High school golfer, victorious at PAVV, looks to the U.S. circuitPark Hee-young, the winner of the PAVV Invitational Tournament last month, says her biggest strength is her driving. The senior at Hanyoung Foreign Language High School is known for her ability to hit the ball straight and far, earning her the nickname, “Driver Park.”
She can hit 265 yards casually, and over 280 yards if she tries hard, landing most of her tee shots on the fairway. Park turned professional this spring having played for nine years as an amateur. This year she also got her automobile driver’s license, as she turned 18 years old in May, and jokes that her driving has really improved since then.
On the final day of the PAVV tournament, she overcame a seven-shot disadvantage thanks to her driving.
The JoongAng Ilbo caught up with Park in Myeong-dong in central Seoul on Sept. 26, a day after the event. Although she has won the Korean Ladies Professional Golfers Association tour, she still looks like a typical high school student.
In a shopping mall, she saw a stuffed donkey named “Eeyore,” from the animation “Winnie the Pooh” and smiled. Park said she wanted to use golf club covers that look like Mickey Mouse or Goofy, but has to use ones provided by her sponsors.
She blushed when the reporter told her she looked prettier in real life, while her mother added, “She now looks more mature, and prettier these days.”
Park caught people’s attention during the event wearing a flower print skirt and large earrings. “It is important to play well, but it is also necessary to market oneself as a pro golfer,” Park said. “I am still in high school and try to avoid thick makeup, but I look carefully at older players’ fashion and makeup.”
Asked about the secret of her driving Park said, “When I was in fourth year in primary school, my father said, ‘Long tee shots make a great golfer,’ and so I practiced by hitting tires with steel pipes to build strength.”
Though she has a standard physique comparable to other players standing 1.69 meters (5.5 feet) and weighing 63 kilograms (138 pounds), Park said she learned how to maximize her stroke power at the moment of impact with the ball to increase her drive.
Park’s family has a history of golf. Her late maternal grandfather was once a club champion, and her father used to send his tee shots straight onto the green at the par-four 15th hole in Namseoul Country Club. Her younger sister, Ju-young, who is a middle school senior, can also hit a long drive.
Her father, however, quit golf after Park started playing as he could not afford to pay for both lesson and green fees. Her family even moved to a less expensive neighborhood from southern Seoul and used the proceeds for Park’s training.
“I felt sorry for my family considering that housing prices in southern Seoul have soared,” Park said. “But I feel like I have paid them back a little with this victory.”
Park has earned 97.9 million won ($95,000) so far this year, and ranks third in earnings among female golfers in Korea. Next year, she will try her luck in the United States.
Asked if she has a rival, Park said, “Although she is not my rival, I always think of Michelle Wie when I am training. Wie hits a long drive and performs well on the PGA tours. I should prepare to meet her someday.”
by Sung Ho-jun