LAST week’s Kia Classic at Aviara Golf Club in Carlsbad, California vividly illustrated the highs and lows of professional golf.
On the one hand, there was delight as In-bee Park secured a wire-to-wire triumph for her 21st LPGA title in her first tournament of the year and on the other, rookie Yealimi Noh was fined US$10,000 for slow play.
Park was proudly crowned champion at an event where she finished runner-up three times (2010,2016 and 2019).
“It was a great week for me on Tour, ” said the seven-time Major champion. “It was my first week back out in three months or so, and yet I played so good.
“I mean, I couldn’t believe how (well) I was doing out there this week. I thought this would be just kind of a preparation for the ANA Inspiration. I’m just really happy.”
With her Kia win, Park moved into a tie with Marilynn Smith, one of the LPGA founders, for 25th spot on the all-time victory list. It also left her just four short of matching South Korean great Se Ri Pak.
Referencing her idol, the world number four said: “She’s somebody that I always looked up to when I was growing up and obviously she’s always big in my heart. Trying to follow her footstep is always a great thing. I’m really happy that I’m getting close.”
Park shot a 14-under 274 with rounds of 66,69,69 and 70, which gave her a five-stroke winning margin over Americans Lexi Thompson and Amy Olson.
World number one Jin Young Ko, also of South Korea, was fourth on eight-under 280.
Noh was fined “after a rules official gave her bad times on two holes”, Golfweek said in a report.
It came on the back of a previous “slow play penalty she received in her very first LPGA event” last year.
Slow play is a problem faced by administrators across the globe and perhaps that is why there were eyebrows raised in some quarters as to the LPGA’s penalty.
For her part, the 19-year-old American told Golfweek: “I’m never going to do that again hopefully, which is good. It’s hard to get over – that’s a lot of money.”
Indeed. Noh finished tied for 61st at Aviara Golf Club and earned US$4,247 in the process. Her total earnings from three her events this season is US$15,742.