World No. 1 golfer Park In-bee has been awarded the Maengho Medal, the second highest Order of Sports Merit, in recognition of her outstanding sporting achievement.
Kim Jong, Vice Minister of Culture, Sports, and Tourism, presented her with the award at a ceremony held at the National Museum of Korean Contemporary History in Seoul on Tuesday.
"This is the most precious award I've ever received. I will keep working hard," said Park. By winning the first three majors of the season and collecting six wins on the U.S. LPGA Tour last year, she became the first Korean golfer to win the LPGA's Rolex Player of the Year award and money title for two straight years.
Golfers who previously received the award include Pak Se-ri, Kim Mi-hyun, Choi Kyung-ju, Park Ji-eun and Yang Yong-eun.
Park kept her grip on the top spot of the women's world golf rankings for the 48th week when they were updated Tuesday. Park, who recently won the European Tour-sanctioned World Ladies Championship in Hainan, China, had 10.28 ranking points, followed by Suzann Pettersen of Norway with 9.36 points, Stacy Lewis of the U.S. with 8.25, Lydia Ko with 7.60 and Ryu So-yeon with 6.05.
Park left for the U.S. after receiving the medal. Starting with the Founders Cup, which opens in Phoenix, Arizona on March 20, she will compete in more LPGA Tour events, staying there until August.
"Compared to the first half of last year, it was hard for me to keep a good record in the second six months as I wasn't able to stay in good form. I worked hard on increasing my physical strength during winter training, so I feel more comfortable than when I started last season," said Park.
"I think I'm fully warmed up for the LPGA Tour events in the U.S., so I can expect good results," she said.
Park said her goals for this year include winning the Women's British Open and the Evian Championship, the latter coming just before she gets married to her swing coach.