CME Group Titleholders
The TwinEagles Club, Eagle Course
First-round Notes and Interviews
November 15, 2012
Suzann Pettersen, So Yeon Ryu, and Sun Young Yoo all fired first-round 6-under 66’s to finish in a three-way tie for the lead at the season-ending CME Group Titleholders. Pettersen’s mistake free scorecard on the Eagles Course at the TwinEagles Club in Naples, Fla. consisted of six birdies while Ryu, this year’s Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year, notched seven birdies and one bogey and Yoo, the winner of this year’s Kraft Nabisco Championship recorded nine birdies, one bogey and one double-bogey.
The trio head into tomorrow’s second round with a one-stroke lead over Karine Icher, Lindsey Wright, Na Yeon Choi, and Cristie Kerr.
Course Clown… Rolex Rankings No. 22 Sun Young Yoo came into this week’s season-ending CME Group Titleholders ranked third on Tour in greens in regulation and 74th in putts per green in regulations. While Yoo’s struggles with the flat stick are apparent in her stats, this year’s Kraft Nabisco Championship winner got a bit of advice from her swing coach earlier this week that paid off on Thursday as she only needed 25 putts en route to a first-round 6-under 66.
“Actually I had my coach here earlier in the week and he told me to grip down a little bit when I putt so I can hit more relaxed, so I think that kind of helped me a lot,” said Yoo. “I rolled the ball pretty good, so I feel good with everything.”
Nicknamed “Course Clown” among her friends, her playful personality took center stage during her post-round interview on Thursday. Yoo made the turn with a 6-under 30 and after getting it to 9-under at one point, the two-time LPGA Tour winner struggled on the final two holes ending double-bogey, bogey.
When asked what happened down the stretch, the witty Yoo said with her contagious laugh, “I don’t want to talk about it”.
“I don't want to talk about it,” said Yoo with a laugh. “I hit 4‑iron on No. 8 and it took a big bounce on the green, so I hit my ball 10 yards over the green and I kind of hit fat on my chip and then it barely got on the green and I three‑putted there.”
In it to win it… Known on tour for her grit and will to win, Suzann Pettersen finds herself in contention for her third victory this season at the CME Group Titleholders. When asked after her 6-under round what a win at this week’s season-ending event would mean to her, she further affirmed her competitive nature.
“I'm in it to win it,” said Pettersen. “That says it all.”
Regardless of if Pettersen wins this weekend or not, she has closed out the 2012 season in style as she recorded back-to-back victories at the recent LPGA KEB HanaBank Championship and Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship Presented by Audi.
“There's a lot of golf left and I don't really think about it too much,” said Pettersen. “I feel like my shoulders are fairly freed up after kind of winning two in Asia. I don't feel like I really have to go out and do anything. That makes the game just that much easier and you can kind of try and hit the different shots you see and play your instincts.”
Finishing with a bang? So Yeon Ryu has managed to reach nearly every goal that she set for herself in her rookie season. In addition to earning Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year honors, she captured the second LPGA victory of her career at the Jamie Farr Toledo Classic
But still one goal remains for Ryu -- capping off her season with a victory at the season-ending CME Group Titleholders. Ryu made that a possibility with a strong opening round on the Eagles Course at the TwinEagles Club in Naples, shooting a 6-under 66 to tie for the lead after the first round of play although she said that this great round came as a bit of a surprise.
“Actually, yesterday on driving range my shot was so bad so I couldn't expect this really great results,” Ryu said. “But the first I'm really happy with my results so far. Actually, the last week on Sunday in Lorena Ochoa Invitational, my putt wasn't really great. That problem is really speed control problem, so I was practice speed control, then today my putting was really great.”
It’s a busy final week for Ryu, who will be accepting her Rookie of the Year award on Friday night at the Rolex Awards Celebration. She joked about having big shoes to fill following tremendous speeches by the two previous Rookie of the Year winners, Azahara Munoz and Hee Kyung Seo. So perhaps it’s no surprise that her plans for Thursday night following her stellar play were centered around practicing her speech.
“When I'm going to hotel today, I have to go in front of mirror and I just practice myself,” Ryu said with a laugh.
American Surge! The country with the most victories on the LPGA Tour this season may surprise a few people, at least Stacy Lewis believes that’s the case.
