she has entered. She hasn't been to California all summer, and when she returns, she doesn't know where she is going to school. Her family recently bought a home in Rancho Cucamonga.

But when she does return, she knows exactly what she is going to do during her days off ... put her feet up and relax.

*

Chris Botsford of Pasadena, the Western Amateur champion who recently completed his eligibility at USC, and John Merrick of Long Beach, a UCLA senior, head a strong Southern California contingent at the U.S. Amateur Championship beginning Aug. 18 at Oakmont Country Club in Oakmont, Pa.

Botsford followed his Western amateur victory by finishing tied for fourth at the Pacific Coast Amateur. David Oh, who also wrapped up his career at USC in May, also qualified, as did Trojan junior Nico Bollini.

Merrick has qualified for the fifth consecutive year. Last year, he was second in stroke-play qualifying and advanced to the second round of match play. UCLA teammates Travis Johnson, Steve Conway and John Poucher are also in the field.

Craig Steinberg of Oak Park, a four-time Southern California Amateur champion, heads the list of noncollege players from the Southland.

*

The Southern California Golf Assn. team of Merrick, Bollini and Roy Moon finished second to British Columbia at the Pacific Coast Amateur Championship last week. The Public Links of Southern California team of Johnson, Iain MacDonald and Greg Puga finished seventh.

James Lepp of British Columbia set a tournament record 68-62-66-67--263, winning by 10 shots over Moon. His second round was a course record at Capilano Golf and Country Club in West Vancouver, Canada.

*

Eight-year-old Allison Lee of Los Angeles and Jane Rah, 12, of Torrance are among four junior golfers featured as "The Best Little Swings in America" in the September issue of Golf Digest.

Each player's swing is presented in the swing-sequence feature the magazine uses for professionals each month.

*

The storied 18th hole at Riviera Country Club, site of the PGA Tour's Nissan Open, has a new tee box that has lengthened the par-four to more than 480 yards. About 30 yards were added to keep pace with the latest golf technology, head pro Todd Yoshitake said.

"It used to be a long, difficult par-four," Yoshitake said of the hole that features a blind tee shot to an elevated fairway. "Now it's a driver and a eight, nine or pitching wedge. As equipment continues to change, it forces us to keep up. We want the hole to play as originally intended -- a mid-iron into the green."

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