Korean golfers’ jet-setting lifestyle
Korea’s Park In-bee is the latest golfer to join the chartered flights club. Starting this season, the world No.2 female golfer has to travel to cities where LPGA Tour events are held. She will be the first Korean golfer in the LPGA Tour to use personal flights, although world No. 5 Ryu So-yeon is also set to join her.
Park had a bad start in her season opener Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic in Paradise Island, Bahamas last Thursday. The 27-year-old withdrew from the event after the first round, citing back pain. She had a score of 7-over 80 in the first round, which was the first time since June 2009 that she has marked 80 strokes.
Park also decided not to compete in the season’s second tournament, the Coates Golf Championship, to recover from her injury. But the use of private jets will no doubt help her recovery.
Park and Ryu recently signed a sponsorship deal with the membership-based private aviation company called Wheels Up.
By attaching the American company’s logo on their shirts, the two golfers will pay only half price for the service.
Wheels Up charges $5,000 per hour for domestic flights and $8,000 for international trips. Park will pay the service as a team. She usually travels with her husband, swing coach Nam Ki-hyeop and caddie Bradley Beecher.
“For short distances, we use propeller driven airplanes, but for long trip, we use jet planes,” Park said. “Both have eight seats, but because there is a lot of luggage such as golf bags, only four people can get aboard.
Park, a 17-time LPGA Tour winner and career Grand Slam achiever, said she decided to use chartered flights after it was suggested by Beecher.
The Australian caddie last July gave a coupon for chartered flight to Park for her birthday and she used it to go to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where the U.S. Women’s Open was held. She also used a private jet to go to Mexico.
“There are certain places that you need to make brief a stop even if it’s not long distance,” she said. “In that case, chartered flights are more efficient.” ?
Male golfers on the PGA Tour, including K.J. Choi, often use chartered flights for their trips. Some star golfers actually buy their own aircraft.
Golfers who use private jets have the added comfort of being able to unload their luggage into their cars right away after landing and leaving the airport quickly.
“We didn’t go into the airport after landing and took our customs inspection inside the aircraft,” Park’s husband Nam said about his experience of using private jets. “It was an interesting experience.”
Park hopes that the added convenience of a private jet this season will help her clinch the gold medal in the Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro.
The seven-time major tournament winner has said that winning the Olympic gold medal is what drives her this season.
“All golfers are determined and passionate for the Olympics,” she said. “Although every golfer will have fierce competition for the Olympic medal, Korean golfers will be the most feared competitors.”
BY KIM DU-YONG, JOO KYUNG-DON [firstname.lastname@example.org]