American golfers have combined for a total of eight wins this year with Stacy Lewis capturing four wins while Cristie Kerr, Brittany Lang, Angela Stanford, and Jessica Korda have picked up one victory each this year. Combine that with Lewis becoming the first American in 18 years to take home Rolex Player of the Year honors and it’s been quite a stellar year for American golf.
“It's great, and it's great for inspiring the next generation of American golfers and we need to do that,” said Cristie Kerr of the success for the players from the U.S. this year. “The media needs to focus on that because they've been for so long, why aren't the Americans winning? We are winning and we need to be written about.”
But the Americans are hoping to add one more victory to that total this week. Kerr is one of the Americans who found themselves near the top of the leaderboard after the first round of play at the CME Group Titleholders. Kerr fired a 5-under 67 and sits in a T4 while Lizette Salas and Brittany Lincicome are tied for eighth at 8-under-par. There are a total of five Americans who currently sit in the top-15 after Thursday’s first round.
Blessing in Disguise…To say that Lizette Salas stumbled upon the game of golf as an accident wouldn’t be farfetched. Salas’s father, Ramon Salas, has been working at Azusa Greens golf course for over 30 years and when her brother disliked the game, Lizette picked up right where he left off.
“My dad has been working at Azusa Greens golf course for 30‑plus years and he's the head mechanic there,” said Salas. ‘It was my brother supposed to play but he didn't like it, so I'm the youngest of three, so I went out there and just kind of took it as a hobby.”
Salas’s newfound hobby proved to be just what she needed to help her achieve her longtime goal of attending college but the Azusa, Calif. native got more out of the experience than what she originally bargained for.
“Yeah, that was my first and foremost goal when I was a child is that I knew golf can get me into school,” said Salas. “I was the first person in my family to graduate from college and I think that's another reason why I stayed. I wanted to win four national championships and that's why I stayed.”
Salas, a rookie on this year’s LPGA Tour, not only played collegiate golf but was the University of Southern California’s (USC) first four-time All-American. Immediately after college, Salas turned her attention to professional golf and after spending one year on the Symetra Tour, she moved onto the LPGA in dramatic fashion.
“I think I was in 21st or just outside the Top 20 and I made a birdie on the final hole to get into a nine‑way playoff,” said Salas. “I just went straight to the putting green and I knew it was going to come down to putting. I didn't know the whole playoff situation, so they came up to us and they're like okay, there's nine of you. Then we asked how many spots are there and they just said three. We're like oh, shoot.”
Faced with a difficult task ahead of her, Salas rose to the occasion birding the three playoff holes to solidify her spot on this year’s LPGA Tour and earning her the nickname, “Miss Clutch”.
Tweet Up! Sandra Gal spent an hour in Golf Channel’s TV booth on Thursday afternoon as she took over the LPGA’s twitter account. She answered questions from fans and was interviewed by Golf Channel talent in the booth. It was all part of the “Social Event of the Season” at the CME Group Titleholders.
Tweet of the Day: Goes to the Golf Channel, which highlighted one of the special promotions that’s going on this week for the “Social Event of the Season.”
MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome one of our co-leaders, Suzann Pettersen, into the interview room. Congratulations, great round, 6-under par, great finish with a birdie on 18 to tie for the lead. Take me through the day out there and what was really working well for you today.
SUZANN PETTERSEN: Just really tried to stay within the game plan on the first front nine. Didn't really feel like I got anything kind of for free out there, had to kind of really work hard to keep the score together on the first 12. Then I made a few birdies coming in and I almost made a birdie on 17, lipped out. It was nice to finish it up with birdie on the last.
MODERATOR: Everybody's talked about the greens all week. How tough are they, and did you feel like they were pretty good to putt today?
SUZANN PETTERSEN: I think they're very true. Obviously there's some undulations to the greens. I feel like the course is playing really firm, especially the fairways. Some holes are actually playing shorter, the shortest I've played them so far. Then again, it doesn't take much of a little breeze and you have a different element of challenge in there. So I was very happy with my start. I grinded it out, it was a good 66 and we'll tee it up tomorrow morning.
MODERATOR: We talked to you earlier in the week just about how the season has come and how you've been playing some of your best golf of late. What's been the biggest difference, and are you at the point now where you really don't want this season to end because your best golf that you're playing?
