Wright can relate to pursuit, but not attention

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.”