Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia Pre-tournament notes and interviews

Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia 2011 Champion Na Yeon Choi at Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club

Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia
Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club- East Course
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Pre-tournament Notes and Interviews
October 10, 2012

 

Fan affair: Rolex Rankings No. 1 Yani Tseng (@YaniTseng) has had her fair share of large galleries and giant followings throughout her career, but Tseng says it’s when she comes over to Asia that she receives an overwhelming welcome.

“I always look forward to playing in Asian tournaments because it's more of my hometown,” said Tseng. “I always have a few more fans in Asia.  It's always fun to play in front of the crowd.”

Tseng said the Malaysian fans have embraced her and recalls major support through her final-round charge at last year’s event.

“I have good memories of here,” said Tseng. “I was in a fight to the end.  I didn't play well the first couple of days, but I finished well in the end.  I always wish for the next level, so I work hard at this tournament, and I played the course today and I still love it.  I'm just going to out and have fun and have another challenge.”

Chipping away: Rolex Rankings No. 2 Stacy Lewis (@Stacy_Lewis) has grown comfortable with her star status due to her breakout year in 2012. The Woodlands, Texas native knows she’s no longer playing under the radar and took it as a compliment when local media named her the favorite to win this week.

“Well, it's nice to be ranked as one of the favorites, I guess, but you've also got a target on your back,” said Lewis. “I played really well this year and just been really consistent.  I think that's been the best part for me.  Coming off a win, I was glad to have a couple weeks off.  But I feel really relaxed and ready to go for these next couple weeks in Asia.”

Lewis said she’s comfortable on the East Course at Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club and hopes to improve on her T5 finish a year ago.

“I think it's really a ball-striker's course,” said Lewis. “If you look at the people that have won and have played well, they're people that are pretty high up on fairways and greens in regulation.  So I think that's just the key to this golf course.” 

Season highlight: Kuala Lumpur native and Symetra Tour professional Jean Chua (@Jeanchuagolf) will be competing in the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia for the third-consecutive year and could not hide her excitement to be back in her hometown to compete. Chua is one of four Malaysian players in the field this week and is by far the most experienced. The second-pro said there is always the pressure of coming back and performing in front of the home crowd.

“Being one of the younger ones and representing Malaysia, you do definitely have a lot of pressure,” said Chua. “People expect you to perform well.  But you've really got to try to just focus and play your own game.  Just go out there and do what I've been doing all year.  I should be fine, actually.”

Chua received a sponsor exemption and said she will build off a successful season she had on the LPGA’s developmental tour. She finished 15th on the season-ending money list and earned herself a spot in the final stage of LPGA Qualifying.

“This event is always the highlight,” said Chua. “Even though Symetra is my main career and takes me further, this is always the highlight because I get to come home, play in front of my family.  It's my biggest event for the year, and it's a great honor to be able to play in front of my parents and have them watch what I do.”

Taking the heat: Players are attempting to adjust to the elevated temperatures and humidity this week in Malaysia. Mid to high 90’s has been the norm with high humidity. Thunderstorms plagued both the morning and afternoon pro-am waves on Wednesday. Lewis said some extra preparations will be essential for getting through rounds.

“It's tough,” said Lewis. “I was in Florida last week, and it was pretty hot, so maybe that'll help me out a little bit.  We usually go through a couple gloves a round.  You sweat a ton, so it's really almost the night before I think you're drinking a lot of water all week. Just trying to really take care of yourself.” 

Lewis recognizes the challenges Mother Nature bestows on the players, but says they are not the group that gets the worst of conditions.

“Our caddies I think have the harder job sometimes than we do, so it's just keeping your caddie in it, making sure he's drinking water, and hopefully he'll get through the week all right.”

Quotable… “’Just remember,’ Lorena's brother always used to tell me, ‘whatever you do, just make sure you make a difference, and to see that in real life was a life experience.’” –Suzann Pettersen (@suzannpettersen) on her recent trip to Mozambique with the charity Right to Play.

Tweet of the Day: Goes to Rolex Rankings No. 22 Lexi Thompson who took part in the junior clinic held at Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club on Wednesday.

“With two juniors at the Sime Darby on Kuala Lumpur country club :)” --@Lexi

 

Yani Tseng, Rolex Rankings No. 1
Stacy Lewis, Rolex Rankings No. 2
Shanshan Feng, Rolex Rankings No. 3
Na Yeon Choi, Rolex Rankings No. 4
Jiyai Shin, Rolex Rankings No. 5
Ai Miyazato, Rolex Rankings No. 7
Suzann Pettersen, Rolex Rankings No. 8
Robert Bird, General Manager, KLGCC
Jean Chua, Symetra Tour professional

 

Q. Na Yeon, congratulations on your U.S. Open win. Has the win built more pressure for you now that have a major championship?
NA YEON CHOI
:  After I won the U.S. Open, I had some pressure myself, from fans.  They expect me to play well like U.S. Open.  Sometimes I had a lot of pressure, but I tried to play golf, have fun and just try to stay playing.

