As retirement looms, LPGA icon Pak Se Ri eyes coaching role at 2016 Olympics

December 16, 2014
Seri Pak

Pak Se Ri, right, is looking to become a coach.

By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL (Yonhap) — As she prepares to wrap up a trail-blazing career on the LPGA Tour that inspired a new generation of golfers, South Korean veteran Pak Se-ri said Monday she’d like to coach her native country at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, where golf will make its long-awaited return to the competition.

Attending the signing ceremony for her new sponsorship deal with Hana Financial Group, Pak, who made her LPGA debut in 1998, reaffirmed her earlier plan to retire after the 2016 season, and her wish to carve out a new career to help younger players in a different capacity.

During what is expected to be Pak’s final season, golf will make a comeback to the Olympics after more than a century of absence. It was last competed in at a Summer Games in 1904.

Pak, who has won five majors and 25 LPGA titles overall to lead all South Koreans, said she’d like to serve as the country’s head coach at the Olympics.

“At the Olympics, I’d like to help fellow players in a different role (other than competing) and become their head coach,” Pak, 37, said. “It’s a personal goal, something that I started thinking about as my career wore on. I think it will be another learning opportunity for me.”

If the Olympics were to start next week, South Korea, on paper, would be considered among the heavy favorites. The country boasts three players in the top 10 in the current world rankings, including the No. 1 Park In-bee, and eight in the top 20. For the Olympics, golfers will qualify based on their world rankings.

The men’s and women’s events will each feature 60 players in the field in a 72-hole stroke play competition.

Pak, the only South Korean inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame, said the decision to retire wasn’t an easy one to make. She said her plan to quit in 2016 “won’t change for the time being,” but left the door slightly open, saying she may not be able to live up to her own words depending on how she plays in the next couple of seasons.

Pak said one of the reasons she decided to retire is that she’d like to spend more time with younger South Koreans as their mentor.

“I’d like to take more interest in younger players and do some big things for them,” Pak added. “I haven’t had the time or the energy to both compete as a full-time player and also serve as their mentor and adviser. I have a stronger desire to take up that role than to compete on the tour.”