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Balance the key to career, says Park

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Park In-bee finally appears healthy again after two seasons blighted by injury. AFP

SEOUL (Reuters) – With seven major titles and an Olympic gold medal in her trophy cabinet, former world number one Park In-bee says there is really only one thing left for her to learn – how to enjoy tournament golf.

Park finally appears healthy again after two seasons blighted by hand and back injuries, and rubber-stamped her return to form with a five-stroke victory at the LPGA’s Bank of Hope Founders Cup in Phoenix earlier this month.

It was the first win in over a year for the 29-year-old South Korean, who now has 19 LPGA titles to her name and was inducted into the tour’s Hall of Fame in 2016 after dominating the elite women’s circuit from 2013 to 2015.

Park told reporters ahead of the year’s first major, the ANA Inspiration, she had come to the realisation that if she wants to extend her golfing career she is going to have to find a way to avoid letting results dampen her enthusiasm for the game.

“I really wish I could enjoy tournament golf,” she said.

“It’s so hard without the results. No matter how much you tell yourself that now you can … enjoy missing a cut, you can enjoy shooting 77, but it’s just hard to do as a professional golfer.

“I think that’s the case for a lot of people, it’s so hard to enjoy golf when you’re shooting 5-over. That’s something that I have to try to find a way, no matter what the result is.

“But somehow somebody tell me how to, because I don’t know how to.”

She said it had been hard to process the fact that she was not getting the results she once had, and that it had made her question her future in the game.

“Over the years I had some bad times and tough times, and that’s when I wanted to not play golf,” she added.

“But if I want to play golf for a long time from now on, I have to enjoy golf, whether I play good or bad.”

Park has once again broken back into the world’s top 10 and, on a Mission Hills course where thick rough and tricky greens reward straight shooters and slick putters, she could be primed to win her first major since the 2015 British Open.

Park, who had to shut her season down early last year due to back problems, said she had also learned how to get the work/life balance right.

“I got married a little bit earlier than other girls on tour and I started travelling with my husband,” said Park, who married her swing coach Nam Ki-hyeob in 2014.

“I sometimes took time away from golf, and I had to balance it out a little bit.​ “But everything has worked really well, and I was able to enjoy something that’s other than just tour golf.”

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