SUZANN PETTERSEN: Yeah, but you know what, I still feel like I have the best golf ahead of me. I'm not too worried if it's season 2012 or season 2013. My big goal now is to prepare and be well for 2013 and hopefully come out strong the way I finish and hopefully get another three good rounds together and see where that takes me for this tournament. You know what, it's just fun to go out and challenge yourself and actually try to execute what you practice.
MODERATOR: What would it mean for you to win this season‑ending event? I know it's not a major title, but it's a big deal to kind of finish off the season strong, one of the biggest first‑place prize checks of the year. What would it mean to win here?
SUZANN PETTERSEN: Well, we play the game to win it, don't we? I'm in it to win it. That says it all. There's a lot of golf left and I don't really think about it too much. I feel like my shoulders are fairly freed up after kind of winning two in Asia. I don't feel like I really have to go out and do anything. That makes the game just that much easier and you can kind of try and hit the different shots you see and play your instincts.
Q. Atop the leaderboard with a bunch of champions in the mix. How tough will it be to pull this out?
SUZANN PETTERSEN: You know, I didn't really pay too much attention. I saw some girls are like 5‑, 6‑under when we were only five, six holes into it. I'm really trying not to even pay attention to it, but I just looked at one leaderboard just to see kind of what people were doing, how kind of what the course is giving us. I knew there was birdies out there and I didn't even know that Yoo got it to 9‑under at one point, I didn't even know that until I saw it on the last. It just shows if you get the putter hot here, the greens are true, you roll it well, you're going to roll in some putts from short distance and long distance. I'm just very happy with the way I grinded it out today and I can put my legs up tonight and sleep well.
MODERATOR: Your group had quite a few birdies. Did you guys, you and Cristie feed off of each other at all in terms of when you're playing well like that?
SUZANN PETTERSEN: I just tried to birdie the last so I didn't have to be paired with her tomorrow. I mean, it's like you play with Cristie, we're competitive. I mean, I know she probably wants to have the low round in the group. You just know it's going to annoy her when you kind of take it right at the end there. But we had a good day.
Like I said, I didn't really pay attention too much to their game, but I know Cristie and I were pretty equal going down the last and I said to Brian, I'll try to help us out here with a birdie so hopefully we're out in the last group and we'll see where that takes us.
MODERATOR: I was going to say it looks like, looking at your scorecard, you'd have a birdie, then she'd have a birdie, or you'd birdie the same hole. A little extra competitiveness going on there?
SUZANN PETTERSEN: Yeah. I won it today.
MODERATOR: Was there an extra wager there?
SUZANN PETTERSEN: Maybe, Pettersen Kerr, 1‑up. It's just fun to see her playing well and obviously her winning last week. She has got her confidence back and it's going to be a good hunt this weekend.
Q. Anything you can attribute to your really playing at such a high level the last month?
SUZANN PETTERSEN: No, I don't know. Hard work pays off. Sometimes you work hard and you put in the hours and sometimes that pays off straightaway, other times it takes a little bit longer. But I think the most important part is to always trust what you do, believe what you do, never doubt it even though the results might not be there right off the bat, and eventually when it starts clicking, it will click. So I guess that's kind of my answer to it.
Q. So you could actually see yourself playing better or playing well this summer and you figured it was a matter of time?
SUZANN PETTERSEN: You know what, I played really well and actually missed the cut at the British Open and I had the best preparation, I had the best kind of feel, best I ever felt on a links course. Went out, missed the cut, that was hard to swallow really. But that's the game of golf. I mean, sometimes your feel doesn't always match the score; sometimes you feel like you play awful and you shoot 65. And then it kind of kickstarted a little bit at the last couple of rounds in Alabama and ever since I haven't really looked back.
MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome one of our other co-leaders now, So Yeon Ryu, into the interview room. Congratulations, a great 6-under par round.
SO YEON RYU: Thank you.
MODERATOR: Capped off by a nice birdie there on 18. Take me through your day out there. What was really working well for you?
