Aussie win raises Park's Olympic hopes

South Korea's Park In-bee getting a champagne shower after the Women's Australian Open win, her first title in two years. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
South Korea's Park In-bee getting a champagne shower after the Women's Australian Open win, her first title in two years. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

ADELAIDE • South Korean Park In-bee ended a two-year title drought to boost her chances of defending her Olympic title with a three-shot victory at the Women's Australian Open yesterday.

After starting the final round with a three-shot cushion, Park remained clear despite a one-over 74 at Royal Adelaide. She finished at 14-under 278, while American Amy Olson carded 70 to claim second place.

It was her 20th career title, joining a 28-strong club, including Annika Sorenstam, Karrie Webb and compatriot Pak Se-ri, to achieve the feat.

She also picked up a healthy dose of valuable world ranking points.

So dominant are South Korea's women golfers that making the team for the competition at Tokyo 2020 is one of the toughest Olympic challenges in any sport.

Only four players from any nation are allowed, and Park went into the Australian Open ranked sixth, behind Ko Jin-young, Park Sung-hyun, Kim Sei-young, Lee Jeong-eun and Kim Hyo-joo.

"It was a tough day out there today, really different from the last days," Park said after throwing her arms in the air and being showered with champagne by fellow Korean players on the 18th.

"It has been a thrill to play this week. The moment I came here and saw this golf course, I fell in love with it."

The 31-year-old could not stop grinning and wiped a tear away as she walked off the green.

 
 

She has endured injuries and travel fatigue in recent times and it was her first win since the Bank of Hope Founders Cup in mid-March 2018. That event in Phoenix from March 19-22 will be the next Tour stop following the cancellation of tournaments in Thailand, Singapore - where she won the HSBC Women's Champions in 2015 and 2017 - and China.

Those tournaments were called off due to the coronavirus outbreak.

PERFECT FIT

It was a tough day out there today, really different from the last days. It has been a thrill to play this week. The moment I came here and saw this golf course, I fell in love with it.

PARK IN-BEE, South Korean golfer, after shooting a one-over 74 in the final round to win the Women's Australian Open yesterday.

Returning to the winners' circle in Adelaide was extra special for the former world No. 1 as long-time caddie, Australian Brad Beecher, was on her bag. He worked with her during all seven of her Major wins and when she captured the 2016 Rio Olympics gold medal.

"I've been working with him for 14 years... being able to present him with the trophy (in his home country) is a great present for him," she said.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 17, 2020, with the headline 'Aussie win raises Park's Olympic hopes'. Print Edition | Subscribe