By Yoo Jee-ho
RIO DE JANEIRO, Aug. 20 (Yonhap) -- The World Golf Hall of Famer Pak Se-ri has enjoyed more than her share of memorable moments in her decorated career, but the South Korean women's Olympic coach said Saturday nothing tops the gold medal won by one of her players in Rio de Janeiro.
Pak was reduced to tears after Park In-bee clinched the gold medal here at 16-under 268, the first Olympic women's golf title awarded in 116 years.
"This is the best," Pak told reporters. "I got so emotional when In-bee made the last putt. There was a lot of pressure on the whole team, and I am so thankful that they've done such a great job here."
Pak, 38, guided four of the world's top-10 players in Rio: Park (No. 5), Kim Sei-young (No. 6), Chun In-gee (No. 8) and Yang Hee-young (No. 9). Yang was the second-best South Korean, as she finished tied for fourth at nine-under. Chun was four shots behind in a tie for 13th, while Kim tied for 25th at one-under.
Pak, who plans to retire from competitive golf after this season, said she might have tried to make the Olympic team five or six years ago, but her perspective has changed.
South Korean Olympic women's golf coach Pak Se-ri (R) sheds tears while standing with her player, Kim Sei-young, after Park In-bee won the gold medal at the Rio de Janeiro Summer Games on Aug. 20, 2016. (Yonhap)
"I just enjoy the view from outside the ropes now," she said. "I think I want to learn as much as I can from here."
Pak has often spoken about the weight of expectations placed on her players, given the history of the country's dominance on the LPGA Tour. Pak is largely credited with inspiring a whole generation of girls to pick up golf, and Park, at 28, is the most successful player of the group collectively known as "Se-ri's Kids."
"I am sure all four of them entered the final round under a lot of pressure," she said. "And I want to thank them for playing so hard. I've never doubted their ability to play in these circumstances."
Pak said serving as a coach in any capacity for the first time has taught her some important lessons.
"Thanks to these players, I have a clear sense of where I should go in the future," Pak said. "The joy I've felt as a player is completely different than the one I am feeling now. As a player, I only thought about winning for myself, but it wasn't the case this time."
Though there was no team event in Rio, Pak's friendly, down-to-earth style of leadership helped bring the four players closer. The likes of Park and Yang started playing the game when Pak was at the peak of her power, but instead of towering over the young players, Pak played the role of a mother and an older sister.
"Just having her around was a huge help," Yang said. "She prepared breakfasts for us every day. She always packed snacks for us so we wouldn't play hungry."
Pak said she was only trying to ensure the players would feel comfortable and stay focused on the competition alone.
"To ensure they wouldn't feel too much pressure to win medals, I had to reach out to them and make myself approachable," she said. "We've had a great time. We traded jokes and we relied on each other."
Pak said she never gave the players much of a pep talk, other than to say, "Do your best."
"I kept telling them to just do their best and avoid getting hurt," the coach added. "And I thank them for doing just that, and it led to great results."