Se Ri Pak
My first and most vivid memory of golf is of Tiger Woods, dressed in his red Nike turtle neck and black slacks, pumping his fist as his ball dropped in the 18th hole of Augusta National to win the 1997 Masters Championship. This fist pump and infamous victory forever changed the world of golf, particularly for all Asians.
The next year in 1998, at only 20 years old, Se Ri Pak caught the attention of many eyes after winning the first Major championship she had ever competed in, the LPGA Championship. She went on to win the US Women's Open and two other tournaments that year and was crowned the 1998 Rookie of the Year. At that time, she was only one of three female Asians on the LPGA tour, so you were lucky if you caught a rare glimpse of female Asians golfers on TV. At that time, I had also began taking golf lessons. A coincidence? I don't think so. I remember the first words my first coach ever said to me: "You're going to be the next Se Ri Pak."
The success of these two stars brought a slow trickle of Asian and Asian American presence to the golf scene. Ten years later that trickle has become a massive flood of Asian and Asian Americans in professional golf. Currently, 10 out of the top 20 women golfers in the world are Asian and half of the top 50 are from South Korea, Japan, and China. The success in golf of many Asians and Asian Americans in general has according to the National Golf Foundation greatly increased the amount of diverse interests in golf. From the 2.4 million ethnic golfers, about 882,000 are African-American, about 851,000 are Asian/Pacific Islander, and about 712,000 are American Indian, Eskimo, or Aleut.
With 24 victories, including 5 Major championships, Se Ri Pak is regarded as one of the best women golfers in the world. This past year she was inducted into the LPGA Hall of Fame. Pak has earned nearly $10,000,000 on the tour, with the most wins and success of all female Asian golfers to date.
Some interesting facts from SeoulSisters.com
The Magic Princess (because of a Japanese cartoon character from
the 80's named Seri the Magic Princess!); the Golf Queen (for
Other Sports: Sprinting, shotputting, kickboxing, taekwando
Hobbies: Shopping, playing video games, practicing golf, watching TV, mountain climbing
What's cool about her: No matter how she does, she is always pleasant and happy. She never complains about bad breaks or unfair situations, chalking it up to the way golf is. And she always respects her opponents, never trash talking. She works harder than you could imagine. And she has a wonderful smile and giggly personality.
My Role Models Growing Up
Dorothy Delasin Lisa Yamane Mika Takayama
Dorothy Delasin is a 4 time LPGA winner, and Lisa and Mika are both successful and decorated former players for UC Berkeley. They were all Junior members at my golf club so I often watched them practiced and heard many tales of their success when I was young from my dad and my coach. As I first starting taking lessons, my coach could not stop reminding my dad that "when Keiko becomes really good at golf, she can get a free ride to a great college, and get her own parking spot at school like Lisa."