Inbee Park is trying to remain nonchalant about all the fuss, trying to remain low-key about taking a shot at golf’s most elusive feat, the Grand Slam.
It is not easy to do when you are not yet 25 and being mentioned in the same breath as some of the game’s greatest stars.
“It would mean everything,” the women’s world No. 1 said Tuesday, when asked what the achievement would mean to her. “It would mean the world to me, something I’ve been dreaming of.”
Women’s golf Grand Slam consists of the Kraft Nabisco Championship, Wegmans LPGA Championship, U.S. Women’s Open, Ricoh Women’s British Open and Evian Championship.
Park is the most dominant golfer on the planet at the moment – male or female – and will be the star attraction when the 72-hole Manulife Financial LPGA Classic gets under way at the Grey Silo Golf Course in Waterloo, Ont., on Thursday.
Park, a runner-up in the same tournament last year to Brittany Lang, has won six of the 13 events she has entered this season, including the last three in a row. Park won the U.S. Women’s Open by four strokes two weeks ago, at Sebonack Golf Club in Southampton, N.Y., her third major championship of the season.
She has earnings this year of about $2.1-million (all currency U.S.). Her closest rival, I.K. Kim, another South Korean, has banked close to $878,000.
Park’s run has golf fans excited.
The Grand Slam for men is considered to be winning all four major championships in the same calendar year. Tiger Woods has not done it, and neither did such greats as Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer.
Bobby Jones is the only male to do it, in 1930, winning all four of what at the time were considered golf’s premier events – the national amateur championships of the United States and Britain, along with the two national opens.
No woman has completed a four-major Grand Slam, although Babe Didrikson Zaharias won all three LPGA majors contested in 1950, a record Park has equalled. Park could add her fourth major title of the season with a win at the Women’s British Open, which will be played at St. Andrews.
“I try not to think about it, but I think about 50 people reminded me, ‘How do you feel about playing [at St. Andrews]?” Park said. “I still feel great. I don’t treat tournaments differently. It’s another tournament for me.
“I think I’m very lucky that I get that kind of opportunity where I have a chance to win four straight majors. All those things are just a gift for me for playing good golf.”
Park does not carry herself like an elite athlete. She’s quiet and unassuming with an easy smile. A Woods-like fist pump after snaking in a long putt would be a rarity.
There were no signs of the superstar trappings when she entered the interview room Tuesday by herself, sauntered up to the podium at the front of the room and plunked herself down on a chair to take questions from reporters.
Since winning the U.S. Open, Park said she received a letter of congratulations from Palmer, and another one from Park Geun-hye, the South Korean president. “Not many people get to do that,” she said.
Park got in a second practice round at the par-71, 6,330-yard Grey Silo layout Tuesday morning despite overcast and drizzly weather conditions that will make the course play longer.
“The holes, I was hitting pitching wedge, 9-iron [last year],” she said. “I’m hitting more like 6-irons in now, so it will be a longer course for me.”
A field of 144 will tee off Thursday, including Lang, who has not won since she captured her first LPGA title here last year. She is coming off two top-15 finishes, including a season-best tie for seventh at the U.S. Women’s Open.
The field will include eight Canadian LPGA players, led by Charlottetown’s Lorie Kane, Sara-Maude Juneau of Fossambault, Que., and Sue Kim of Langley, B.C.