Levittown's Park getting around just fine at 14
Annie Park, 14, of Levittown has played in tournaments in Evian les Bains, France; Reunion, Fla.; Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.; Devens, Mass.; and Cape Girardeau, Mo. This week, she was in an even more unusual place: home.
Park briefly was on Long Island for the Lessing's American Junior Golf Association Classic at Rockaway Hunting Club in Lawrence. Her respectable tie for sixth in an international field was another step and another stop on her road toward what she hopes will be a life in golf.
She spends the winter in Florida, going to school and working with Sean Foley, a renowned teacher about whom PGA Tour pro Sean O'Hair raves. Park says her swing has become "freer" and now her drives carry 250 yards in the air. She spends much of the summer on the road with her mother, Ann, and sometimes her sister, Bo, 27 (Bora, 28, lives and works in Manhattan).
Everyone in the family has become adaptable. Annie celebrated her 14th birthday, not with a party, but at a table for two with Ann at an Outback Steakhouse in Florida. It was during the Mizuno Junior Championship.
She does it because: a) she is eyeing college and the LPGA Tour, and b) she just loves golf.
"She has a dream," said her father, Bruce, who stays behind on Long Island, where he is chairman of the Massapequa-based Tahiti'a spa and Angel Tips nail spa chains (yes, Annie had the brightest yellow nails at Lessing's).
"I sacrifice a lot just for playing golf, but I know that I'm going to get a big reward in the future," Annie said. "I just try to work hard right now, and I'll work hard in the future."
This all started when she was 8 and accompanied her mother to the Spring Rock driving range in New Hyde Park. Annie started hitting balls and seemed to be a natural, especially on long drives. She started entering local tournaments and winning them. She shot 82 at Bethpage Black when she was 12, the year she and her family decided she should head south for the winter.
"My friends were like, 'Oh my gosh, you're going to Florida!' They thought I was just going to have fun, but I'm pretty much practicing," she said.
Ann said her daughter is an excellent student, who will do home study as a freshman this year through Circle Christian School. Mom will teach.
"I'm her caddie, her courier, her manager," the mother said with a laugh. Last month, Ann caddied for 36 holes at a U.S. Women's Open Sectional Qualifier in Daly City, Calif., and drove seven hours to an event near San Diego.
Two weeks ago, they were in Massachusetts, where Annie was second in the stroke play portion of the U.S. Women's Public Links. Last week, after Annie finished fourth in the Rolex Tournament of Champions in Missouri, Ann drove the two of them 18 hours to Long Island.
"It's the journey of parents," said Bruce, who had envisioned opportunity for his family when he and his wife left South Korea in 1982.
Their daughter appreciates it. She said: "I think golf teaches me to be disciplined, to sacrifice. Golf teaches me how to be patient and how to achieve goals."
This week, she even made it home - for a while. Soon after Kyung Kim of Chandler, Ariz., beat Harin Lee of Bayside in a playoff Thursday, Annie and Ann Park were on their way to Malvern, Pa., for another tournament.