Power & Grace : LPGA rookie Grace Park shows she can go the distance – Golfer Grace Park – Brief Article
When Grace Park hits it, you know it’s been hit.
She’s been blowing it by everybody at every level–juniors, college and national amateur–since she was 11 years old, and this year she’ll be hitting it by everyone else as a 20-year-old rookie on the LPGA Tour. We’ll see if she can build on her incredible record: the 1998 U.S. Women’s Amateur title, the 1999 NCAA Championship, a tie for eighth as an amateur at the ’99 U.S. Women’s Open and five victories in 10 starts on the Futures Tour late last summer to earn her tour card. I like her chances.
Grace, who’s 5-foot-6 and 125 pounds, has a swing that’s about as natural as they come. Her father, Soo Nam, is a good player who gave her a solid foundation. She has never needed a lot of technical instruction. She came to me about two years ago to develop her short game. We’ve done that, but she hasn’t had to change much about her distinctive full swing. To get ready for her first year on the LPGA Tour, we’ve been working most on course management. With her length, she’s going to be hitting three-quarter shots into a lot of par 4s. If she can’t convert those into birdies, her length is no advantage.
At Old Waverly in last year’s U.S. Open, the 339-yard first hole had a lake near the green. I was caddieing for her, and we didn’t think there was any way that water was in play off the tee, so I handed Grace the driver. When she gets pumped up and ready to play–she was paired with Se Ri Pak and surrounded by a big gallery–she’s got another 30 yards. She killed it down there, even with the water, and averaged 270 off the tee for the tournament, eight yards more than anybody else. In Phoenix, at the Standard Register Ping, she averaged more than 300 yards-and it was almost all carry.
The Park swing: Smooth going back, explosive coming through
She’ll have some fun on tour. She definitely won’t be in awe.
Grace’s swing is a lot like that of some of the game’s other power hitters, especially Tiger Woods’ when he was younger. She takes the club back to the top very smoothly, then cranks it up on the way down. It isn’t a violent move at all–more like the effortless power of Fred Couples and Ernie Els.
I love the way Grace sets up over the ball. She’s comfortable and, in the top row, she’s got her shoulders, hips, knees and feet all stacked neatly in a line.
Grace makes such an aggressive turn away from the ball that she sometimes sways a bit. In this sequence, she’s in great position, on the inside of her right leg. She also struggles when she gets too upright on the backswing and flat on the downswing. You can see a little of that here in the bottom-row photos. But Grace has such good feel about where she is during the swing that she can make an athletic correction for coming in too shallow and still hit decent shots, even when she isn’t striking the ball well. She was making the same mistake before her final Futures Tour event last fall. We worked it out on the range the night before the first round and she won by eight shots.
As Grace moves through the ball, you can really see where the power comes from. In the top-row photos, look how far her hips have turned at impact. Her head is way behind the ball, like Tiger’s or Hank Kuehne’s, and her whole left side is stretched and extended. All power hitters are in this position at impact. As for the frame before, halfway through the downswing, Grace is in perfect position. She’s getting into that squat position common to long hitters like Sam Snead and Tiger.
It’s obvious how much power she generates when you see where she finishes. She can’t stop the club from going that far around, so she just lets it wind its way back around her neck and toward the target again.
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