More bogeys, no problem
Despite struggling in final round, Park recovers to earn crown
ATHENS, Ga. -- Southern California golfer Annie Park has listed Annika Sorenstam as one of her heroes.
Now she has something very unique in common with the golfing great. Park became the seventh freshman to win individual medalist honors at the NCAA Division I Women’s Golf Championship on Friday, shooting a final round of 1-under 71 to finish the 72-hole tournament at the University of Georgia Golf Course with a 10-under total of 278.
Sorenstam was the first freshman in history to win an individual NCAA championship, doing so while playing for Arizona in 1991.
Despite winning the 2013 individual honors by a wide margin – six shots ahead of runner-up Lindy Duncan of Duke – Park did not have a perfect final round on Friday. In fact, it was far from it with bogeys on the fourth and ninth holes on the front side, and with two bogeys and a double-bogey all in a row on holes 15 through 17.
She offset all that with a total of eight birdies – four on each side. That included one to finish it off on the par-5 18th.
It was far different from her previous day’s bogey-free 70. She also shot 70 on the opening round and actually had her best day – when she carded a 5-under 67 – on the second day of the tournament when Southern California took control of the leaderboard.
“My scorecard was not clean [Friday],” Park said. “I had a tough beginning. I was trying to make some pars and it was just like bogey-birdie, bogey-birdie instead. But it felt great at times and it felt great finishing with a birdie on the last hole.”
Southern Cal assistant coach Justin Silverstein was well aware of all of it. He had been dispatched by Coach Andrea Gaston to walk with Park and offer advice when required, beginning late on the front nine. Silverstein continued to walk with Park through to the finish from there and he said he was not surprised by the freshman’s unflappable ability to bounce back from bad shots or bad holes.
“I guess the common theme throughout the year and in this tournament was her stability and her ability to bounce back,” Silverstein said. “We don’t keep a bounce-back stat in golf, but if we did, she would be pretty high. There is no change in emotion whether she makes three birdies in a row or a couple bogeys.
“Just her ability to miss it in the proper spots is something you rarely see from a 17 and now 18-year-old. Her ability to do that on a golf course this hard is what separated her from the rest of the pack, I think.”
Silverstein simply wished Friday’s round could have been, well, a little more simple.
“It was kind of an up-and-down round," Silverstein said. "She had such a clean card [the previous day]. It was bogey-free. Then [Friday] she was throwing up all kinds of different colors on the Golfstat thing. She told me she was keeping me interested, but she was kind of unfazed throughout the day.”
It showed especially on two holes, beginning with the 159-yard, par-3 13th when she narrowly missed a hole-in-one.
“That was a big birdie on No. 13, when she caught the ridge and it rolled back to the hole and lipped out to two feet,” Silverstein said. “That kind of got her going back the right way and then she steered it home.”
And then there was No. 18. After playing the previous three holes in a combined 4-over-par, Park pulled herself together and hit a terrific long approach shot into the green to set up her final birdie, the proverbial icing on the cake. And that was only after she nearly made her eagle putt.
“That 5-wood she hit on the last hole, into the wind about 220 [yards], to get it up on the slope [near the hole], that was a pretty special shot she hit there,” Silverstein said.
"[Silverstein] helps a lot on the golf course," Park said. "Especially when you’re in between clubs.”
Friday’s round put the cap on an incredible postseason run for Park, who tied for first in the NCAA West Regional and also won medalist honors in the Pac-12 championships in a Sorenstam-type run.
“It was unexpected. I was just trying to play my best each round and each shot,” Park said. “It turned out pretty good.”