SO YEON RYU: Actually, yesterday on driving range my shot was so bad so I couldn't expect this really great results. But the first I'm really happy with my results so far. Actually, the last week on Sunday in Lorena Ochoa Invitational, my putt wasn't really great. That problem is really speed control problem, so I was practice speed control, then today my putting was really great. My shot wasn't really perfect, but I had a couple of really great shots so I could have made a really tap‑in birdie, so that's why today I could hit really great. Especially I always happy to play with Inbee and Jessica, especially Jessica is really exciting player, so really happy playing with them.
MODERATOR: I have to ask you this question. We know you played with Mike Scanlan earlier this week in the pro-am. Did his golfing help you any? Did he give you any tips? Did you have to kind of overcome the fact that you played with him and forget everything you saw?
SO YEON RYU: Actually, Mike and my other partner named Denny was really, really long driver, so we were really easy we made a birdie chance but we missed every birdie putt. Absolutely Mike missed every birdie putt. I think that's why I practiced hard on putting. I think he's helpful for me.
MODERATOR: We'll give him a little bit of credit, just don't give him too much. But overall coming to the end of this incredible rookie season that you've had, we already talked about winning Rookie of the Year honors, what was your goal this week in terms of you've already done so much already. What was your hope, I guess, kind of to finish off the season by starting it off so strong? Is this exactly what you were hoping for?
SO YEON RYU: Actually I really want to win this tournament because after I won the Jamie Farr Classic, I never won the LPGA tournament. Actually I won the KLPGA tournament but I really want to take another trophy. It's really always exciting to finish strong so that's why I really want to win this tournament. You know, like one trophy is enough, but I really want to fill it up my trophy case with another trophy. Then actually the last year Hee Young Park was win this tournament so I want to win ‑‑ I want another Korean winner to this tournament.
Q. I believe you came into this week with six consecutive Top 10s or something like that. How close have you been to winning during that streak, and does it get frustrating when you get close so often and you don't get the trophy?
SO YEON RYU: Well, that's a really great question. Yeah, I was really close to winning, I was really close to touch the trophy but I couldn't. I think the problem was the especially at the final round, I was really nervous because one of my goal is winning the Rookie of the Year award. Then other goal was win a tournament. Then I already won the tournament, but I'm human being, I always really want the other tournament. So I think I was too aggressive so that's why I couldn't touch the trophy.
But this week my plan is just really want to enjoy the tournament and don't thinking about the trophy, don't thinking about the competitor and I just want to play my game. Especially really big problem was the last couple of tournament, I was really ‑‑ I wasn't really great at putting on Sunday. So I want to keep practice the speed control, then maybe I can touch the trophy.
MODERATOR: Take me three that 18th hole. I know I watched, you almost holed out the second shot, third shot? Take me through the hole. I know you kind of got a huge roar from the crowd there right at the end.
SO YEON RYU: Actually my tee shot was really great but unfortunately my ball is in divot. The green is really hard, everything is falling down, it's like (indiscernible.) My plan was hit a little fade shot and then I made just two-foot birdie putt and then I made it, so I really happy to finish the co-leader.
MODERATOR: And I know besides all the golf going on this week you also have a big speech coming up on Friday night when you get the award. How's that speech coming along?
SO YEON RYU: Actually I just want to say my story, kind of story of So Yeon's golf like. I heard Aza and Hee Young's speech was phenomenal. That's why I very, very nervous. I really worry about my pimple. I think I can do well. I was prepared it's really hard and I think I have to prepare…I mean, I have to practice like a speech. Actually, I'm going to hotel today, I have to go in front of mirror and I just practice myself.
MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. We'd like to welcome in our current leader, Sun Young Yoo, into the interview room.Congratulations. I guess a great round, 6‑under par. First off, just take me through that day out there and what it was like out there on this golf course. First time that you guys have played this in competition.
SUN YOUNG YOO: I hit the ball great all day, but I'm a little disappointed how I finished the last couple holes. But still 6‑under was a good score and I really like the course. I played practice round on Monday and Tuesday and I just felt it's kind of similar to Grand Cypress a little bit. I felt pretty good. And actually we got pretty lucky with the weather, it wasn't windy out there, so I'm very happy with where I am right now.
MODERATOR: As we were watching the leaderboard earlier today before the coverage came on TV, we just kept seeing those birdies on the front nine. When you were going so well early on, did you have a low number in mind as you kept seeing those birdies rack up?
