CME Group Titleholders Pre-Tournament Notes and Interviews

Pin flag on 16th hole

A pin flag as seen on the 16th hole during the second round of the CME Group Titleholders at the Grand Cypress Resort on November 18, 2011 in Orlando, Florida.

CME Group Titleholders
The TwinEagles Club, Eagle Course
Naples, Fla.
Pre-tournament Notes and Interviews
November 13, 2012

Inbee Park, Rolex Rankings No. 2
So Yeon Ryu, Rolex Rankings No. 9

The LPGA Tour concludes the 2012 season this week at the CME Group Titleholders and will be played on a new course this year; The TwinEagles Club, Eagles Course in Naples, Fla. The second annual event will be staged Nov. 15-18 and features a star-studded field of 73 players who punched their ticket after qualifying at one of the 26 LPGA events this year. Those players will compete for a total purse of $1.5 million in the unique season-long qualifying format with the winner earning a first-place prize check of $500,000.

Headlining the field and seeking her fifth LPGA title of the year is the 2012 Rolex Player of the Year Stacy Lewis. Currently No. 2 in the Rolex Rankings, Lewis secured the prestigious award with a T4 finish at  last week’s Lorena Ochoa Invitational Presented by Banamex and Jalisco, earning enough points to circumvent Inbee Park’s reach. She becomes the first American to win the award since Beth Daniel in 1994.

I’ve got a new attitude! After a highly successful junior and amateur career, the expectations for Inbee Park when she turned professional were insurmountable. Park won nine events on the American Junior Golf Association (AJGA), was a five-time Rolex Junior All-American, and was named the 2002 AJGA Rolex Player of the Year. She also won the prestigious 2002 U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship at the young age of 14.

“Yeah, I mean, after all the junior years and amateur years that I've had, I thought I was going to be playing really good on the LPGA Tour and I was expecting a lot more from me, I think,” said Park. “I think that was putting too much pressure on me, especially after U.S. Open.  I was expecting a lot more from me and I think that kind of hurt me for the last four years.”

Park joined the LPGA in 2007 and won the 2008 U.S. Women’s Open to become the youngest player to ever win the event at the age of 19 years, 11 months, 17 days. After her win, the struggle ensued for Park as she did not return to the winner’s circle until this year’s Evian Masters Presented by Societe Generale. Park then went on to win the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia and record eight additional top-five finishes.

The Seoul, South Korea native credits this year’s success to a swing change, which was implemented by her fiancé, Gihyeob Nam, and an increased amount of confidence.

“Well, I have my fiancé teaching me, started end of last year, and it wasn't a big change, but it was just a little bit of change,” said Park. “It's kind of hard to explain the full story, but just I've gone to a little bit of a swing change in the last off season and I was feeling a lot more comfortable with my swing and how to make the follow-through, that's what I've been working on, yeah.”

Gangnam Style! Psy has become an instant sensation for his recent hit Gangnam Style but he isn’t the only Korean getting recognition as fellow South Korean native So Yeon Ryu was recently named this year’s winner of the Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year award.

Ryu became a Rolex First-Time winner this year after a final-round 62 catapulted her into the winner’s circle at the Jamie Farr Toledo Classic Presented by Kroger, Owens Corning and O-I. Following her victory, Ryu received a congratulatory letter from none other than PSY himself.

“Well, after I won the Jamie Farr, Psy gave me the letter, autograph it there to congrats winning the Jamie Farr Classic, then please become Rookie of the Year, blah blah,” said Ryu. “So I really thanks to Psy and I really proud of Psy because he is like superstar in ‑‑ not in just Korea, like global style, so I'm really proud of him.”

Ryu is competing in this week’s CME Group Titleholders because of her finish at the RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup and at her pre-tournament press conference on Tuesday, the two-time LPGA Tour winner promised to do the infamous Gangnam Style dace if she wins this week.

“Social Event of the Season”:  A wide-ranging social media campaign is being launched by the LPGA Tour and Golf Channel this week in an effort to create the ultimate fan experience for the Tour’s season-ending event.  Fans voted for the featured grouping in Thursday’s first-round telecast on Golf Channel, which will include Brittany Lincicome, Gerina Piller and Stacy Lewis. It’s one of the many highlights of the “Social Event of the Season,” which also includes the use of the both organizations’ diverse social media platform both on-site at TwinEagles Golf Club, throughout Golf Channel telecasts, and online.

