Angela Park, 2007 Pine Needles finalist, completely off the golf map

SOUTHERN PINES, NC — Fifteen years ago at Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club, Johnny Miller called Angela Park’s swing the best in women’s golf. Park, then 18, tied for second with Lorena Ochoa at the 2007 US Women’s Open and looked set to become an LPGA force.

Within a few years, however, Park quit touring. She earned $2.1 million in four seasons on the LPGA, then abruptly moved on.

“I finally decided to retire from the game because I didn’t feel like playing anymore,” Park said via email. “It was as simple as that.”

Park, 33, has requested an email exchange as her hands are now literally full with 3-month-old Noah, her first child with husband of four years Steve.

Park turned pro the same day as his close friend Inbee Park, the Monday after the 2006 Kraft Nabisco (now the Chevron) Championship. Both were 17 years old and leaving for the Epson Tour.

Inbee, of course, is now a member of the LPGA Hall of Fame and a seven-time major winner. Angela never won on the LPGA but certainly had more than enough talent to lift many trophies. She was the 2007 Louise Suggs Rolex LPGA Rookie of the Year, passing both In-Kyung Kim and Inbee Park.

Angela Park celebrates a birdie on the 18th hole during the final round of the US Women’s Open Championship at Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club July 1, 2007 in Southern Pines, North Carolina. (Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Getty Images)

“I wonder, of course, how my life would have been different if I had continued acting,” Park said, “but I believe everything happens for a reason, and I had to live the life I live now. “

Park can’t remember the last time she picked up a golf club. Mom’s job is harder, she says, than competitive golf. She lives in Southern California and is going back to school to become a pharmacist.

“I had many different jobs in different fields because I had no idea what I would find joy in,” she wrote. “It took a long time to finally decide on this route. It’s a bit late, but I think it’s better now than never.

Park spent the first nine years of her life in Brazil, but her South Korean-born parents wanted a better education for their children and moved the family to California. It was in the United States that Park fell in love with the game. His mother remained in Brazil to run the family embroidery factory while his father oversaw its development.

Morgan Pressel grew up playing junior golf against Park and said the pair pushed each other.

“A spectacular player,” Pressel said, “really solid all around, nothing too flashy.”

Lorena Ochoa of Mexico (L) wipes her eyes as she and teammate Angela Park attend the trophy presentation ceremony at the US Women’s Open Championship at Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club July 1, 2007, in Southern Pines, North Carolina. (Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Getty Images)

Park remembers being hyper-focused at Pine Needles, executing “incredible shots under pressure.” These memories fuel confidence in one’s ability to accomplish other goals. She led after the first round at Pine Needles and co-led after the second. A 70 in the final round put her in a share of second, two behind winner Cristie Kerr.

Park doesn’t really follow the LPGA and doesn’t talk to the many players she used to compete against.

“I kind of fell off the map,” she said, “and took a completely different route.”

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