SUN YOUNG YOO: I tried to forget previous holes so I can think of next shot and just think about one shot at a time. I missed short one on No. 7, I started on back nine, so No. 7, so that was kind of (indiscernible) to get me going. But I still have 54 holes to play, so I feel good.
MODERATOR: As I was looking through your stats, you're 3rd so far this year in greens in regulation and 122nd in putting. Today you only needed 25 putts. Was there something about your putting stroke today that just felt good or that you were able to get it going?
SUN YOUNG YOO: Actually I had my coach here earlier in the week and he told me to grip down a little bit when I putt so I can hit more relaxed, so I think that kind of helped me a lot. And I rolled the ball pretty good, so I feel good with everything.
Q. You've been on the Tour here for a few years, you were Rookie of the Year in 2006. I was wondering, what have been the challenges towards maintaining a high level of golf with all the good young players coming in?
SUN YOUNG YOO: What's the question?
MODERATOR: What's been the challenge in keeping up your strong play?
SUN YOUNG YOO: Actually, for me I came to the States in 2005, so it was kind of hard for me to get used to living in some other country. Then I had to play more smart. I worked on my short game more than long game. I kind of got used to playing in the States since 2008, I feel better now in more years.
Q. I think you mentioned here that your iron play is your strength. Was that the case today?
SUN YOUNG YOO: Yeah, my short irons were working really well.
Q. What happened on 8 and 9?
SUN YOUNG YOO: I don't want to talk about it. I hit 4‑iron on No. 8 and it took a big bounce on the green, so I hit my ball 10 yards over the green and I kind of hit fat on my chip and then it barely got on the green and I three‑putted there.
SUN YOUNG YOO: 9, I three‑putted as well.
Q. How difficult is that green on 8?
SUN YOUNG YOO: No. 8, yeah, there were some funny greens out there, but it was kind of tough with the wind helping (inaudible).
Q. When you're getting to 8‑under and 9‑under, do you start thinking about some of the magical numbers, 60 or even 59?
SUN YOUNG YOO: No, I didn't even think about the score, I just tried to focus one shot at a time.
MODERATOR: Sun Young, this year for you, you became a major winner for the first time at the Kraft Nabisco. What has that experience been like for you, and has it changed at all with the pressure that you felt after kind of earning that first major championship?
SUN YOUNG YOO: Actually I had more pressure after winning the major. I put more pressure on myself and people around me were expecting more of me, so it was good and bad for me, but it was worth winning.
Q. Can you give me an idea of why the Korean players have done so well on this Tour?
SUN YOUNG YOO: Everybody ask me that question, but I don't really have an answer. I mean, everybody works so hard and, I don't know, maybe hard work pays off.
MODERATOR: I was going to say, that's your favorite quote, isn't it, hard work pays off?
SUN YOUNG YOO: Yes.
MODERATOR: One of the things that I wanted to ask you about, too. As much as we see you, you're pretty quiet when you come up here, whatever, but I was reading through on our media guide, one of the questions that you had on the questionnaire was one of the nicknames that people call you is your friends call you the course clown. Is there a good sense of humor that's kind of hidden underneath that we don't get to see?
SUN YOUNG YOO: I'm pretty quiet on the golf course, but I like to have fun off the course. It's good to (indiscernible) on the course, but sometimes you have to be serious. Yeah, I like to have fun off the course.
Q. You were able to putt really well on the front nine, excuse me, the back nine. What did you think of the greens here?
SUN YOUNG YOO: The back nine for me, it was front nine for me today, but I read perfect, I rolled the ball really good. The greens were in good condition.
Q. One thing I was wondering is, a 66 is really good. As we were watching you after, I suppose human nature kicks in and (inaudible) 64 and 65. Is that kind of what you were thinking as you came up?
SUN YOUNG YOO: Yeah, I was kind of disappointed myself after finish. You can still be mad after you shoot 66, but I tried to forget about last couple holes and have something to work on a little bit so I can have good round next three days.
Q. Tell me about last week. Obviously you were trying to get a win for a while.
CRISTIE KERR: Yeah, over two years.
Q. Thinking about it every week, people asking you about it. How nice is it to say, hey, I've got one?
CRISTIE KERR: It's really nice, it's really nice, you know, to feel like all the hard work has paid off and, you know, that I came from behind to win, too, even though I made a few bogeys coming down the stretch. Those last six holes, there was a lot of adrenaline, I haven't been there in a while, and I hung on. That's what you've got to do to win, unless you're going to win by 10 shots.