With the integration of five different social media outlets, fans watching the CME Group Titleholders broadcast at home on Golf Channel and those on site at TwinEagles Golf Club in Naples will have plenty of opportunities to get involved.  Click the link below for more details on the individual programs set to run this week:

Rolex Awards Celebration: On Friday evening the LPGA Tour will roll out the red carpet for the year-end Rolex Awards Celebration. This year’s elevated event features a formal dinner and awards ceremony for the players who claimed top honors in statistical categories and received nominations from their fellow competitors. These awards include the Rolex Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year and Vare Trophy for low scoring average, as well as the Commissioner’s Award, the Patty Berg Award, the William and Mousie Powell Award and the Heather Farr Award.

Each award will be presented Friday evening at the Ritz Carlton Golf Resort and the ceremony is scheduled to be televised on Golf Channel on Thursday, Nov. 29 at 7:30 p.m.

Quotable: “After she won the Mizuno, I think it was kind of tough to catch her after that.  So, I mean, I was a little bit disappointed with more of that I didn't win last week, but I want to congratulate Stacy for a great season.  She definitely had a lot more wins than me and she had more Top 10s than me.  She played very consistent and very good, so I think she deserves it.” – Inbee Park on Stacy Lewis beating her out for Rolex Player of the Year

Tweet of the Day: Goes to USA Today golf writer Steve DiMeglio who summed up his experience of playing in the CME Group Titleholders pro-am with LPGA pro Azahara Munoz and LPGA Chief Communications Officer Kraig Kann and shared a blog about the day…

“@AzaharaGOLF could not have been better. Great times indeed.” -- @Steve_DiMeglio

Of Note…There are nine rookies in the field this week: Jacqui Concolino, Veronica Felibert, Danielle Kang, Mo Martin, Sydnee Michaels, Jane Rah, So Yeon Ryu, Lizette Salas, and Lexi Thompson…There are 48 of the top 50 players on the LPGA Official Money List in the field at this week’s season-ending event…Golf Channel will air coverage of the event from 1:30 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. ET on Thurs-Sun this week.

Inbee Park, Rolex Rankings No. 3

MODERATOR:  We would like to welcome Rolex Rankings No. 2 Inbee Park into the
interview room.  Thanks so much for joining us today.
  Thank you.

MODERATOR:  Congratulations on what's been an impressive second half of the season.  Looking back at your last 14 events, 12 Top 10 finishes, two of those were victories, and six runner‑up finishes.  Just tell me about this year and how you've been able to put together such an impressive stretch of golf.
INBEE PARK:  Yeah, I mean, looking back this year and I've done so many things this year, I've been doing a new swing, new stroke, I mean, everything just fitted to me very well this year.  I mean, I've moved a lot on the Rolex Rankings, I've moved a lot on the money list and I've done a lot of things this year. 

This is last tournament of the year.  I mean, I know there is a lot going on with the awards and, you know, money list and everything.  But you know what, I'm just going to try to enjoy this week because I think I really deserve to enjoy this week.  It's been such a great season and I'm just going to try to enjoy this last week, not to think about anything else.

MODERATOR:  We all remember you kind of burst onto the scene when you won the 2008 U.S. Women's Open and everybody kind of knew your name, but what has it been like for you since then when you came out quickly, got that victory and then this stretch coming up to this year?  What have the last few years been like and how does it feel now to kind of have this success?
INBEE PARK:  Yeah, I mean, after all the junior years and amateur years that I've had, I thought I was going to be playing really good on the LPGA Tour and I was expecting a lot more from me, I think.  I think that was putting too much pressure on me, especially after U.S. Open.  I was expecting a lot more from me and I think that kind of hurt me for the last four years.

I've learned a lot the last four years about being a non‑Top 10 player and not winning for four years.  I mean, that was a pretty tough times, but finally I'm here and this year my game's got much improved than last four years, so just happy that I'm here in my position.

MODERATOR:  You talked a little bit about all the success you had in junior and amateur golf.  Tell everybody a little bit about your story.  How did you get involved first in golf and all about the success that you had, I guess, early on as well.
INBEE PARK:  Yeah, I came to the United States when I was 12 years old and if I remember right, I think I won probably like ‑‑ I think I was like five times All American in AJGA and I did Player of the Year at age of 13 and won the U.S. Junior at the age of 13 or 14.  I mean, I thought I was the best player as a junior golfer and I wasn't afraid of anything; even the professional golfers I wasn't afraid of. 

As soon as I got on the professional tour, it was a lot different than what I thought and there was just a lot more great players than I thought.  Just still learning and I've learned a lot and still learning experience.

MODERATOR:  So when did you first pick up the game of golf?  How old were you?
I was 10 when I first started playing.

