Grace Park Talkasia Transcript
LH: Lorraine Hahn
LH: Hello and welcome to Talk Asia, I am Lorraine Hahn. My guest this week is Korean golfing sensation Grace Park.
Born Pak-Ji-Eun in Seoul in 1979, she grew up in a family of avid golfers. She played her first 18 holes at the age of nine, and won her first tournament at 11.
Early promise won her a full scholarship to Arizona State University, and as a freshman she swept all major amateur championships, the first player to do so since 1938. But despite an impressive career in the amateur ranks, Park had a disappointing start after turning pro in 1999, and there was speculation that she was burned out even before she had truly begun.
But a new coach gave her the impetus to turn things around in 2002 and the last three years have seen her once again dominant in the LPGA, making headlines with both her fashion style and her thumping long drives.
LH: Grace welcome to Talk Asia. It's very good to meet you in person. Thank you very much for spending time with us. I wanted to ask you Asian golfers in particular have been gaining prominence, and you in particular of course have been in the fore front. Is this the age for Asian golfers?
GP: I think so, definitely yes, golf has become very popular in Asia in this last decade or so. And we are obviously seeing a lot of young women, and men golfers going out globally, playing in tournaments and having very successful career. Women especially are very strong, and this definitely is the perfect timing.
LH: And not only Asian, Koreans, I mean six out of ten on World Tour are Korean. Why is this? Is it because you are trained to be avid golfers, is golf a big thing?
GP: I think part of it is a lot to do with culture. Koreans are very dedicated, disciplined, and I have to give a lot of credit to parents. They are pushy at times, but you know what? They help the players or their daughters stay on the right track only to focus on golf. And that really helps the players to only look at golf, only look at one thing and go from there.
LH: Golf is, at least in my opinion, not a sexy sport, but it is still very popular in Korea, why?
GP: I think. I think it's becoming more sexy, more feminine, and we're seen better looking, pretty looking, more exciting things come out of women's golf.
Why has it taken so long do you think though for Asian players to make it on the world stage, or on the world tour, and to be recognized?
GP: I think, it's like I said, it's because golf has only become popular in the last decade or fifteen years. But it is very popular right now. It's the perfect booming season and people are having a very successful time.
LH: I wanted to talk a bit about your own game. You got into this sport very, very young. You had an impressive amateur career. Um, but your pro start at least wasn't as spectacular. (GP: Right) What happened, why was that?
GP: I think even though my golf game was ready, I personally wasn't ready. I think I was, you know, we're seeing a lot of teenagers even turning pro. Eighteen, nineteen having very successful careers out on the professional circuit. But, me, personally, I wasn't ready I was still missing college life. I have always wanted to have a normal life and I was enjoying that in college and I think part of me wanted to stay in school be normal for a change- kind of take it slow. So I wasn't as ready as everybody thought I was.
LH: But at that time you didn't think okay I'm done with this, it's too difficult or it requires too much from me.
GP: No, no, no. I mean eventually I realized that golf is always what I've wanted to do, what I wanted to do and in order to do that, I had to get my focus back and work harder and try to reach my goal.
LH: At that time there was articles written about your lack of so called motivation at that time right? What turned things around for you? What influenced you to make that change, work that extra harder and really change your game?
00:03:49 GP: I mean like I said, after couple years of struggle, I realized what my goal was. My goal was always to become the number one women's player and I just lost that for a couple of years. But then I went on the right track, hired a new coach, a new trainer and just really got my focus together and started to work very hard at it and the results started to come.
LH: Do you train very hard?
GP: I do, I do when I'm training, but I've also learn to take good time off, away from golf.
LH: And when do you train, how do you train? What is the secret behind that long drive of yours?
GP: Well, practicing is one thing, but what I really got into over these last few years is getting physically fit. I think it helps to prevent injuries, to stay mentally more focused and strong- you got to be physically fit as well. And I also wanted to look nice, present myself the as nice as I can. And that really helped me, I think, with golf as well.
LH: Earlier on, you had a few injuries didn't you? Not major ones.
GP: I struggled with it, still struggle with a lot of injuries this year. It was very difficult.
LH: You are all right now though, right?
00:05:49 GP: I'm ok for now. But I now learn that it's be something I have to work on. As long as I play golf, as long as I live, I always have to watch out for my injuries, my problems.
00:06:01 LH: Which is what, back related?
00:06:02 GP: Back and because it is such a big part of the body, it started to have some problems on my shoulders and on my neck. So I struggled a lot with it this year as well, so in the winter, hopefully I will get that squared away.
00:06:19 LH: How much of the game is mental, mental preparation behind?
GP: I think it is 80%. Anybody out here on the Pro circuit is capable of winning; everyone has the skills to win. But it's up here. (LH: It's a mind game, isn't it?). It is its crazy.
