News & ToursJune 8, 2016

Inbee Park set to qualify for LPGA Hall of Fame amid retirement conjecture

SAMMAMISH, Wash. -- When Inbee Park finishes the first round of the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship on Thursday she’ll officially complete 10 years on tour and qualify for the LPGA Hall of Fame.   What we don’t know is how much longer we are going to see the remarkable 27-year-old from South Korea—with seven major championships among her 17 LPGA wins—play competitive golf.   The fact Park is plagued by a sore left thumb and is thinking about starting a family with her coach Gi Hyub Nam, whom she married in October 2014, has sparked rumors on tour that she is thinking of retiring, rumors she tried, somewhat unsuccessfully, to shoot down Wednesday at Sahalee Country Club.   “If I knew right now how long I’m going to play, I’d tell you right now,” Park said. “But unfortunately there is no surprise announcement right now, where I’m going to retire after this year. I really don’t have an answer for you right now.”

Getty Images for KPMG

Park has always set her own agenda, treating her parents with enormous respect and appreciation but holding them at arms length and not spending all of her free time on the practice range, as do many of her countrywomen.   She has other interests besides golf, and walking away from the game would not come as a total surprise.   “I’d like to have a family, probably within three years or so,” Park said. “And after that I’m not sure if I’m going to play professionally or whether I’m just going to retire. That I don’t know.”   But then she opened a door of uncertainty that let in plenty of room for speculation about her future.   “I am happy right now that I’m here, so I am playing,” she said. “But it can be tomorrow. It can be three years. It can be five years in time. It can change overnight.”   Will it change as early as after the first round of the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship? Will it change before the South Korea Olympic team is finalized on July 11, a team she appears likely to qualify for? Will it change after the Olympics?   Or is it all years down the road? It’s just one more storyline that makes this tournament pretty damn compelling.   Park is looking to win the KPMG four years in a row on four different courses. Lydia Ko is trying to win her third straight major. And Ariya Jutanugarn is after her fourth win in four starts.   Having the No. 2 player in the Rolex Rankings walk away at 27 would be bizarre. Then again, when Lorena Ochoa stepped away from the game in 2010, she was 28 – and No. 1 in the world.

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