Grace Park was a telegenic, elegant golfer on the LPGA Tour who had several outstanding seasons before back problems derailed her career.
Date of birth: March 6, 1979
Place of birth: Seoul, South Korea
Nickname: In an interview with LPGA.com, Park said her nicknames are "Flat Screen" and "Sleeper." "Sleeper" because she can sleep anywhere, under any conditions. "Flat Screen" because ... well, we'll just quote her: "I have an Asian backside."
LPGA Tour Victories:
Kraft Nabisco Championship: 2004
U.S. Women's Amateur: 1998
Awards and Honors:
• Vare Trophy (low scoring average), 2004
• Recipient, Rolex Eleanor Dudley College Player of the Year, 1998
Grace Park Biography:
A stylish player known for her long drives and fiery competitiveness, Grace Park burst out of the gate in her golf career only to have injuries stall her progress and eventually end her career.
Park began playing golf at age 8 in her native Korea. Her family moved to Hawaii when Grace was 12, then to Phoenix, Arizona, where Grace joined the American Junior Golf Association circuit.
She was named AJGA Player of the Year in 1994 and 1996, and was an AJGA All-American from 1992-97.
And her power was already earning her notice. At age 17, still in high school, Park was invited to take on Laura Davies in a long-drive competition (Davies won, but not by much).
Park attended Arizona State University and was named Player of the Year and All-American her freshman year of 1998. That season she won the U.S. Women's Amateur plus two other big amateur events, the Trans-Amateur Championship and the Western Amateur Championship. She was the first golfer to win all three in the same year since Patty Berg in 1938.
By the middle of 1999, Park had amassed 55 tournament wins in junior, collegiate and amateur competitions. Then she finished eighth as an amateur at the 1999 U.S. Women's Open and decided it was time to turn pro.
Over the remainder of 1999, Park won five of the 10 Futures Tour events she entered, led that tour in money, and earned her LPGA Tour card.
Park's first LPGA win was at the 2000 Kathy Ireland Greens.com LPGA Classic. She won once each year from 2000 through 2003. In 2003, in addition to the one win, she also had five seconds, four thirds, 19 Top 10s, and lost to Annika Sorenstam in a playoff at the LPGA Championship.
Then Park won twice in 2004, including her first major, the Kraft Nabisco Championship. She also had seven seconds and three thirds.
Park's climb up the money list, from 2000 to 2004, went like this: 19th, 23rd, sixth, third and second. She seemed poised to challenge Sorenstam for LPGA Tour supremacy.
But injuries cropped up, first with her back in 2005, then her neck in 2006. And Park's career came to a near standstill. In 2005, she posted only four Top 10 finishes. In 2006, she missed three months due to injury and failed to record a single Top 10. Park's career afterward was a constant struggle with injury and chronic back pain.
Park never won again after 2004, and posted only a handful of Top 10s. At the 2012 Wegmans LPGA Championship, Park announced her retirement from competitive golf.