Five years have passed since Annie Park of Levittown graduated a semester early from MacArthur High School, enrolled at USC and immediately won the NCAA women’s golf championship. It is hard to believe, even for Park.
“It has been crazy. People who are younger than me are graduating. It’s crazy how time flies,” she said on her cell phone from Manhattan Thursday, before flying to Florida for a session with her teacher, Sean Foley, and then heading back north to play in the LPGA Shop Rite Classic in Galloway, N.J. this week.
Park had hoped to spend this past week in Alabama, playing in the U.S. Women’s Open. But she fell one stroke short in a qualifier last month. Instead, she spent time in the city with friends, then was off to dinner with her two sisters. “It’s nice to have a week off,” she said, confident that her pro tour career is back on track.
Better to have a week of vacation rather than a few months of pain, which is how 2018 started for her. She sustained an inflamed bulging disc in her back. “It’s all better now. I’ll probably be struggling with it for a while, but I’ve got to just keep doing my exercises, try to warm up properly before I play golf,” she said.
She left college in 2015 to turn pro (but has since completed her degree) and had a fairly successful LPGA rookie season in 2016. Last year, she fell to 127th on the money list, which limited the number of exemptions she had on tour this year. When she did feel healthy enough to play, she had to start out on the Symetra Tour, where she had two top-five finishes.
Through a Monday qualifier in April, she made it into the LPGA Mediheal Championship in Daly City, California. She led in the second round and finished tied for 18th, good enough to earn $17,349 and get her into most tournaments for the rest of the season. Park has made the past two cuts.
“I’ve finally adjusted to tour life,” she said. “You’ve always been on a set schedule from junior golf to college. Not having someone scheduling things for you, having to do it on your own definitely makes a huge difference. You have to make your own schedule, commit to it and motivate yourself. Have purpose in what you do.”
Her mother, Ann, travels with her occasionally, but Park often is on her own. She drove four hours overnight from North Carolina, site of her Women’s Open qualifier, to Virginia, where she was signed up for a pro-am the next day.
“Sean is a great motivator. He’s a great speaker. He knows what I need to hear,” she said of Foley, who has been her instructor before, during and after he worked with Tiger Woods.
A person can hear Foley’s influence on Park as she talks about the rest of this year and beyond: “It’s about just keeping your eye on the prize. You can’t get discouraged by having one bad week or one bad round. You can’t have that affect your whole life. I just keep working toward my goals.”
Rehor’s big run at Bethpage
Joe Rehor had quite a run as pro at Bethpage State Park. “Forty years,” he said. “That’s a lifetime.”
The state awarded the pro shop contract to Kelley Brooke, who has run the golf facility at Randall’s Island and is an instructor on Golf Channel. Rehor has been doing some teaching at the Town of Oyster Bay course, but probably will be out for the rest of the year because of an impending knee replacement.
He plans to resume teaching next year. He has only good memories of his run at Bethpage, during which the Black Course hosted two U.S. Opens and two PGA Tour playoff events. “It was a great run,” he said. “All good things come to an end eventually. After 40 years, I think I’ve paid my dues.”
McIlroy loves Bethpage Black
Rory McIlroy, asked at the Memorial Tournament this week about his favorite U.S. Open venues, said, “Of all the ones I’ve played, I love Bethpage. Bethpage is a great golf course.”