00: 06:37 LH: How do you keep the momentum sometimes, I mean every human being has a good day and then they have bad days. How do you keep it up?
00:06: 44 GP: I just learn to deal with it; I just learn to take it day by day and not carry it on to the hotel, after the round. I just let it stay on the golf course; let everything stay on the golf course. When I am off of it, I'm off of it. (LH: Shut off right?) Shut off- you got to learn to shut it on, shut it off.
00:07:05 LH: Oh interesting, interesting. How would you grade your performance for 2005? Anything you would change for next year, anything you would improve on?
00:07:11 GP: Yeah, like I said, I struggled a lot in 2005, I struggled a lot of injuries, physical injuries that prevented me from practicing. So I'm definitely going work on the physical side of it, get stronger, get healed, and work on my problems and do the same thing. I am a very hard worker, this is my time off right now, but after this, when January comes, I going to really get my focus back on and work really hard.
LH: So we will now take a very, very short break. Don't go away. Talk Asia will be right back with Grace Park.
LH: Hello again, you are watching Talk Asia, coming to you from Singapore and my guest is Grace Park. Grace, both your parents are very keen golfers, you really didn't have a choice, did you, it was like in the blood.
GP: I think so- it is most definitely in the genes. As you said, my parents are golf addicts. They still are and they still do practice 3, 4 times a week, play 3, 4 times a week. You know, being their daughter, I just naturally picked up the game and that was how I got started.
LH: So were they your first teachers, so to speak?
GP: They were my first guides to the game. They introduce me to it, but they always hired a professional teacher, from the beginning, to teach me.
LH: How old were you then?
GP: I was about 8 or 9, I'm not really sure.
LH: Ok, any sort of early memories of any of your golf first starts or anything?
GP: I actually remember my first round on the golf course, I shot 124 with about 12 Mulligans (LH: Not bad) I thought it was really good, and the second time I shot about 135 and I got really disappointed because I thought I was going to break 100 and I couldn't and I wanted to quit.
LH: Do you parents still watch your game, of course they watch your game. But do they go, 'You should have done this, you should have done that'?
GP: Oh- Parents are parents, they will never change. They still treat me like a 10 year old, beginner golfer. But that is their passion. They love to watch me play; they're my number one supporters and my number one fans. And because their expectations are so high, they do get disappointed at times, but that's because they love me.
LH: I can see that. Speed skating I read was something you loved to do as a child. Now speed skating is very fast, golf is very slow. Very, very different, it seems like an odd mix. What was it about, speed skating?
GP: Speed skating- I was just involved with it in my school. My school generated a lot of Olympic skaters, and I got started until I picked up golf. But they are different sports, but I think they both require quick muscle. I think in golf, in order to generate power, in order to generate distance- you got to have quick muscle. I don't know if I was born with it or if skating helped me to kind of build those quick muscles...
LH: Oh that's interesting, good point. When you first started, you lived with relatives- in Hawaii, is that correct? And then you moved to Arizona. Was that difficult? You had to be alone and you had to you know.
GP: Hawaii, I loved it because my elder sister was living there at the time with my aunt as well and it's Hawaii, who doesn't love Hawaii right? (LH: True) It was relaxing, I was in Junior High, going to school, learning English, playing golf a little bit and going to the beach on weekends. It was a lot of fun. But moving to Arizona was very difficult, because it was my first time being alone in a sort of called Caucasian world, didn't have any relatives, didn't have any friends. My English still wasn't very good. So, it was tough but I think that's why I think I was able to focus more on golf make more friends in golf and eventually get used to the life over there.
LH: I mean you sound so disciplined, where did that come from? Was it from school or from family?
GP: I think it's my parents' guidelines. I have always been disciplined, they have always been very disciplined with me and it's kind of (LH: It rubbed off on you, and that's the way that life is) Yes, that is the way it is.
LH: Your father, I was told, told you 'in order to succeed, you have to sacrifice'. Is that true?
GP: You did your research. Yes, he did say that and he still does and he always reminds me of that. You know, in any area you want to become number one- you have to sacrifice things. Not everyone gets to become professional golfers, and top golfers and number one. And you know I have done my sacrifices and am still doing it. (LH: It's paid off) Yeah it's paid off and I'm still working on my goals.
00:12:19 LH: So your father really, in a nutshell, was very, very close to you. What, basically he would be like to you a mentor, a father?
00:12:29 GP: He's the best father I can have and my worst enemy at the time, but my best friend on the road, someone that I can always(LH: rely on,yes, your support system). Yes.
00:12:43 LH: Grace we are now going to take another very, very short break. When we come back, we will meet Grace Park, 'style guru' and find out what she does away from the golf course, stay with us.
LH: Welcome back to Talk Asia. My guest is Grace Park. Grace, much has been written between this conflict between Grace Park, the professional golfer and the regular Park Ji-Eun? Of course that is your name as well, are they two very different people?
