Women's Amateur a home game for Annie Park

Annie Park, 18, from Levittown, reacts on the Annie Park, 18, from Levittown, reacts on the driving range on Tuesday at the 2013 U.S. Women's Open at Sebonack Golf Club on June 25, 2013. Photo Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

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Since mid-June, tournaments and other golf-related appointments have sent Annie Park to Missouri, Switzerland, Florida, California, the state of Washington and Canada. In none of those spots did she experience what she will see this week: a gallery filled with her Levittown friends who don't know anything about golf.

"That,'' she said, "should be interesting.''

There is not much that isn't interesting about the journey of the 19-year-old who will be the only Long Islander in the U.S. Women's Amateur, which begins Monday at Nassau Country Club in Glen Cove.

She is headed back to Los Angeles for her junior year at USC the week after next, and as a golfer, who knows where she might be headed next? Park never has made any secret of the fact that she wants to play professionally, but what isn't clear is when she wants to make the jump.

Park knows that golfers her age or younger -- Lydia Ko and Lexi Thompson -- are thriving on tour. She knows that Michelle Wie played pro golf while she attended Stanford. She knows that Mike Miller, her friend from the junior golf circuit, left Penn State after two years, has played in tour events and won the New York State Open.

Then again, she knows she was not as dominant as a sophomore as she was as a freshman, when she won the NCAA Women's individual title and led USC to the NCAA team championship. Lots of interesting life decisions ahead.

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"I already know what my goals are. All I have to do is work hard and reach for them,'' she said, reflecting the positive vibe of her swing coach, Sean Foley, with whom she began studying long before he became world famous for working with Tiger Woods. The Florida phase of her recent itinerary was scheduled just so she could take a lesson from Foley. "He kind of motivates me in what I need to do in life, and in golf, too. It's always very worthwhile.''

First things first, though. This week is all about trying to win a national championship being held 25 minutes from her house, with her mom caddying ("I didn't get fired, did I?'' Ann Park asked Annie the other day). Monday and Tuesday will be stroke-play qualifying rounds, match play goes from Wednesday through Sunday. Admission is free.

Park traveled to Cleveland for this tournament two years ago (when Ko won) and to Charleston, South Carolina, last year, when she defeated fellow Long Islander Kelly Shon in match play. "This is really, really close to home. It's rare, it's like a one in a million chance that it's going to be right near you. So I'm very lucky and I'm thankful,'' she said.

The Women's Amateur will seem more comfortable than the U.S. Women's Open at Sebonack in Southampton did last year because back then, Park made a round trip to Los Angeles days before the tournament to receive an award that was important to USC. The historic Nassau Country Club is close enough to Levittown to attract her non-golfer friends from MacArthur High.

Most important, Park goes in with a chance to win. She has matured in the past two years to the point where she sounds like the top pros: always positive, no matter what the results have been. She is undaunted by the fact she finished No. 16 in the Women's World Amateur Golf Ranking, instead of No. 1, where she used to be.

She said her focus has been on her putting, and that has really come around. Playing with longtime friends on the winning U.S. Curtis Cup team in St. Louis last month ranked as her greatest golf experience. As far as she is concerned, it's all good.

Park has her schedule set for this semester, majoring in philosophy and minoring in human rights studies. She likes the way her long-term future looks, too. "I've always had an interest in human rights, to help people who really need help. I kind of want to relate that to my golf,'' she said. "When I succeed in golf, I kind of want to go into those areas.''

The pursuit, she figures, is bound to be interesting.

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