Q.  You must have many happy memories of this tournament, especially last year at the end.
NA YEON CHOI:
  Yeah, I have many good memories from here, especially all the sponsors and Malaysian fans and all the crowd, and also I met Kelly Tan, she was the low amateur last year.  After the ceremony on Sunday, she came to me and she invite me for dinner and I had dinner with her, with her family, and I think we talked about the golf, and I think we had a great time.  I still keep in touch with her.  She is very nice, and I hope to play well.

Q.  You must have some pretty good memories of last year.  When you come to a place where you play so well how does it feel?
YANI TSENG:
  I always look forward to playing in Asian tournaments because it's kind of my hometown, my hometown of Taiwan.  I always have a few more fans in Asia.  It's always fun to play in front of the crowd.  I have a good memory here last year, too.  I was in a fight to the end.  I didn't play well the first couple of days, but I finished well the end.  I always wished hard to the next level, so I work hard at this tournament, and I played the course today and I still love it.  I'm just going to go there and have fun and have another challenge.

Q.  Stacy, some of the local magazines here ranked you as one of the favorites.  What do you have to say?
STACY LEWIS:
  Well, it's nice to be ranked as one of the favorites, I guess, but you've also got a target on your back.  I played really well this year and just been really consistent.  I think that's been the best part for me.  Coming off a win, I was glad to have a couple weeks off.  But I feel really relaxed and ready to go for these next couple weeks in Asia.

Q.  Shanshan, first, congratulations, first player from China to win an event and a major to boot.  We have watched the Korean invasion over the years, the strength of Korea, and a lot of that would have to do with the inspiration of Se Ri.  What has your win done your China?
SHANSHAN FENG:
  It's kind of a tough question.  Golf in China now, it's gotten more and more popular, but it's still just the beginning of it.  You know, everybody saw what Na Li's winning at the French Open helped tennis to grow.  I'm not trying to compare myself with Na Li, but of course she's like my idol.  I want to be like her, that can help Chinese golf to move on, and I'll just do all I can to help it.

Yeah, I was born in Guangzhou, China, and back then, 14 years ago when I was 10, I started -- 13 years ago, sorry, I started golf when I was 10, and like you said, it was because my father works for the Golf Association in Guangzhou, and it started like a junior team, so that was why I started golf.

It's actually funny, though, why I started golf was because when I was little, I was very ill, like I was really white and like weak, and he finally was like, I think you need some kind of a sport to help you be healthier.  So I tried swimming, I tried tennis, and both didn't work.  So I tried golf, and I see this is my sport.  So I kept going.  For sure at the end of the evening I couldn't really find too many good coaches in China, and my dad really helped a lot, and the China Golf Association gave me many chances to play overseas, and that is how I met Yani, when we were like 13 or 14.  And the first time I met her, that was my first time to play a tournament in America, and she was the defending champion.  So it started, she was a lot ahead.

We are good friends, and also she's my target (laughter).  I think we got a little closer, but I'm still chasing her.

Q.  Suzann, maybe one to you.  You've just had a trip to Mozambique.  Maybe you can tell us a bit about that, and also the fact that the LPGA is about a lot more than just playing golf now, it's also about giving back to the community, as well.
SUZANN PETTERSEN:
  Absolutely.  I just came off probably the week of my life last week.  I went down to Mozambique with the charity that I'm an ambassador for, the Right to Play, which is an organization that's trying to give kids around the world an opportunity to learn about life, health, values in health through activities and sports.  And to see the programs in real life and see that they're working and spending time with the kids was very emotional.  You almost just want to start crying when you see the kids, but then they smile back at you and they're so happy and they're full of spirit.  It's very hard to describe in words the feelings and kind of what goes through your mind.

But to see that you can actually help make a difference is what kind of for me was very special, to see the programs.  I mean, you can do a little charity work, but if you never get to see and experience it in real life, sometimes it's actually hard to understand the impact it can do.  So to see the kids and how they progress, and to see how the teachers and coaches kind of deal with the kids on a daily basis and literally try to teach them what we take for granted, stuff in life, sicknesses, diseases.  So that was very special.  I mean, I'm -- it wasn't the best timing for it for me, but when I finally got there, it was so worth it, and I'm so glad I got to experience it, and I'm definitely going back there some other time.

But I think all the players here, we all represent different charities, we all support each other.  I had my own tournament back in August, we raised a lot of money for this cause.  Yani and Lorena and Annika helped me out for that tournament.

So I think we're all involved in some way, and for us to be able to be so fortunate to do what we do for a living, I think we all feel some responsibility to try to give back, and we all have our different attachments to different causes, but I think overall the work that's done behind the scenes from pretty much all players is phenomenal.

