SEOUL • Pak Se Ri is set to bring the curtain down on a career that brought her five Majors, 39 victories worldwide and almost US$13 million (S$17.65 million) in prize money. But the South Korean trailblazer concedes golf never brought her happiness.
Pak, whose sensational rookie season in 1998 helped lift the gloom off the Asian financial crisis and inspired a generation of world-class women golfers back home, said at a news conference yesterday she had sacrificed much in pursuit of her goals.
"I guess I am disappointed that I never found the joy of playing," she was quoted by Yonhap news agency as saying. "Obviously, you have to make sacrifices to get your rewards at the end. I thought all along that as long as I achieved my goals, everything would be OK. But I was wrong. I wish I'd been more generous with myself."
The 38-year-old, who won four times in 1998 including two Majors at the US Women's Open and LPGA Championship, has struggled with injury in recent years and dropped down the world rankings to No. 356.
Her last win on the US Tour came in 2010 and she has not been a factor in the Majors since a fourth-place finish at the 2014 ANA Inspiration.
But her experience could prove vital at the Rio Olympics. She will act as coach to a powerful South Korean line-up that includes four of the world's top-10 players in Park In Bee, Kim Sei Young, Amy Yang and Chun In Gee.
Major titles South Korea's golf team coach Pak Se Ri has to her name, with her last win coming 10 years ago at the Women's PGA Championship.
"I think the best-case scenario would be the same for everyone: to win the gold, silver and bronze medals," Pak said.
"It means a lot to our players to wear the national flag, and they're doing the best they can to represent the country."
While there are concerns about the fitness of world No. 3 Park, who has endured a woeful season due to back and thumb problems and has not played since early June, Pak said her presence gave the team confidence.
"I believe she felt well enough to make the call, and she'll be back to full strength by the Olympics," the coach said. "I am sure it was a boost for the whole team."