It feels really good not to be asked about it anymore and it feels really good to be winning with worth again. You know, the name of the game is playing as good as you can every day and I feel like if I can keep this mentality that I've had the last week in just being calm and not putting too much ‑‑ I've put less pressure on myself the last week. I've gotten really focused on what I need to do to control my golf ball, speed on the putts, reads, you know, things I can control and it's really helped.
Q. The stress of being in contention or the fatigue of going straight to Wendy's and straight here and you shoot 67. Any concern about being tired on the weekend?
CRISTIE KERR: I was an absolute zombie yesterday in the pro‑am, an absolute zombie. I hit it all over the golf course, but I knew it was because I was tired. I could not ‑‑ more than physically tired, I was mentally tired. I got 10 hours of sleep last night. I just did a little practice, I didn't overdo it, and I'm going to go and I'm going to rest, and I think if there were signs of fatigue you would have seen it today.
Q. Just talk about, off topic, the subject of American golf has really come to the forefront with Stacy winning Player of the Year ‑‑ you winning, Brittany Lang's a Rolex First Time Winner. I think a lot of times we get a lot of questions about, you know, golf's a global tour. How nice is it to know that the Americans are playing strong right now?
CRISTIE KERR: It's great, and it's great for inspiring the next generation of American golfers and we need to do that. The media needs to focus on that because they've been for so long, why aren't the Americans winning? We are winning and we need to be written about.
MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome Lizette Salas into the interview room. First off, great playing out there today, nice round, 4‑under par. Take me a little bit through the day and what was really working well in your game.
LIZETTE SALAS: Well, I started off with a bogey on the first hole, so that kind of ‑‑ you know, it was a little reality check that it's not going to come easy.
So I came back with back‑to‑back birdies on the par 5 and the par 4 and then made some really good, tricky putts. I forgot what hole it was, but I made really like a 35‑footer for birdie and then just really took advantage of the par 5s and made a really good birdie on 17 that got me to 4‑under.
I wasn't even trying to shoot low, it just kind of happened, just picking my targets and hitting good shots. I think the putter really was working for me today and hitting a couple bombs out on the tee box kind of helped me, helped that momentum going.
I hit a couple of chunk shots out there that, you know, it's easy to do out here, but just kind of laughed it off. I chunked it on my approach on 18 but it was a good one, so I'll let that one slide. I was trying to make birdie on 18 and it didn't fall in, so there you go, you can't really force it out here, so it was good.
MODERATOR: Very solid round and it's been a very solid rookie year for you. It's now coming to the end. It seemed as the year went along your game got stronger as well. Take me through the year and what you really learned throughout your rookie season and how happy are you with how your game has progressed.
LIZETTE SALAS: My rookie year basically started in March out in Phoenix. I was really nervous coming out here and so my mom and dad would kind of travel with me through the west coast swing. And then we got to the east coast and, you know, still nerves were there, but I was just kind of getting settled in.
It wasn't until, you know, the U.S. Open where I finally had a really good round, and I guess everybody knows that I shot 80 in the final round, but I learned a lot that week and just getting my name out there and showing what my game can do. The Asian event was kind of where my game really blossomed and I felt really comfortable in the situation I was in.
Now as the season is ending I kind of wish the season would keep going just because I'm playing really solid golf. I'm just having a great time here. My dad's been traveling with me the whole year, I think he's only missed like three events, but he's really been the backbone to me playing comfortably and it's fun to go from place to place. It's a lot different than college golf and, you know, so my body's a little tired right now just because I'm not used to it. But it's been a great rookie season and next year I won't be a rookie, it's sad.
MODERATOR: You talk about how big of a role your dad's played this year, but he's had a huge impact on your entire golf career. For those people who don't really know your story and how much your dad helped get you into the game and what he did, can you share a little bit about that?
LIZETTE SALAS: Are you trying to make me cry? No, my dad has been working at Azusa Greens golf course for 30‑plus years and he's the head mechanic there. It was my brother supposed to play but he didn't like it, so I'm the youngest of three, so I went out there and just kind of took it as a hobby.