Just remember Lorena's brother always used to tell me, whatever you do, just make sure you make a difference, and to see that in real life was a life experience.

Q.  You've been real quiet for the last 12 months, but the British Open, phenomenal win and must be a fantastic confidence booster for you.
JIYAI SHIN:
  After British win, it changed a lot, actually.  I went back to Korea, so many people, they have a warm welcome.  Last 12 months I had a lot of injury.  Last year my back wasn't good, and this year my hand wasn't good.

After that surgery when I played, I was really happy to play because I was so miss about playing, I'm missing and hungry about the competition with Yani and all the players.  I am really happy to get to here and I'm still really enjoying the competition.  I'm really happy for the competition this week and next time at the tournament.

Q.  So maybe you can share your experience of playing on the LPGA for the third year in a row and what you expect for the week.
AI MIYAZATO: 
Yes, I've seen so many Japanese fans out there every single year, and that makes me really happy.  Japanese people are everywhere in the world right now, but now the LPGA has so many tournaments all over the world, and it's nice to see the Japanese people out there.  Wherever you are, you can see the Japanese fans, that means a lot to me.

But like I said, I've been playing this tournament three years in a row, and the results are not very good so far.  But I still have Japanese fans, and also the local fans, too, they're always calling me Miyazato-san in Japanese, and it just makes me relaxed and happy, and I have great memories out here, and hopefully this year it's going to be the new year and new tournament, and the results will follow.

Q.  I'd just like to ask Stacy, did you play the course yesterday or this week?
STACY LEWIS:
  I haven't been out to the course yet this week.  I've heard, though, it's similar to the last few years.  It's a course, I think you've got to hit it straight on, and like any tournament, you've got to make a bunch of putts.  One of the hardest challenges this week I think is the heat.  I think everybody would agree with that.

This golf course just sets up for a lot of birdies and for a good battle down the stretch.

Q.  When you talk about the heat, a couple people earlier were asking how do the players cope in such humid conditions?  Could you share with us, how much do you drink out on the golf course in these conditions?  And how many gloves do you go through?  The golf course is hard enough already, let alone the humidity that you have to endure, as well.
STACY LEWIS: 
Yeah, it's tough.  I was in Florida last week, and it was pretty hot, so maybe that'll help me out a little bit.  We usually go through a couple gloves a round.  You sweat a ton, so it's really almost the night before I think you're drinking a lot of water all week, just trying to really take care of yourself.  Our caddies I think have the harder job sometimes than we do, so it's just keeping your caddie in it, making sure he's drinking water, and hopefully he'll get through the week all right.

Q.  Mr. Bird, from the club's perspective, this is the No. 1 course in Malaysia, but what does an event like this do for the club?
ROBERT BIRD:
  Well, I think it obviously gives us great exposure to a global audience through the various sports channels.  I think it gives our members great pride in the club.  It's an opportunity for us to show off the courses, the club's facilities.  From the staff point of view, the club, it's wonderful, the pride that they take in staging and hosting this event.  It's something that they really get revved up for each year.  So I think we benefit from it at various levels, and we're very happy to have that.

Q.  Suzann, I might just ask you, it's not that long ago we saw a fantastic rivalry between the internationals and the Asian players in the Lexus Cup.  Asian players hold all four majors now.  Do you think that might add a little bit of spark to the rivalry, you might come after those guys?
SUZANN PETTERSEN:
  Well, I think it just showcases how global our Tour has become, obviously, that we have several Asian players on Tour.  I mean, I don't know, I think we have 40, 50 Koreans on Tour.  They are fantastic all through their race.  Obviously Se Ri was a hero to most of them growing up, and I think they're all now themselves idols for young kids growing up.  I think it's fantastic to see girls from China, Japan, Korea.  I mean, it's just so well represented.  I feel like the Americans and us Europeans have to step it up a little bit if we're going to stay in the chase down the road.

But I think it's just a good representation of where we're at and the state of the Tour.

Q.  Speaking of stepping it up a little bit, Stacy, you are right up there for Player of the Year this year.  You will become the first American if you can pull it off in two decades to win Player of the Year, so it shows how international it's become.  How important is that to you?
STACY LEWIS
:  I mean, it's very important to me.  That's kind of been my No. 1 goal since the middle of the year.  I think as a Tour, for the Americans, I think we need someone to win Player of the Year.  It's been since 1994, which is pretty hard to believe.  But if you look at the runs that Annika and Lorena went on, and Yani, I mean, you can kind of believe it.  I mean, it's really foreign for me.  That's why I'm over here playing every week and staying busy at the end of the year.  I just have to keep playing good and hopefully just keep chipping away at it.

