Entering the week, it would not have shocked anybody throughout the golf world to see a member of the South Korean delegation take residence the primary Olympic medal in ladies’s golf since 1900.
Since Se Ri Pak first burst onto the scene practically 20 years in the past, arguably no nation has dedicated to supporting excellence in a sport like South Korea has to girls’s golf. On the time Pak received the 1998 US Ladies’s Open, she was the one Korean participant on an LPGA Tour dominated by People and Europeans. At this time, greater than a 3rd of the world’s prime one hundred gamers hail from the crowded nation on the southern finish of the Korean Peninsula — typically from center-class households pouring all obtainable assets into their daughters’ on-course successes. The LPGA’s largest income is from its South Korean TV rights deal. It is all a dwelling testomony to the influence a single athletic success can have on the event of golf in a nation.
However, Inbee Park wasn’t presupposed to be the participant to convey South Korea Olympic golf glory this time round. Certain, she’s the nation’s prime participant within the Rolex Rankings — the ladies’s sport’s reply to the lads’s Official World Golf Rankings. However with accidents, struggles and a break when she did not contact a membership for over a month main into the sport, Park hadn’t even made a lower in an expert occasion since April. Such occasions undoubtedly made for some nationwide controversy within the golf-loopy nation again dwelling, with different extra in-type gamers additionally contained in the world’s prime 10 omitted of the occasion due to the 4-participant-per-nation cap.
However below the watchful eye of Pak, performing as South Korea’s captain for the video games, Park turned within the efficiency of a lifetime in her ultimate spherical, bringing golf full circle within the nation that is come to find it irresistible greater than another throughout the globe.
With world no 1 Lydia Ko chasing from two photographs behind in the identical pairing, Park ripped the drama out of the day early within the morning. With tee instances moved up a number of hours due to the the specter of afternoon storms, Park made 4 early birdies on the entrance 9 — going out in 31 and stretching her lead out from two to as many as six heading into the again 9. That was all she wrote for the drama on the high of the leaderboard — a again-9 35 was greater than sufficient for Park to get pleasure from her stroll to the gold medal stand.
However loads of drama remained on the course for the 2 different medal positions.
China’s Shanshan Feng surged previous the USA’s Stacy Lewis and Gerina Piller, in addition to Ko, early within the spherical and seemed to be the one who would possibly be capable of not less than present up in Park’s rearview mirror. However a 1-over par end from Feng over the ultimate 7 holes left the door huge open for Lewis and Ko to surge again on the the medal stand. Birdies on the sixteenth and seventeenth gave Lewis an opportunity to make yet one more on the ultimate gap to get to -10 and right into a playoff for bronze, however she left her putt on the 72nd gap simply brief. The world’s finest participant took benefit of the open door. After driving the par-four sixteenth and making birdie, Ko — who was born in Korea after which grew up in New Zealand with Korean dad and mom — sunk a giant putt on the ultimate gap to overhaul Feng for silver.
However simply making the medal stand in any respect is a large trigger for celebration in China — which seems one thing like South Korea in 1998. Feng is the one Chinese language participant on the LPGA Tour, and the nation which already invests closely in its Olympic program is simply getting its toes beneath itself in golf on each the lads’s and girls’s aspect. Historically reserved for the elite and rich, there’s been a renewed emphasis within the recreation among the many nation’s rising center class.
Whereas golf’s return to the Olympics on the boys’s facet was largely a multitude saved by a finest-case situation end, the IGF and IOC could not have written the script to the ladies’s aspect a lot better. A legacy come full-circle for the nation that fell in love with the sport 20 years in the past, whereas one other may simply be rising on the scene.
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