As I got older, I got better and that's when I started loving the game. We didn't have a lot of money back then, so my dad did favors for the head pro and, you know, I barely had a pair of golf shoes and I didn't know how to dress. It was a very scary time just because I didn't see many girls that looked like me or in my area that played golf, so it was a little shaky, but I didn't care what anybody told me.
Now I'm here and it was a little tough to get here. I went to SC and had a great four years there. We won the national championship in '08 and I was four‑time All American. So, I mean, if somebody were to tell me that back then, I would probably tell them you're crazy because I like to stay humble and I don't like to think of myself as any better than anybody else. I just took it for what it is and try to make every day better. Now I'm here on the LPGA and living my dream.
Q. What course?
LIZETTE SALAS: Azusa Greens Country Club. It says "country club," but it's a public golf course.
Q. When you talk about not seeing anyone on the course that ‑‑ in your area that ‑‑ not many girls probably that looked like you, when they talk about getting women into the game, can you relate? In other words, does the game feel intimidating for a newcomer when they get somewhere and feel like they don't belong?
LIZETTE SALAS: Yeah, it can be a little intimidating. I think now the game has just been getting a lot better and bigger. I think it's less intimidating for women and young girls to get into the game, but back then when I was 7, 8, 9 years old, there wasn't that many. I had to play with boys most of the time. I think that's where it really helped. And I played golf in high school with the guys, so I think that really helped me. I think in general right now it's a lot better for young girls to get into the game of golf, yeah. I wish ‑‑ I wish there was many more opportunities back then when I was a child, but I kind of had to deal with what I had and I had a great support system from my family, from my community.
Q. Two‑part question here. What do you think you've learned the most about yourself in these past few months, and the other thing is, what do you think you'll have to do to maintain and continue building off your rookie season?
LIZETTE SALAS: That's a good question. I think the past couple months I've learned and realized that I have the game to be on Tour and to be contending week in and week out, and I know it's not going to be an easy road to become the best player in the world, but if I just keep working hard and working on the things that I know are going to make me better, I'm on the way there.
What was your second part? Sorry.
LIZETTE SALAS: You know, I think with golf being more mental, I think that's very important for me. I tend to beat myself up a little bit mentally out on the golf course. In the last couple months I've realized that I've become a perfectionist and that's not my fault, that's partly my instructor's fault. I'm just kidding, Jim. But I've just gotten really comfortable with my game so far and I think that's where it's really going to be important for me next year, is to be comfortable and to be more aggressive when I need to and to not beat myself up mentally and just to know that I can really play this game very well.
Q. One of the things Stacy Lewis mentioned in here yesterday was she was asked about Player of the Year and she talked about the young kids; she wanted them to know it's okay to go to college and come out here and be successful. Was that something that you felt like you could do coming out here with her kind of success?
LIZETTE SALAS: Oh, yeah. You know, I think Stacy was a senior when I was a freshman. Is that right, Coach? Yeah? So I've heard her name and she's obviously a great player. But I have always ‑‑ it's always been in my mind that I was going to stay in school. Both my parents, it wasn't a choice, I had to stay. USC's a really private school, prestigious, big time history. So it was hard at the beginning, but I think staying four years and grinding it out and learning so much not just on the golf course but in the classroom, it's really helped me be more mature. It's helped me appreciate what I have and to really just go for it.
You know, I kind of feel like an old rookie being 23 and all these other girls are in their teens or barely 20 years old. But I don't regret anything and I do wish a lot more of these young girls would go to school, and really, that's the time to learn and that's the time to make mistakes. I made several and so I just ‑‑ it's just what they feel, I guess.
Q. Maybe to follow up on that a little bit, did you even for the slightest moment ever think about going straight into the pro ranks ‑‑
LIZETTE SALAS: No.
Q. ‑‑ or were you definitely going to college?
LIZETTE SALAS: Yeah, that was my first and foremost goal when I was a child is that I knew golf can get me into school. I was the first person in my family to graduate from college and I think that's another reason why I stayed. I wanted to win four national championships and that's why I stayed.
My coach, Andrea Gaston, recruited great players, so I thought it would be great to just play with them and help them make me better. I think I was ranked No. 1 when I was a sophomore, and if anyone asked me if I was leaving, I said no, are you crazy? I'm not going to leave right now. At that time I didn't feel like I was ready for the Tour.
