The golf coach resorted to scolding his prized pupil, a putting lesson was finally learned, and on Sunday a beaming Chun In-gee was hugging the silver trophy as U.S. Women’s Open champion.
It was an uncharacteristic moment in the relationship between 20-year-old Chun and Park Won, who often preaches having fun. But it was an important step in the building of South Korea’s latest major winner.
“Her putting was the only weak point up until the last ANA Inspiration,” Park told Reuters about April’s first major of the year as he followed Chun outside the ropes at the start of Sunday’s final round at Lancaster Country Club.
“She had some difficulty changing the style of her backswing on her putting. She missed all the opportunities at the ANA Inspiration,” he said about her one-over total that left her tied for 41st, 10 shots behind winner Brittany Lincicome.
“That was the only time that I pretended to be mad at her,” the coach said.
“And she cried a little bit, and it worked. That was when she decided to change. That’s the only time I used (that tactic) since I met her four and a half years ago.”
Despite her reluctance, she made the change and it started clicking, said Park.
“When she saw the results she was happy about it and she asked me to get mad when she really needs to listen,” he said with a gentle chuckle.
The putting change and a recent alteration in her backswing to turn her decisive draw into a slight right-to-left shape, worked wonders.
“Her shot-making ability has been improving dramatically,” he said about the backswing change. “She can move the ball right to left and left to right, and she is having a lot of fun with that.”
The bubbly Chun, a mathematics whiz kid who fell in love with golf after being introduced to it by her father, put it all together and notched three wins on the Korean LPGA tour and another on the Japan Tour before claiming the U.S. Open crown.
Park, who holds a Ph.D. in environmental management from Michigan State and also works as a TV golf commentator, said Chun has reached about 90 percent of her potential but already possesses the most important ingredient for success in golf.
“At this level, it’s about enjoyment, and she already has that feeling about golf,” he said.
“Today’s objective of the round is enjoying, even the misses,” he said as she embarked on what would be a career defining round.
“Because something good can come out of misses and be carried on to the next hole.”