Originally created 05/18/98

Pak leads all the way in LPGA



ROCKLAND, Del. -- It's difficult to imagine just how good Se Ri Pak will be once she learns more about the game of golf and becomes comfortable with life on the LPGA tour.

This much is certain: the 20-year-old South Korean will find it difficult to top her performance at the LPGA Championship.

Pak completed her wire-to-wire run Sunday with a steady 3-under-par 68 that completely belied her stature as a rookie who took up the game just six years ago.

"It feels great to win a major, my first win in the United States," she said. "Wow. This is a really awesome feeling. I'm really, really happy."

Pak became the first rookie whose first victory on tour was a major tournament since Liselotte Neumann won the U.S. Open 10 years ago. She opened with a birdie, then made 13 straight pars before pulling away.

Pak finished at 11-under 273 to win $195,000. Lisa Hackney, last year's rookie of the year and third-round co-leader, finished tied for second with Donna Andrews, three strokes behind at 276. Hackney closed with a 71, while Andrews had a 69.

Playing in front of a huge gallery, a national television audience and for national pride, Pak treated the pressure as if it is was nothing more than a mere tap-in for par.

"I didn't think about if I would win. I just played my game," she said.

Andrews, the second-leading money winner on the tour this year, indicated that Pak has the tools to make winning a habit.

"I don't know a lot about her, but I played with her once and I know she has a good all-around game," Andrews said. "She doesn't let a lot bother her."

Karie Webb shot a 66 to close at seven under, tied with Wendy Ward, who had a 70. Defending champion Chris Johnson, Emilee Klein and Meg Mallon tied for sixth at 278.

Pak was tied for the lead with Hackney with six holes to play. Hackney fell off the pace when she bogeyed 13 after hitting her tee shot on the par-3 into the rough.

Pak maintained the lead with a par on 14 by hitting her approach from the cart path within 15 feet of the pin, then added to it with a birdie on 15 with her best putt of the day, a 20-footer.

Pak followed that by using only two shots to reach the green on the par-5 16th before easily converting a birdie.

"That sealed it for her," said Hackney, adding, "as long as she enjoys being out there -- and it looks like she does -- she'll be a strong player for a long time."

The victory made Pak a hero in South Korea, where the event was televised live. Pak said the former president of the country called her before the round, but she respectfully said she would call him back later.

Hackney got within a stroke of the lead with a 20-foot birdie putt on No. 10, then drew even on 11 when her approach on the par-5 landed within four inches of the pin. The birdie set up a seven-hole showdown between two of the tour's youngest stars, but last year's rookie of the year was no match for the top contender to win the award in 1998.

Pak opened the round with her first birdie in four tries on the par-4 1st hole to take sole possession of the lead at nine under. Hackney got even with a birdie on 3, but a bogey on the next hole dropped her into a second-place tie with Andrews, who used birdies on Nos. 3 and 5 to move to eight under.

Andrews then had a two-hole lapse that cost her a shot at the title. She bogeyed 6 and took a double-bogey on 7 to fall four strokes off the lead.

Pak, meanwhile, continued to make pars and stretched her lead to two shots when Hackney bogeyed the 391-yard 4th hole for a second straight day.