Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The Legacy of Se Ri Pak

In-Bee Park's win has spurred a slew of pieces from around golf about the impact of Se Ri Pak. Some even have argued that Pak has had a larger impact on the global game of golf than Tiger Woods. Grant Boone joins that chorus in his weekly column.

Tiger Woods is the most popular athlete, let alone golfer, on the planet. But compare his impact to that of Se Ri Pak. In 1997, Woods won the Masters, becoming the first African-American to win a major. Zillions watched and still do every time he tees it up. But a decade later, he remains the only African-American on Tour.

In 1998, Pak won the LPGA Championship and U.S. Women's Open, giving South Korea its first-ever major champion. Ten years later, she's been joined by 44 of her compatriots, 16 of which have won official tournaments.

In terms of impact of the ethnic and racial makeup of their respective tours, Pak beats Tiger. The stats show it. Economically speaking, it is almost impossible to make the argument for Pak. The question to ask, though, is who will have a greater impact in the long term - 30 years from now.

Tiger will likely have passed Jack's mark and be worth billions of dollars. He will also be retired, designing golf courses, and maybe even some apparel. He will inject billions of money into the global economy on his name alone. But the PGA Tour will likely regress some in his absence, barring the development of the next Woods.

Pak, though, has spurred a growth in the women's game that has had a profound impact in just ten years. Imagine the ripple effect in 30. South Koreans have inspired other Asian players to become significant and for countries to make investments in youth golf. As Boone explains, those investments are surpassing the United States - which does so privately:

[S]urely some of it has to do with the enormous resources poured into that nation's junior golf programs. The U.S., for all its wealth, is disproportionately low on the list of nations who make sure kids who want to play golf have the opportunity to learn the game, compete against others, and improve.

In the end, Pak may be more responsible for the explosion of the women's game than any other golfer. Also, that may have a much longer lasting impact on golf than Tiger Woods - whose boom caused amateur participation to spike, but has since receded in the USA.


The Constructivist said...

Let's not forget that Tiger has inspired a lot of women golfers, too! He regularly gets named in the same breath as Pak, Sorenstam, and Ochoa by the young guns....

Ryan Ballengee said...

Very true and good point. Tiger has a reach beyond race and nation, for sure.

The Florida Masochist said...

Much was made of last weekend that more Asian women than American women made the cut. I could point out a few facts.

Like all of Asia having 10 times the population of the US

When's the last time the golf media head counted US vs UK pros at the British Open?

Did you know of those 26 American pros that made the cut, 6 are either part or fully Asian. Pat Hurst and Leta Lindley have Asian mothers, the rest are Christina Kim, Jane Park, Stacy Prammanasudh(With non-apologies to Ron Sirak who thinks Oklahoma is a foreign country. He left Stacy off a list of American winners in a late 2007 GW article. How can you forget a Solheim Cup team member?) and Tiffany Lua. That's 6 of 26 or 23% of the team, if you put naturalized citizen Angela Park in with the Americans, its 7 of 27 over 25%

See Asians are starting to take over US golf too. With Kimberly Kim, Tiffany Joh, Michelle Wie and more in the wings. The percentage is likely to go up. To quote Dr. Smith of Lost in Space 'We're doomed.' ;)