After winning consecutive individual titles in the Swarthmore Invitational and the Hershey Cup Invitational golf tournaments, it is safe to say that Andy Park ’15 is here to stay. A member of the All-Conference First Team his freshman year, he helped carry the Swarthmore Men’s Golf team to within four strokes of the NCAA Tournament. With such accomplishments so far in his two-year college career, the sophomore golfer looks poised to continue surging.
Park, who is a fan of Tiger Woods and KJ Choi, began playing golf at an early age at a golf course next to his family’s home in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. After moving back to his home country of Korea, where golf is highly respected and played at a level that rivals the States, Park continued to thrive.
“I enjoyed the game from the very beginning,” Park said.
Moving to the United States pushed Park to make a difficult transition in his playing style. “The conditions are completely different here. The grass, the weather, even the golfing culture,” he said. “But the whole point of golf is that you have to adapt. Every course is different.”
Park has also learned to adjust to a different schedule at Swarthmore. “Because of schoolwork, I’m not able to practice as much as I used to back home. Golf is all about muscle memory, so that doesn’t help,” Park said. Head Coach Jim Heller agreed, acknowledging the difficulty of focusing on your play while juggling Swarthmore academics.
Park believes that balancing work and golf has driven him to toughen his mentality, which has helped him pull through tough situations during rounds. “I’ve become mentally stronger to cope with the fact that I’m practicing less,” he says. According to Heller, Park’s competitive spirit has also pushed him to strive for perfection on the course.
Despite his titles, Park and the Garnet failed to advance to the NCAA tournament last year.
“We came so close last year. To miss out by just four strokes was sad,” Park said. “But I believe we have a better shot this year—I feel we’ve really gelled as a team over the past season.”
Heller has been grateful for Park’s willingness to shoulder the responsibilities of leading the team, especially after Paul Weston ‘12 graduated last year. “Last season, both [Weston] and [Park] shot in the 70s, but now different people have to step up and make their rounds count,” he said.
However, Heller is optimistic about the future–particularly about the strong group of up and coming underclassmen. “We have a good bunch of underclassmen who are gaining a lot of experience playing many tournaments, and they’re improving a lot,” Heller said.
In the end, he still looks to Park to lead the team to Nationals. “If Andy plays like he did in Hershey, we have a shot at Nationals for sure,” he said, referring to Park’s unlikely win in the Hershey Cup Invitational when he was forced to borrow a teammate’s clubs when his own set did not arrive on time.
“I guess I got lucky that he had similar irons to my own,” Park said. “But it was special, that’s for sure.”
Heller feels that Park’s game can only get better. “He has the potential to score much lower, if he remains as focused as he has been”, he said. Park shares similar thoughts, and is ready to strengthen his game one shot at a time. “Part of the game is […] being optimistic about the possibilities at each hole,” he said.
With a hopeful future in store for Park, Heller still appreciates how he has carried the team this season. “Without him we would not be in contention,” Heller said, “He’s like the engine that keeps our train running.”