So I graduated in four, on time, which is a big thing for me, and went out on the Futures Tour for a couple months, didn't play so great. But I went into Q school and I got my card that way. I don't regret any day or event in that process.
Q. What was your greatest achievement amateur wise beyond the team title, Women of Troy, sorry. How much traveling did you do?
LIZETTE SALAS: How much traveling did I do outside of college? I only played like three events in the summer. But my greatest achievement I would say, oh, Lord, I would probably say that four‑time All American at SC. I think it's the first in the golf history that somebody's done it. That was my goal, is to be an All American all four years. And there's going to be a lot more, I'm going to tell you that right now, but just to be the first, that was a great accomplishment for me. I think also being named team captain, that was a big, big thing for me.
Q. On a question that has no bearing on anything anyway, but what was it like traveling as much as you did this year, going to Malaysia?
LIZETTE SALAS: Oh, that was a little rough. Actually flew economy to Malaysia. Well, I brought my dad and my caddie, so we all flew economy. It was a little ‑‑
Q. Welcome to our world. No, keep going.
LIZETTE SALAS: I probably slept like 13 hours that first night. I was just lightheaded and the food isn't the same as here, you know, the humidity. But I played well in Malaysia. Just flying back and I flew back to Taiwan, that's a lot, a lot of traveling this year. I think just having my dad travel with me helps me a lot. It was a great experience and I think as I get older or more mature, more acclimated into the traveling life, it's going to get a lot better. I won't fly economy anymore, though.
Q. Lizette, the way you got your card at Q school was quite impressive. Do you ever sit back and think what you accomplished in that playoff and kind of where you would be if it hadn't of gone that way?
LIZETTE SALAS: Yeah, I look back and I just think to myself how did I do that? Something in me came out that day or those three holes that showed that I really wanted to be on Tour and that I deserved to be on Tour, and that everyone called me Miss Clutch for a while and that was nice to get attention.
But I knew coming into this season nobody really cares how I got on Tour, nobody cares about those three clutch putts. As I got through the year and got more comfortable, I really look back at that and say, you know, it happened for a reason, and if that didn't happen, my rookie year would probably be a little different, a little more shaky, not so comfortable and not knowing which events I'm going to be in, so I'm very thankful.
MODERATOR: For those in the room that don't know how you got your card, the drama that unfolded at the end of Q school, can you just explain to them exactly what happened?
LIZETTE SALAS: I think I was in 21st or just outside the Top 20 and I made a birdie on the final hole to get into a nine‑way playoff. So I just went straight to the putting green and I knew it was going to come down to putting. I didn't know the whole playoff situation, so they came up to us and they're like okay, there's nine of you. Then we asked how many spots are there and they just said three. We're like oh, shoot.
And so I went in the second group, birdied the first hole, about a six‑footer. Birdied the second hole, which is a par 4, about a three‑footer. Then two girls ahead of me eagled 18, so I was tied with two other girls. I had a little lengthy 18‑footer and the hands started shaking and I knew what I had to do at that moment. My caddie and I picked a line and that's where I hit it and it went in. All I heard was my mom screaming, so yeah, that was for birdie, yeah. I wasn't too happy with my approach shot, so I knew I had to make that 18‑footer.
MODERATOR: Pretty impressive stories that you've gotten. We talked to Stacy Lewis earlier in the week and she said that she's felt kind of like the underdog her entire life and that's kind of made everything that she's achieved even sweeter. Do you kind of feel in that type of role? Is that how it's kind of motivated you throughout?
LIZETTE SALAS: Yeah. Growing up, no one really thought I would become such ‑‑ so successful on Tour. Even this year, you know, I have some comments said, oh, we'll see how she really does on Tour. So I've never really been thought of a player to dominate or to be, you know ‑‑ to stand out, I would say.
But these last couple months my name has been on the leaderboard and I kind of like people telling me that I can't do something because that just pushes me and motivates me to go out there and prove them wrong. I've had it my entire life as a junior golfer and even a collegiate golfer, so I totally feel what Stacy's talking about.
Even now on the LPGA Tour Americans are, you know, this is the first time Stacy's won ‑‑ or an American has got Player of the Year. I think we all feel like underdogs in that sense, but now American golf is becoming better and hopefully I'll become part of that movement and we'll see.