For much of the past two years, Se Ri Pak has been overshadowed by Annika Sorenstam, and for good reason. Sorenstam has been the face of women's golf, the trend-setter who played with the men in a PGA Tour event. Along the way, Sorenstam entered the LPGA Hall of Fame and captured her 50th tour title.
Throw in Michelle Wie and all the attention the teenage prodigy has received and it has been easy to lose track of Pak, who at the ripe old age of 26 just earned enough points to qualify for the Hall of Fame.
Pak's victory Sunday at the Michelob Ultra Open was her 22nd in just seven years on the tour. With four major championships and a Vare Trophy for low scoring average, Pak has the necessary 27 points for Hall induction, but must wait three more years to enter because of a rule requiring 10 years of LPGA membership.
"Before I even came here, my biggest goal was to join the Hall of Fame," Pak said after her victory. "I got here in 1997, and I worked so hard for seven years."
Pak has done so despite enormous pressure. Every move is chronicled in her native Korea, and she helped spark interest in the game that has led to several more players from her homeland making it to the LPGA Tour.
In 1998, Pak won the LPGA Championship, becoming the first rookie since Liselotte Neumann to win a major as her first tour victory. In her second major, she became the youngest player to win the U.S. Women's Open.
"Now that I have enough points, I have just one more goal," Pak said. "It has always been hard for me at the Dinah (the Kraft Nabisco Championship). That's the last Grand Slam major to be won."
ON THE MEND: Jim Furyk has not completely ruled out playing in next month's U.S. Open, but it doesn't look good for the defending champion who is recovering from wrist surgery.
"I'm staying patient, I want my wrist to heal," Furyk said this week at U.S. Open media day. His left wrist was operated on seven weeks ago.
Furyk said the only time he has missed the U.S. Open since turning pro was in 1995, when he failed to qualify. That year, the tournament was played at Shinnecock Hills, the same venue as this year.
BRUTAL STRETCH: After a runnerup finish to Phil Mickelson at the Masters and a tie for third the following week at the MCI Heritage, Ernie Els retreated to his home in London for three weeks. Here's hoping he got plenty of rest, because the next six weeks promise to be quite grueling.
Els has returned to the states for this week's Byron Nelson Championship outside Dallas. He will return to Europe next week for the Deutsche Bank-SAP Open in Germany, followed by the Volvo PGA in England. Then he returns to the United States for the Memorial, Buick Classic and U.S. Open. That's six straight tournaments and three trips across the Atlantic to play them.
"All my favorite events are right after each other this year," Els said. "I haven't done that in a while."
BAUER'S STRUGGLES: After a disappointing second season on the LPGA Tour, Tampa's Beth Bauer began this season with optimism after seemingly working out some difficulties with her swing. But the 2002 rookie of the year has, so far, not seen positive results. Bauer has missed four cuts in seven tournaments, including two in a row. Her best finish is a tie for 27th. She has earned just $20,640 to rank 80th on the money list.
LOCALLY: Lansbrook Golf Club's annual Golf Academy is for children ages 5 through 16 with camps held one day a week. Cost is $250 for a seven-week session, with an end-of-camp tournament July 25. Call 727 784-7333 or visit www.lansbrook-golf.com ... The 12th annual Innisbrook Amateur is July 3-5 on the resort's Copperhead and Island courses. Entry fee is $275. Call (727) 942-3737.
- Information from other news organizations was used in this report.