Se Ri Pak will always be remembered as one of golf’s most important pioneers. With her victory at the 1998 U.S. Women’s Open, she inspired the wave of Korean women who have swept over the top rank of the LPGA.
Pak remains the standard. Indeed, when she qualified for the Hall of Fame at age 29 with 24 LPGA victories, including five major championships, she became the youngest person ever to be inducted (Young Tom Morris, who died at age 24, was elected posthumously in 1975).
Pak’s most influential victory took place at Blackwolf Run in Kohler, Wisc. Seemingly beaten when she hooked her drive into the water on the 72nd hole, Pak stood in knee-deep water to fashion a recovery back into the fairway, then wedged to 10 feet and made the putt to gain a playoff berth against amateur Jenny Chuasiriporn. The next day, Pak fell behind early but rallied late to tie after 18 holes. Finally, on the 21st hole, she made an 18-foot birdie putt to become the youngest Women’s Open champion ever.
Pak also won the McDonald’s LPGA Championship that year, giving her LPGA Rookie of the Year honors and making her – along with Juli Inkster – one of only two woman ever to win two majors in her first season.