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Swinging with Seoul

Junior golfer Chaewon Park, who was born in Seoul, has seen much success in the United States and at LBSU.

Chaweon+Park+hit+balls+at+the+driving+range+of+the+Country+Club+of+Charleston+during+the+U.S.+Women%E2%80%99s+Amateur+Golf+Tournament.%0A
Chaweon Park hit balls at the driving range of the Country Club of Charleston during the U.S. Women’s Amateur Golf Tournament.

Chaweon Park hit balls at the driving range of the Country Club of Charleston during the U.S. Women’s Amateur Golf Tournament.

Chaweon Park hit balls at the driving range of the Country Club of Charleston during the U.S. Women’s Amateur Golf Tournament.

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Chaewon Park moved from Seoul, South Korea to San Pedro, Calif. when she was seven years old. She doesn’t remember much about moving, but she does know that golf was not her main interest while she was in Korea.

Fast forward to the present day. Park, a junior on the Long Beach State women’s golf team, is now one the best amateur      female golfers in America.

Growing up in Seoul is different. Park said it was like New York City: busy with a lot of people in the streets.
Golf is a huge sport in Korea, but it is very expensive to play. Park said the United States offers more access to courses, and the weather allows golfers to have more playing time.

“I came [to the United States], and my dad showed me a little bit of golf, but I was never interested in it,” Park said. “Freshman year of high school, that’s when I really started getting into it.”

Park was a four-year letter winner at Torrance High School, and her women’s golf team won four consecutive Ocean League Championships. During her playing career in high school, Park was surrounded by some great talent that helped her shape her game.

“I was fortunate enough to play with players that are actually professional golfers right now, like Jenny Shin and Jane Rah,” Park said. Another of her teammates from Torrance, Demi Runas, is playing in the Qualifying School tournament to join the LPGA.

Park’s teammates aren’t the only Torrance alumni now playing golf on a national stage. This summer Park qualified for the U.S Women’s Amateur Golf Tournament in Charleston, S.C. The tournament is the premiere event in the country for female amateur golfers.

“I got to caddy for her at the amateur in South Carolina, which was a great blessing on my part. I felt really happy to be able to do that,” LBSU women’s golf coach Joey Cerulle said. “We talked about consistency and keeping her emotions in check; she wanted to stay very level headed as far as ups and downs.”

After advancing through sectional qualifying, Park played in the first two rounds of the U.S. Amateur at Country Club of Charleston. She ended stroke play with a score of 12 over par and failed to advance to match play by just four strokes. She finished in a tie for 96th out of 156.

Park said the tournament was unlike any she’s ever played in.

“I felt almost like a tourist,” Park said. “It was just very new, and there was media everywhere, and it really hit me because it was the biggest national tournament for amateurs. I was in awe of everything. It felt like I was just watching everything around me, and it was mesmerizing.”

Cerulle said Park is the type of player who knows when it’s time to play and when it’s time to work.

“She brings a work ethic on the team that is unmatched by anybody else,” Cerulle said. “She deserved to be out there with the best players world.”

Park credits her coaches at LBSU for improving her game to what it is now. The coaches helped her take a different approach mentally that has led to her being more aware while she’s on the golf course.

“She has become a staple on our team” Cerulle said.

Cerulle described Park as a “diamond in the rough” when recruiting her. Park has seen massive improvement over her two years at LBSU, as she has shaved an entire stroke off her average. She also finished in a tie for fifth at last year’s Big West Conference Championship, compared to tying for 19th in her freshman year.

Even when she’s not playing golf, Park is an active participant in other sports. Soccer and basketball have always been a personal favorite of Park’s, but she realized in her sophomore year of high school that she had a future in golf.

Park, who plays left-handed, said one of her favorite professional golfers is well-known lefty Phil Mickelson. Park said she wants to be a successful pro just like Mickelson has been throughout his career.

Some of Park’s team goals this season are to win the Big West and to reach NCAA regionals. Cerulle said as a junior, Park is ready to win some individual tournaments because she came so close many times last season.

“Luckily Joey [Cerulle] gave me an opportunity to be part of the Cal State Long Beach team,” Park said.

Park has taken advantage of the chance, and her coach believes that she is destined for great things.

“I think she wants to bring home the hardware now,” Cerulle said. “She is hoping to get back to the winning ways that she is used to.”

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