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Published: Saturday, 8/11/2012

Park's coach, and boyfriend, a good match

BY DAVID BRIGGS
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Inbee Park, of South Korea. Inbee Park, of South Korea.
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Shortly after Inbee Park's boyfriend popped the question last year, the South Korean golfer replied with a question of her own.

Will you coach me?

Both said yes, and the engagement has proven a good match -- on and off the course.

Two weeks after winning her first LPGA Tournament in four years, Park is in position to do it again at the Jamie Farr Toledo Classic. The 24-year-old continued her season of redemption on Friday at Highland Meadows, shooting a 6-under 65 through cool and dank conditions to enter the weekend with a two-round score of 134 -- one shot behind leader Chella Choi.

"After winning, that gave me a lot of confidence playing this week," Park said. "I'm feeling a lot more comfortable on the golf course."

Her recent burst of success marked the latest swing in a career that began with so much promise but required a search for hard answers after last season.

Park began her career among the top talents in the lineage of precocious South Korean golfers. Like so many of her countrymen, she found inspiration in the play of Se Ri Pak and the trailblazing native star's 1998 U.S. Women's Open title.

Park moved to Florida when she was 12 and soon followed in her idol's steps, winning the U.S. Open in 2008 at Interlachen in Minnesota. She was the youngest winner in tournament history and anointed the next LPGA superstar.

The enshrinement proved premature. She staggered to the finish last year, finishing no higher than 25th in her last seven tournaments.

With her career cycling downward, Park decided she needed a change in coaches. She did not have to look far.

Park's fiance helped straighten her swing and redirect her results. This season, she moved to seventh on the LPGA money list ($924,241) after winning the Evian Masters in France this month.

Park ultimately wants to be No. 1 in the world, and believes she is back on the right course. If not yet a household name -- Park was greeted by only three autograph-seekers after her final hole -- she is confident that will change.

"I have a long ways to go, but I'm getting closer," Park said.

Contact David Briggs at dbriggs@theblade.com, 419-724-6084 or on Twitter @DBriggsBlade.



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