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Annie Park, Kelly Shon ready for U.S. Open

Annie Park is shown at Bethpage State Park

Annie Park is shown at Bethpage State Park Golf Course. (May 22, 2012) Credit: Chris Ware

KOHLER, Wis. -- Every green at Blackwolf Run has all sorts of ridges and slopes, which means all sorts of decisions on every hole. Long Islanders Annie Park and Kelly Shon saw that in their U.S. Women's Open practice rounds Tuesday, and they both know that in golf, the decisions never stop.

Each is here because she chose to leap into golf with both feet, following the relentless junior circuit.

Park, of Levittown, made the choice before she was 10, after being immersed in music and art programs. "I was very competitive," she said, adding that she just couldn't take getting home at 9:30 at night after all those activities.

She became the first girl to win the Nassau boys high school championship May 23, shooting a record 8-under-par 134 in a six-stroke victory.

Shon took the golf fork in the road when she was a sophomore at Port Washington High School and had been an accomplished violinist. She perhaps could have followed her sister, Soomin, a pianist, to Juilliard.

Both are preparing for the first round of the Open Thursday -- they will be in back-to-back groups, among the first to tee off just after 8 a.m. ET. Both have been practicing here since the weekend, getting down to business and getting over the "I'm just happy to be in the Open" phase.

"Even when I was flying in Saturday, right through the middle of yesterday, I was still in the 'getting ready to prepare myself' mode," Shon said after her morning practice round. "I don't want to say it's pressure, really, but it has been more serious."

Having hired a local caddie, and accompanied every step inside the ropes by her sister and their mom, Kae, Shon nearly aced the par-3 17th hole with a 17-degree hybrid and nearly made an eagle with her 3-wood on 18. Still, she spent a large portion of her time on the complicated greens.

"You're standing on one ridge, you're putting through two other ridges and the hole is cut on a different ridge. That's a lot to take in," said the 20-year-old, who nearly made the cut at the Open last year.

Park, 17, has her mom, Ann, caddying this week and has been accompanied by a swing coach. Before her afternoon round, she was on the driving range, hitting flawless shots, right near 2007 U.S. Women's Open champion Cristie Kerr. This will be Park's first shot at the Open and her first time playing with top pros.

"I'm excited to play at a new level," Park said. "I just try to focus on the things that I have to do, and hopefully, that brings me to a good result."

Park's big decisions have her on track for a career playing against the likes of Kerr and Yani Tseng. She has taken enough courses at MacArthur so that she can graduate in January, which will allow her to start competing for USC in the spring (thus leaving the field open to the guys in the 2013 Nassau championship).

She is entering a tough profession, with women golfers getting better, younger. Park's foursome Tuesday included Angel Yin, a 13-year-old from California who hit the ball a long way. This week is a step. "I'm going to try to keep my expectations low and hope for the best," Park said.

Shon, on the other hand, is not sure where golf will lead her, and vice versa.

"That time is approaching. It really is approaching," she said, noting that her classmates at Princeton are in business internships this summer. Decisions, decisions.

"Even this year, I was considering applying for internships," she said. "But as a college sophomore, I thought I'd give this one more shot. I still don't know what I want to do. I think I'll probably apply for internships and if I don't get one that I really like, maybe I'll just play golf."

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