ST. ANDREWS, SCOTLAND (AP) - Mickey Wright can appreciate Inbee Park’s pursuit of a fourth straight major this year at the Women’s British Open.
She just can’t relate to all the attention over a potential Grand Slam.
“One big difference in golf now and then _ and this was well before Title IX _ is women’s golf did not get a lot of hoopla,” the 78-year-old Wright told The Associated Press from her Florida home Wednesday. “There was not a lot of hoopla around winning four majors at the same time. I didn’t have that kind of pressure. It was internal pressure.”
Park begins her bid Thursday at St. Andrews to become the first golfer to win four professional majors in the same season.
Wright is the only LPGA Tour player to hold all four majors at the same time, which she achieved over two seasons _ the U.S. Women’s Open and LPGA Championship in 1961, and the Titleholders and Western Open in 1962. Her bid for the calendar Grand Slam in `62 ended on a tough course and high wind in Myrtle Beach, S.C. at the Women’s Open.
Her record makes a strong argument as the greatest female golfer ever _ 13 majors over an eight-year span and 82 career wins on the LPGA.
She would love to see Park join her _ and Tiger Woods _ in the record book. Woods also held all four professional majors over two seasons in 2000-01.
“I watch her when they put her on television,” Wright said. “She certainly is an unflappable young lady. She’s probably the best putter I’ve ever seen. And I’ve seen some good ones. I’m hoping she can pull it off, and then win the fifth one in France. No one will ever come close to that unless the LPGA adds a sixth major.”
The LPGA, which doesn’t have the history or the financial support of men’s golf, added the Evian Championship in France as a fifth major this year. That has led to some debate whether Park will have the Grand Slam if she wins at St. Andrews because one more major remains in September.
“What she has already done is absolutely fantastic,” Wright said. “I know she’d be satisfied even if she doesn’t win this week. I just hope people leave her alone.”
That’s one aspect Wright knows all too well.
Wright, who had a swing Ben Hogan once said was the best he ever saw, carried the LPGA Tour in its early days and was under intense pressure to play _ and win _ to appease sponsors. She won 68 tournaments in the 1960s, including 44 events in a four-year span. For seven straight years, she won at least one major, including the four straight in 1961-62 and her attempt at a calendar Grand Slam stopped short in 1962.
“There was no talk about a Grand Slam,” Wright said. “We were trying to exist. It was a different time. You have to remember, we were the pioneers. We were trying to keep the tour going.”
What impresses Wright the most about Park is her calm demeanor and her putting stroke, considered among the best in women’s golf. What amazes her is that Park is winning all the majors even though she doesn’t overpower golf courses with length or overwhelm the competition with superior ball-striking. The 25-year-old South Korean doesn’t have a presence that Annika Sorenstam had during her great run, or Nancy Lopez in the 1970s, or that Wright had for nearly all of her career.
“She has yet to prove that presence and that takes time,” Wright said. “This is a phenomenal year, not a career.”