Park came into her own in 2015. After a slow start,
she contended seriously for the first time at the Lotte Cantata
Open in June, where she lost to Jung Min Lee. Park didn't take long
to recover from that defeat. A few weeks later at the Korean Women's
Open, Park won there despite coughing up a five shot lead. Among
those who finished second was Lee, the very player who had beaten
her a few weeks before.
Park was inconsistent the next few months, but she
hit her stride in September, winning twice more and collecting several
more great finishes besides. She wound up second on the year ending
money list with 736 million won earned.
Park also made an impression in her first LPGA event,
the 2015 KEB Hana Bank. Playing with LPGA bomber Lexi Thompson,
she held her own distance-wise off the tee, shooting an epic 62
in the first round. She wound up tied for second behind Thoimpson
in the end.
Park played in several team events at the end of
2015. At the ING Champions, a team event pitting KLPGA and LPGA
stars against one another, Park matched up with top Korean star
Inbee Park in the singles match. She slaughtered the Hall of Famer
5 & 3. A few weeks later, she joined the KLPGA team at the Kowa
Queens, where again she played well. She halved her two team matches
and won her singles match against Japanese captain Momoko Ueda 5
Park wasted little time getting back to business
in the 2016 season. She won her first outing at the Hyundai China
Ladies Open, beating both In Gee Chun and defending champion Hyo
Joo Kim in the process. When she next played on the KLPGA tour in
April, at the Samchully Together Open, she won again, taking over
the lead on the money list. She won the next event she played as
Meanwhile, Park also played in three LPGA events
early in 2016, and was a factor in all three of them. She notched
a 13th at the first one; contended at the second, the Kia Classic,
before finishing fourth; then finished tied for 6th in her first
ever Major, the ANA Inspiration.
After returning to Korea, it did not take her too
long to get back on the winning track. She won the Doosan Match
Play, the only match play championship on the KLPGA. She managed
a runner-up at the Korean Women's Open before claiming her fifth
and sixth wins back to back in August. Just two weeks after that,
she claimed her 7th win of 2016 at the Hanwha. This win also moved
her above a billion won earned for the season.
Only Jiyai Shin had ever won more than 7 wins in
a season, and Park was gunning to top her total of 9 wins, which
she had achieved in 2007. Park still had a lot of chances left to
win, but amazingly, she would not win again in 2016. Nonetheless,
it was still an astounding season for her. She made 1,333,090,667
won, the all time record for most money earned in a single season
on tour. Even more incredible was her 69.64 scoring average, which
is easily the best scoring average of the past ten years, maybe
ever. She was so dominant in that category that she topped #2 Jin
Young Ko by more than 3/4 of a stroke. Amazingly, she finished second
to Ko in the Player of the Year rankings (by a single point), but
that was probably because she did not win a Major (Ko won one).
Park also played several more LPGA Majors in 2016,
and made her mark in two of them. At the US Women's Open in July,
she was the 36 hole leader, and when world #1 Lydia Ko faltered
on Sunday, Park moved into position to win. She reached the 18th
hole just a stroke out of the lead, and it was a par 5. Her length
had been astounding the galleries all week, so reaching the hole
in two should have been child's play. But after a perfect drive,
she pulled her approach into the water, and that was that: she finished
tied for third.
After a tie for 50th at the Women's British Open,
Park started the year's final Major, the Evian, with a sizzling
63, which tied her for the lead. She wound up in an epic battle
all week with the 2015 KLPGA Player of the Year, In Gee Chun, who
was an LPGA rookie. Park tried her best, but Chun was too strong,
and Park wound up tied for 2nd with Korean star So Yeon Ryu. Her
best ever Major finish, but another agonizingly close call.
Park did not win an LPGA event in 2016, but the
amount of money she earned was high enough that she earned a card
anyway: there is a rule on the LPGA that if a nonmember earns enough
in a season so that she would have been in the top 40 on the money
list, she gets a card. Park did that easily. So she was a rookie
on the tour in 2017.
Park's rookie year turned out to be every bit as
amazing as people were expecting it to be. She did not miss a cut
all season, and quickly seized control of the Rookie of the Year
race. She wound up easily crushing her competition there. It took
her a little while to get her first win, but she made a third place
finish in her first start as a tour member, the HSBC Champions.
She had several more top fives in the next few months, including
a runner-up tie at the Volvik.
Finally, everything came together for her at the
US Women's Open. She had something to prove after barely missing
the playoff for the title the previous year. In 2017, she put herself
into the hunt, then hung around the top on the back nine. The only
player who stood in her way was 17-year-old prodigy Hye Jin Choi,
but when Choi dumped her tee shot into the water on 16, Park moved
ahead of her and claimed the two-shot win.
A month later, Park got her second win, completing
the double of North American national championships by grabbing
the Canadian Women's Open. Park had several more top fives after
that, and had a real chance to win in Korea at the KEB Hana Bank,
but ended up second to KLPGA star Jin Young Ko.
Coming into the final tournaments of the year, Park
had a chance to win every major award on tour. She already had clinched
the Rookie of the Year, and was close to getting Player of the Year.
She was leading the money list, and was second in scoring average.
She also had briefly been the #1 golfer in the world before falling
She wound up second to Lexi Thompson in scoring
average with a scintillating 69.25 average. She did finish on top
of the money list, earning $2.3 million. She thus became only the
second Korean golfer after Inbee Park (third if you count Lydia
Ko) to break $2 million in a season. Meanwhile, had she finished
the final event one stroke better, she would have won the Player
of the Year outright, and possibly also returned to the top spot
in the world ranking. But, by finishing 6th, she exactly tied So
Yeon Ryu for Player of the Year. It was the first time in tour history
that there was a tie in this category. Park became the first woman
since Nancy Lopez in the late seventies to win Rookie and Player
of the Year in the same season.
Park finished the season at #2 in the world, and
one can only imagine what she might accomplish next!