It was supposed to be a formality. Barring injury, long-term illness or a family member in some form of distress, Monday was the day that all the players who qualified for the UL International Crown (to be played in Incheon, South Korea October 4 – 7) were to confirm their availability. A simple yes was expected from all.
But the No.1 player in the world threw a hard-diving knuckleball into the day when she decided to pass on playing in her home country. Inbee Park, who played on the 2014 UL International Crown team and won the gold medal for Korea in the Rio Olympic Games in 2016, announced that she would not play.
“It was my pleasure and honor to participate in the first UL International Crown in 2014 and at the 2016 Olympics,” Park said. “And I cannot describe in one word how amazing the atmosphere was to compete as a representative of my country. There are so many gifted and talented players in Korea and I thought it would be great if one of the other players was given the chance to experience the 2018 UL International Crown.”
As magnanimous as that sounded, two of players next in line took a pass as well. Hye Jin Choi and Jin Young Ko (the leading candidate for Rolex Louise Suggs Rookie of the Year) declined to play because of previous commitments to play in a Korean LPGA major championship that same week.
That left the spot open for two-time major champion In Gee Chun, who also represented Korea at the UL International Crown in Chicago in 2016.
“Assuming I would not be qualified to play at the UL International Crown, I had already verbally committed to play at the HiteJinro Championship, a Korean LPGA major tournament,” Chun said. “I have postponed this to a future date and decided to play at the UL International Crown this year. I am going to do my best to have myself ready and make contributions to Team Korea and to the success of the UL International Crown. I am very grateful to UL and LPGA for this opportunity, and especially to HiteJinro for supporting my decision.”
This is a big deal. Crowds at Jack Nicklaus Golf Course for these matches are expected to dwarf every major golf event and the whole of Korea will be following the action. Women’s golf is the Koreans’ NFL. For Park to be the only qualifying player to bow out is extraordinary.
I have a feeling we’ll learn more about this decision in the weeks ahead.