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Grace Park announces retirement from LPGA
Updated 6/9/2012 11:19 AM ET
PITTSFORD, N.Y. — A funny thing happened along the way to retirement for Grace Park: Her competitors on the LPGA Tour wouldn't let her quit.

At least not until Sunday.

RESULTS: LPGA Championship leaderboard

On the outside of the cut looking in when she finished her second round of the Wegmans LPGA Championship, the field painfully and methodically backed up throughout Friday afternoon.

And, because of everyone else's inability to make birdies or even pars, the 33-year-old Park will somewhat unexpectedly play the weekend.

It's a bonus two days of golf, two extra rounds before the clubs become a hat rack.

On Sunday afternoon, after she attacks Locust Hill Country Club for the final time, she will walk away from the LPGA Tour, which has been her work home since 2000, and from playing golf, something that has consumed her life for 25 years.

"I picked up this game when I was 8 years old and have been competing since I was 10," said the Korean-born Park, who has called Arizona home since she was 14. "I pretty much devoted my whole life to being the greatest golfer I could be. I've never really had any time off."

She wasn't necessarily begging to get on with the next stage of her life now either, but in her mind, she really didn't have a choice.

Amazing Grace became Agonizing Grace. Chronic back problems between 2005 and 2009 derailed her career. Now, she says she's healthy, but she can no longer make birdies with the frequency in which they came eight and 10 years ago.

She knew on Friday that the second round of this LPGA major could very well be the final 18 holes of her life as a pro.

"I had been thinking about it for a while," Park said. "After getting my health back and playing every event last year, I wanted to give it one last chance at becoming one of the top golfers again.

"I worked really hard to get here today, to try to improve my game. The reality was, my game just wasn't there. It just wasn't fun playing."

Trying to find a way to overcome that dissatisfaction wasn't worth it. She's getting married in the fall. It's time to find out what else life has to offer besides fairways, green-side bunkers and hybrid golf clubs.

"My work ethic is still there, my heart, but not seeing the results was difficult so I made the decision," she said.

Park leaves with a terrific career resume. Junior, amateur and collegiate player of the year honors. She won her first of six LPGA tournaments in 2000. She won her only major, the Kraft Nabisco Championship, in 2004. She has finished in the top 10 58 times and earned a little over $5.4 million.

If only she had listened to her body.

"My back got really bad in 2005," she said. "I should have taken care of it back then but I was playing so well back then so I played with the pain and it just became worse and worse. I couldn't practice anymore; I couldn't do anything."

She paid the price over the past few years. Since 2005, she has had just one Top-10 finish, in the Kraft Nabisco in 2010.

This year she has made the cut just three times in eight events. Over the past few weeks she knew it was time to leave, not that knowing retirement was the right thing to do made it any easier.

"I imagined it, I pictured it the last couple weeks," she said. "I was more emotional last week. I knew it, my family knew it. Also, early on this week, I was going out to lunch and dinner with my friends and they were saying, 'This is our last time.' They were crying, I was crying."

On Friday she shot a 6-over-par 43 on her first nine holes, the back nine at Locust Hill. She recovered with a 3-under 32 on the front.

"This last back nine I think I gave it my all," she said. "I started to feel a little butterflies, I started to get tears in my eyes.

"I shot 3 under. I should have gotten emotional more often."

Posted 6/8/2012 3:04 PM ET
Updated 6/9/2012 11:19 AM ET
Grace Park has announced her retirement from the LPGA tour.
By Reed Saxon, AP
Grace Park has announced her retirement from the LPGA tour.

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