Golf champ back on LI for prom, graduation

USC golfer Annie Park plays during the 2013

USC golfer Annie Park plays during the 2013 Pac-12 Championship. (Credit: USC Sports)

Annie Park, who became the first girl to win the Nassau County boys high school golf tournament last May, is now the top-ranked collegiate women's golfer in the country as a freshman at USC.

But she's coming back to Long Island for some unfinished business after graduating early from MacArthur High School. She wants to attend her high school prom and graduation ceremony.

"It's going to feel a little weird," she said. "But I know it's going to be fun, so I'm looking forward to it."

Park, 18, earned her high school diploma in December, a few months ahead of schedule, and immediately began her freshman semester and college golf career at the University of Southern California, where she had an athletic scholarship.

Next month, she'll be back in Levittown doing the things that typical high school seniors do, like look for a prom dress and figure out what to do afterward.

"I believe my friends and I are going to the city after," she said, "but I left that to my friends to decide."

Park, who is considering a marketing major, has won three tournaments since enrolling at USC in January, including the Pac-12 Championship last month. But she's glad to be coming home.

"Being there will be like a reminder that I really am still a senior," said Park, whose prom is June 8 at Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury, followed by formal graduation on June 15 at Hofstra University. "I don't want to miss out on anything."

Although she did miss out on the final few months of her senior year, she climbed to the top of Golfweek's ranking of the nation's women's collegiate golfers and helped USC become the top-ranked team in the country.

Park, who turned 18 last month, says she has adapted to the West Coast lifestyle after a bout of the flu and being homesick.

"It was hard at first because I had the flu once I got to LA . . . [but the] hardest part was adapting to my new schedule and being away from my mom and sister."

Her first semester has left her little time to do anything other than read greens and textbooks.

"It's basically been golf, study, golf, study," she said with a laugh.

Park said she gained yardage on her drives, which she said now average around 265 yards. Her stroke average has been 71.71 in the eight tournaments she has played with USC.

In the Pac-12 tournament, she birdied five of the final 10 holes and drained a 20-foot putt on the 18th hole to win the tournament by two strokes. She then tied for first May 11 in the NCAA regional.

"It's somewhat record-breaking for a freshman," said longtime USC coach Andrea Gaston. "To be here since January and already win three tournaments and be ranked No. 1 in the country, she's obviously been a tremendous addition.

"She's such a mature player and has the perfect temperament for the game. Coming in at the age of 17 in the middle of the season, it takes a lot of maturity to be able to handle a transition not only into college, but also moving across the country."

Park said she appreciates all of the help she had in adjusting.

"I have these great resources with coaches, psychologists, and the great players I practice with," she said. "It's awesome to have all these things around me to improve."

She'll compete in the NCAA Championships in Georgia beginning on Tuesday and then the U.S. Women's Open Sectional Qualifier in New Jersey on May 30, when she will try to earn another trip home -- for the U.S. Women's Open at Sebonack Golf Club in Southampton.

"It would be awesome if I played it because I know it would be one of my most memorable moments that I probably achieved in my golf years," she said.

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