GP: They are so different that they're one.
LH: What is the difference?
GP: The difference is that Grace Park is the golfer that plays golf all over the world. Park Ji-Eun is my given name, it is who I am, who I was born, just a normal, average 26 year old.
LH: And what does Park Ji-Eun do when she is not golfing?
GP: Be Pak Ji-Eun not Grace Park! You know I lead a very boring life, that is what excites me, because I am always on the road traveling going from one place to another, so when I am not playing golf I just like to stay home, be with family, see friends who I don't get to see on a regular basis. And as much as this may sounds funny, I just like to get my hair done, get my nails done, go shopping and just do a girly thing. (LH: That makes sense, just enjoy!) Yes, and time passes so fast when you are doing it.
LH: Yes, I can imagine. Image- is that important to you, both on and off the golf course?
GP: I think so, as a person, as a women, I like to present myself as nice as I can, And on the golf course, I like to be as professional as I can be, but at the same time, you know, when people say: 'You look nice'- that is a compliment, I love to take compliments and it makes me happy.
LH: How would you describe your style?
GP: My style, I don't know. I don't think I have much of a style. But, I am in a way very conservative, but at the same time willing to try on things that people normally don't. (LH: Push the limit, just a little bit) Yes.
LH: Equipment, something that has obviously gained a lot of attention, people buy all these latest clubs and stuff. How important do you think is having the right equipment for a golfer in terms of his or her game?
GP: I think it is very important, in any kind of sport, especially in golf. Because everyone's swing and technique is unique, is different. For me, I am very fortunate to have a very wonderful sponsor, Nike, that were very patient enough to wait and test, and test and test, to find the perfect clubs. It took me a year and a half to put all the Nike clubs into my bag. Now I have 14 perfect clubs that I love, that fit perfect for me and that will help me play to the best of my abilities.
LH: So, it really does help, to have good equipment?
GP: I think so, you know, a lot of Asians I have to say, love expensive golf clubs. But it doesn't matter how expensive they are, if they are not the ones for you, they are not going to work.
LH: So technology really has actually helped rather than hinder your game. You know the old fashioned golfers would say, no, no, no it is still your skill that's the most important...
GP: I think that it is 50-50. I mean technology has helped, but if you don't have any skills, you are not going to get much out of the game.
LH: Now your life, as you mentioned a number of times, revolves around golf. How long do you think you can you keep this up, I mean would you like to have fun and balance, maybe a personal life- hide away somewhere?
GP: That is a very good question but I am still trying to figure out what want to do with my life. I'm just starting to plan things, I love to play golf, this is and will always be the biggest part of my life. But I want to have a family; I want to get married- I guess I have to get married before I get, or start (LH: I can't say in front of the camera, but...). You know have a normal life, to have a balanced life. So far I have been single, focused in golf, but eventually that will change I will make this decision when it's the right time.
LH: Is there something that appeals to you doing, when you say, 'I wish I could da, da, da'?
GP: Oh I could- there are hundreds and thousands of things, but I try to block that to the side and just try to focus back on what I'm best at.
LH: I would assume there is a pressure with how playing golf, I mean being who you are. How do you deal with that?
GP: I love the pressure, I love the competition- that is what drives me to practice, to work hard, to look forward to playing to the season. It's something that I, it just became a part of me since I was little, and that's what excites me.
LH: Grace, you've spent a lot of time in the United States. Will it come a time when you would spend, lets say, all your time in Korea?
GP: I would like to eventually, but people say I am so Americanized and that I would not like to live in Korea. I don't know, I can always have my place in Arizona and go back to if I get sick of Korea right?
LH: Correct. Your family has a restaurant business, which I love, I must admit. Anyway, how did that start, AND do you particularly like to cook,for example or eat? I guess you like to eat!
GP: Well, I love to eat- I am a horrible cook. I lived on my own for fifteen years but can only cook a couple of things and they are only Korean. And yes, my parents do own a big Korean barbeque restaurant in Seoul, that I love to go to when I go back home and is something that they are very proud of, that I am very proud of.
LH: And drool every time you talk about it, I'm sorry!
LH: Golf they say teaches you a lot about life, what has golf taught you?
00:19:46 GP: Golf, it does teach you a lot, I mean go through your whole life on the golf course. You get happy, sad, upset, disappointed, frustrated, excited, but very importantly or most importantly- it has taught me to live life to its fullest. To enjoy the moment, enjoy the time, every second of your life.
LH: Good advice, Grace, good luck to you in 2006. And we hope to see you play one day. Thank you very much. (GP: Thank you) That is Talk Asia this week; my guest has been Grace Park over here in very sunny Singapore. I'm Lorraine Hahn, let's talk again next week.
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