JEAN CHUA, Symetra Tour professional

THE MODERATOR:  We'd like to welcome Jean Chua into the interview room.  Thanks for joining us.  Welcome home.  This is your third year playing in this event.  Just talk about what it means to come back and the idea of playing in front of your home crowd.  Obviously it must be an awfully nice week for you.

JEAN CHUA:  Coming home definitely means a lot to me.  It's my third year, but still, it's never the same playing in front of my country, my family, my friends.  It's amazing, and I've been away all year.  I had a great year, so I'm actually ready to come home and play this week.

THE MODERATOR:  Talk about playing in this event the past two years, being one of the younger players, one of the Malaysian players, having a lot of that pressure.  You've played two years on the Symetra Tour.  Talk about the experience of being a pro and coming into this event this year instead of the past two years.

JEAN CHUA:  It's definitely a big difference.  Playing with the top 60 in the world, the level is unbelievable.  It's competitive.  Being one of the younger ones and representing Malaysia, you do definitely have a lot of pressure.  People expect you to perform well.  But you've really got to try to just focus and play your own game.  Just go out there and do what I've been doing all year.  I should be fine, actually.

THE MODERATOR:  And talking about your season on the Symetra Tour, solid year, finished 15th on the Money List, four top 10s, a lot of very, very solid performances.  Talk about your season this year and kind of what you hope to work off of that coming into this event this week.

JEAN CHUA:  I started off the year pretty strong.  Like Meghan said, I had a great year.  It was my first full year on Symetra.  I only played half last year, partial, and had a great year, great experience.  Was top 10 most of the year, had a disappointing finish, but still, all my stats and everything has improved.  So I had a really good year, and I'm really glad where I finished.  I've still got a full exempt into final stage so I can get a second try for Q-school there.  Still not giving up, so I am going to try again.

But the experience is just great.

THE MODERATOR:  Speak about Sime Darby's support for young Malaysian players.  They talked about the developmental program that they set up here and obviously having this event here, trying to give as many opportunities to young Malaysian players.  How important is that and how do you see that playing a role in developing Malaysian women's golf?

JEAN CHUA:  Personally I'm on the Sime Darby Foundation.  They take a couple athletes in different sports and they help them.  They help them chase their dreams and fulfill their dreams, and especially with the Sime Darby development with golf, they start this whole program at MST Golf and they bring in instructors, they bring in Ian Triggs.  The number of juniors, even the first time when I came back, my dad -- that was the first thing he said to me.  He said, the number of juniors that are coming up and playing golf here is amazing now.  So hopefully we can have two girls and two boys in the Olympics in 2016.

Q.  Having played the last two years, do you think your expectations this year will be higher?
JEAN CHUA:
  It's interesting, the last two years, it's a different story every time.  The first year I came back, had no idea who I'm playing with, had no idea, just came back and just played my game, had a solid tournament.  Coming into the last hole I guess nerves got to me a little bit, and my score looking I'm coming in top 15 for the tournament, my first LPGA, and had a little bit of a mistake on the last 18 holes.  That was something I probably won't ever forget.  Trying to forget, but won't forget.

I think the second year I focused a lot more on playing for the people.  I think I tried too hard to measure up to how I did the previous year and tried to play the same game instead of just doing what I try to -- playing my golf.  I was trying to play more for the people.  So I think this year I would have to focus more on just playing my game, not trying to compete with the girls or try to measure up, the length or the shots, just do what I can do and score well and do just how I did this year.

Q.  How important is this event on your calendar?  Is it sort of the highlight of the year?
JEAN CHUA: 
This event is always the highlight.  Even though Symetra is my main career and takes me further, this is always the highlight because I get to come home, play in front of my family.  It's my biggest event for the year, and it's a great honor to be able to play in front of my parents and have them watch what I do.

Q.  Being the most experienced Malaysian player in the field, do you feel there's a bit of onus on you to go out and guide the younger players in golf this year?
JEAN CHUA:
  I would try to help them as much as I can.  But I think they too have their coaches out there helping them.  Being the most experienced, if they actually come to help -- come to ask for help, I would definitely extend it.  For example, Aretha, I help her -- got her in contact with Ping, and now she's being helped by Ping and she has a full club sponsor with them.  So it's good for her.

I would try to help them as much as I can.  But also you have to let them play their game, too.

Q.  What advice would you have for them this week?
JEAN CHUA: 
The advice I would give them is probably the same advice I give myself:  Try not to compete with the girls, try not to hit the shots that they hit or the length that they hit; just focus on what you can do and play your game. If you hit a driver-hybrid and Michelle Wie hits a driver-wedge, just do what you can do and work on your game.

Q.  Have you had a look at the golf course?
JEAN CHUA:
  I did.  The golf course looked amazing.  It's great.  Robert Bird did a great job.  The course, the committees, they did a great job.  The course looks beautiful.  All the players, they always come here and say they love the course.  Landscape is amazing.

Topics: Notes and Interviews, Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia

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