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Nearly two decades after Pak’s breakthrough win, the revolution shows no sign of slowing—earlier this year Koreans won eight straight tournaments across both the LPGA and Ladies European tour.


Inbee Park


walking off yardages and furiously scribbling notes in a yardage guide, even though his daughter employs a professional caddie, who has to try hard not to roll his eyes. Meanwhile, mom Bo stands impassively on the rope line, often carrying Michelle’s lapdog Lola. The Wies stand sentry over their daughter’s practice sessions, and they all live together in a swank townhouse that Michelle, 25, bought at The Bear’s Club in Jupiter, Fla. From the outside looking in, the Wies’ omnipresence in their daughter’s life is suffocating and baffling, but it’s treated as completely normal on the LPGA tour. “I don’t think Michelle could play


at such at a high level without them,” says her close friend Christina Kim. “They look after every detail for her and make her life so easy. What people who criticize her parents don’t understand is that Michelle likes hav- ing them around.” Like Wie, Kim is a first-gener-


ation American, and growing up in San Jose, she experienced similar family dynamics. Not long after Pak’s Open triumph, Kim’s father Man came home and announced that Christina and her older brother and sister would be taking up golf. Every day for a month they were required to make 300 swings in their small backyard. Then, and only then, were they allowed to hit an actual golf ball for the first time. Christina says both of her siblings were more naturally talented, but only she embraced her father’s strenuous teachings. “The father has an important


place in every culture,” says Christina. “It goes way beyond that in Korean society. They’re almost god-like. They’re omnipotent. It never oc- curred to me I didn’t have to do exactly what he told me to do.” Not at first, anyway. It’s a rite of passage


Tiffany Joh


for young Koreans and Korean-Americans to exert their independence after reaching the LPGA.


South Korean winners through the 2015 U.S. Women’s Open


0 8 Before 1998 Since


South Korean Rookies of the Year


0 8 Before 1998 Since South Korean majors 0 22 Before 1998 Since


Consecutive years a South Korean has won a major


5


For Kim, that meant embracing a rock n’ roll fashion sense, and having a couple of longterm boyfriends her parents didn’t approve of. Between tournaments Wie now spends much less time on the driving range, where her parents will birddog her, and now plays more casual games with friends, to which her parents are not invited. She has recently begun talking publicly about kicking them out of her nest and sending them back to Hawaii. Na Yeon Choi, the 2012 U.S. Women’s Open champ, was for years considered a talented underachiever. She didn’t start winning until she instructed her parents to stop traveling to her tourna- ments. Here, Se Ri Pak is also influen- tial, but as a cautionary tale. Her father Joon Chul famously made a teenaged Se Ri spend a night alone in a grave- yard because he thought it would make her more mentally tough. (That Pak is 6-0 lifetime in LPGA playoffs may or may not be proof that it worked.) Joon


SUMMER 2015 / NCGA.ORG / 33


INBEE PARK AND TIFFANY JOH PHOTOS: USGA


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