Freshman seizes third at state golf tournament

Park poses with girls golf coach Terie Campbell after completing her memorable round.
Provided Photo
Park poses with girls golf coach Terie Campbell after completing her memorable round.

Jennie Park couldn’t believe it. Following a second round 68 at the Legacy Hills Golf Course in Georgetown, the freshman walked away from the state golf championship with a third place medal.

Park’s big moment came off the heels of a disappointing first round score of 76, which put her at 4-over-par. She had missed opportunities for birdie putts and her odds of earning a medal were slim. She bogied the 16th hole in the second round, seemingly sealing her fate. Then, a birdie on the 17th and a clutch eagle putt on the 18th completed the comeback.

“It was really overwhelming because I didn’t expect to shoot that low on the second day,” Park said. “I wasn’t having a good day the first day. The second day was working out for me, but I honestly didn’t expect to place third or at all because I knew that the competition was big at state.”

Although Park didn’t expect the great score, senior teammate Jordan Green knew her work ethic would eventually lead to success.

“Jennie has an unbelievable game, but I think it’s her persona on the course that really makes me respect her,” Green said. “Jennie’s complete humility and compassion for golf is insane. She works so hard and she loves it, but she’s never satisfied. Jennie wants to shoot a 68 every time she walks on the course, and when she does, she won’t brag about it. She’ll just tell us what she wants to work on.”

Park said she got the steely mentality from her father Jack Park. He was the one who initially inspired her after seeing him play.

“I got the urge to try the sport myself so that I could play with my parents and have bonding time with them,” Park said. “They’re always at work and come home late. I tried it out and my dad put me in competitive tournaments. I kept playing and I liked it.”

Park got better and better as time went on. Girls golf coach Terie Campbell knew she was getting a talented player when Park first joined the team.

“She is human, even though for a while I thought she was a robot because she played so well,” Campbell said. “She started to fumble a little at holes near the end of the year and had a hard time. One of the philosophies of golf is that the most important shot is your next shot. I’ve seen her make a triple bogey and turn around and make a birdie. Mentally, she has gotten tougher.”

Even with the pressures of performing well at a young age, Park still manages to exceed expectations. This is due in large part from the support of her father and sophomore teammate Serena Shah.

Park tees off at the first hole on the second day of the tournament.
Provided Photo
Park tees off at the first hole on the second day of the tournament.

“When I wasn’t playing well, {my dad’s} presence would calm me down,” Park said.  “He would give me hand signals that would let me know to step my game or keep doing what I was doing. He made me feel great while I was playing the sport. Serena Shah helps me with my game and keeps me mentally strong. She’s always with me and she’s kind and caring. She looks out for me.”

Campbell enjoys the competition between the two underclassmen and hopes it has sent a message to incoming freshman.

“Jennie placed higher than any of our other kids all year long until the regional tournament, where our sophomore Serena Shah beat her,” Campbell said. “That helped push Jennie. It’s been a friendly rivalry all year, and it’s good to have kids who interchange positions since they can both shoot so low. Hopefully our success will entice incoming freshman to work hard so they can get one of the spots. It’s stressful, but going to state is fun. It’s what you’re striving to do.”

Green believes Park’s success is just the beginning.

“I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that she’s committed to a huge school like OU or UT in the upcoming months,” Green said. “I also wouldn’t be surprised if a few years after she completes college that she’s joined the LPGA tour.”

Park also has a message for young golf players who aspire to have her success one day.

“Focus on your game and don’t goof around,” Park said. “Golf is a mental sport and you can’t do anything with your other teammates that will distract you. Just focus on your individual game and do what you have to do. Never back down even when nothing is working out.”