COLLEGE GOLF: Park looking to capitalize off strong fall season

UTPB golfer Sangha Park has compiled no shortage of awards during his time with the Falcons.

The senior from Cheongju, South Korea, is coming off a dominating fall season in which included earning Lone Star Conference Golfer of the Week honors for two consecutive weeks, breaking three schools records and being ranked the No. 1 golfer in the country.

All of the accolades are nice and all for Park, but he’s focusing on the spring portion of the season as he still has unfinished business to take care of.

During an impressive showing last spring, Park finished fourth at the conference championship tournament and was named the LSC Newcomer of the Year.

However, at the NCAA Regional Tournament, Park came up short of advancing to nationals by two strokes, coming in fourth among non-qualifying individuals with the top tow advancing.

Missing out on nationals last year only served as motivation for Park who went back to work during the summer on what he needed to do to get his scores down.

“This fall season was about showing my game to myself,” Park said. “Like, I proved myself that I can step up quickly. Last year, after regionals, I missed out on the national championship by two strokes. Then, after the regionals, the coaches sat down with me and we looked at what I could do to solve that problem. I worked really hard. It was about distance and ball control. I worked that really hard and it showed exactly what I have been practicing this season.”

He spent last summer training in Fort Worth with former PGA Tour member K.J. Choi.

“I was hitting 800-1,200 balls and sometimes. It was so tough that I almost wanted to quit, but I just woke up the next morning and saw myself get ready for practice again,” Park said.

Park spent a lot of time working on swing speed training.

“I was averaging 15-10 yards short of the average driving distance,” Park said. “So I worked more on the speed training to wake myself up and get used to the speed. I was also really weak when the wind was blowing into me, so I worked taking the spins off my shots. It took me a while to get used to that. Those were the two things I improved on.”

Park’s run of strong performances this past fall began when he took the title at the RJGA South Central Shootout on Sept. 26, shooting 10-under-par.

That performance earned him the Lone Star Conference Golfer of the Week.

There was no let down the following week as Park broke the previous 18-hole school record of 64 by shooting a 63 (-8) in the first round of the Ryan Palmer Foundation Invite.

Park would go on to win the tournament by shooting nine-under-par. He was once again named the LSC Golfer of the Week shortly after.

“It felt good (to be named LSC Golfer of the Week) but I try not to focus on it or be too proud of it because I don’t want to be too cocky about it,” Park said. “Yes, I’m happy about the awards but it’s more of me seeing myself just always working.”

The fall season ended with Park helping the Falcons make history as the team secured its first ever tournament championship at the HPU Sharks Shootout on Oct. 24.

Park would also be named the 2023 SwingU College Player of the Fall.

During the semester break, Park competed at the Thunderbolt Invitational from Dec. 29-31 in Surprise, Ariz., where he finished with a 3-under-par score of 213 after sinking five birdies on the final day of the tournament.

The Falcons will begin the spring season on March 3 at the Las Vegas Desert Classic.

While he’s hoping for more accomplishments this spring, Park said his strong showing this fall means a lot to him.

“First of all, it’s because I love golf,” Park said. “That’s just my dream job that I’m going to have my whole life. That’s kept me focused. Also, my coaches have kept pushing me in a good way and that gives me hope that I can improve way more than right now.”