The LPGA brought together the past, the present and the future of the LPGA and women’s golf to celebrate the goals, objectives and themes of the RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup. Commissioner Whan joined LPGA Founder Marilynn Smith, six-time winner LPGA tour winner Grace Park, LPGA Tour rookie Sara Brown and LPGA-USGA Girls Golf participant Hanna Atkins for a special Media Day at the JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort and Spa on Tuesday.
Commissioner Whan made his second trip to Phoenix in the last week, arriving in the wee hours of the morning to get ready for Media Day. He addressed the guests on his vision for the RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup, his respect for the LPGA Founders and the impact that Girls Golf has on young women and the game.
“I really think and know we're doing something truly unique – not only in golf – but in sport.” Whan said. “This tournament is about respecting the philosophy that they (LPGA Founders) laid down. Quite frankly, we're going to try consistently to embody that philosophy. This is an event about remembering the past, but more importantly, paying it forward to the future, just like they did for us.”
Rick Ryan, Director of Marketing for RR Donnelley, also made the trip to Phoenix. RR Donnelley has increased its commitment to the LPGA in a big way, growing from “Official Print Provider of the LPGA” to title sponsor and partner for this one-of-a-kind event.
“As Mike said, we are an old company, 150 years old almost. We have never done anything like this in our history. We were a very unlikely candidate to be a title sponsor. We have not supported any other professional league, men's, women's. In this particular event, saluting the founders and supporting the current players and empowering the future players is everything that we're about as a company.”
LPGA Founder Marilynn Smith captivated the media and guests with her stories of the early days of the LPGA. Smith also spoke of her passion for the event.
“What an awesome concept this was,” Smith said. “One thing that sets it apart when I was speaking to the Commissioner on the phone a couple months ago, he said that the LPGA-USGA Girls Golf, about 6,500 girls started the game of golf a year. With this program, giving the money to charity to the LPGA-USGA Girls Golf, he's hoping that 20,000 young women will take up the game. I think that's very unique, that there's something like this in any sporting organization. So it kind of sets the LPGA, the standard is up there. I'm very proud you have this tournament.”
Grace Park, who had the shortest commute to the press conference from her home in Phoenix, will return to LPGA Tour action at the RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup.
“I couldn't miss a tournament in Phoenix. It's my hometown. This is where I learned to play golf. This is where I accomplished my whole career. I couldn't possibly miss this tournament. I came back. I'm hoping to play this event, play well, play full season and play healthy.”
LPGA Tour rookie Sara Brown, who will play for the Stand Up and Play Foundation, gave the Phoenix media the full glimpse of her effervescent personality with stories of her Big Break appearances. Brown is looking forward to starting the LPGA season, and as a young player, already has a good sense for the history of the game and the Founders.
“I've been playing golf since I was eight. It's always been a dream to be on the LPGA. I've seen her (Grace Park) play tons of times. So to meet her, hear about Marilynn, you hear about the excitement of the LPGA, I'm happy and very ready to get going. To have our first tournament be in Phoenix, close to my home, I'm excited. The fact that it's for charity, you have to give back. You have to know where you came from, and I will never forget that. I'm just excited to get out here and play.”