MODERATOR:  And so in those two years before you came to the U.S., what made you kind of make that transition here to the U.S. to play?
INBEE PARK:  Well, I was on the Korean national team after I played like year and a half in Korea and I did that.  And in Korea it's more like, it's really serious, even more so.  I think it's more of my parents' decision that they decided to bring me to the United States because they wanted me to study and learn English and play golf at the same time, which is tough to do in Korea, so I think that's why they started, yeah, to bring me here.

Q.  You talked a little bit about having success early and then going through a tough stretch for four years.  How were you able to work through that adversity?
INBEE PARK:  I think just everything wasn't ready.  I mean, my game, long game, my short game, my mental, everything wasn't that ready, and I just wanted before I was ready.  That's why I think I've been having a tough four years.  So I just try to ‑‑ I never played golf for like nine, 10 months, playing tournament golf for like nine, 10 months in my lifetime.  So I think there was this process of getting used to the Tour, getting used to the traveling, and of course getting used to the culture in America.  Everything just, yeah, I just needed time to get settled, I think, so I just tried to be patient.

Q.  You talked about the travel.  I don't know if it's any tougher this year than past years, but you traveled to 13 different countries.  Do you find yourself getting more mentally or physically tired from all that travel?
INBEE PARK:  Well, I think, you know, playing golf maybe six times a week is not that tough physically because golf is not like, you know, it takes too much energy.  I think it's more mental that takes more of your energy in the game of golf, I think.  So I think if you're mentally strong and if you're ‑‑ if you're really strong, I think just playing is not that hard.  I mean, the traveling for me, I just try to sleep well and just eat well, I think, so that's why I've been not having much tough time this year traveling.  I played many tournaments this year, this is my sixth straight tournament, so I'm pretty tired, but I'm still mentally strong.

Q.  Inbee, with all the early success that you had as a junior even up to your U.S. Open win, then you go and put expectations on yourself.  How much of a shock to the system mentally, psychologically was it?  All of a sudden you go out and you expect to do well and all of a sudden, why can't I win suddenly?
INBEE PARK:  Yeah, I mean, I just tried to ask myself that question many times, you know, four years ago.  Just, you know, couldn't figure out what was going wrong.  I think it was mostly just my mental that was just putting me off because, I mean, everything wasn't ready, especially my mental wasn't ready to handle all that kind of pressure at such a young age.  I think that was, yeah, the most difficult problem that I had to solve.

Q.  What were the bigger expectations at that time, was it the expectations that you put on yourself or the expectations of others?
INBEE PARK:  Well, I think it was, you know, mostly from me, probably like 80 percent from me and maybe 20 percent from others like parents and probably from media.  But I think it's got to be from me because I think to be able to play on the professional Tour, I think you have to be able to handle that kind of pressure.  So after winning Evian and I felt kind of same way after winning U.S. Open because I hadn't won for a long time, so after Evian I was able to handle that kind of pressure at this time, so I was really happy for myself, yeah.

Q.  You mentioned a new swing, a new stroke.  What is different about your swing than it was a year ago?
INBEE PARK:  Well, I have my fiance teaching me, started end of last year, and it wasn't a big change, but it was just a little bit of change.  It's kind of hard to explain the full story, but just I've gone to a little bit of a swing change in the last off season and I was feeling a lot more comfortable with my swing and how to make the follow-through, that's what I've been working on, yeah.

Q.  What's his name?
INBEE PARK:  Gihyeob Nam.  G‑I‑H‑Y‑E‑O‑B and last name is Nam, N‑A‑M. 

MODERATOR:  Inbee, as you talked about all the swing changes and everything that you made, you talked about being engaged, how much has changed in your personal life and how much has that even affected your golf game?
INBEE PARK:  Yeah, I mean, I started traveling with him end of last year and this year full time, and this year especially traveling with somebody that's totally on my side, that really helped me, especially in this kind of lifestyle.  It's tough, you get really lonely when you travel nine, 10 months a year.  So that's been helping me a lot mentally that he's always there for me and somebody's always by my side.  That gave me a lot of comfort and gave me a lot of confidence.

MODERATOR:  When did you two meet?  Was he your swing coach first?
  No, because I dated him for about four years so he's been looking at my swing for a long time, but he didn't really want to touch it.  He's also a professional golfer.  We sometimes share our thoughts on the swings and stuff, but he didn't like go into my swing too seriously.  But end of last year I was really struggling hitting balls, so I said to him, Can you help me, and he decided to help, so yeah.

Q.  After you won Evian and then you performed well right after that, how did that feel and what was different?  Did you have any concerns that, okay, I've won and I hope this doesn't happen like it did last time?
Yeah, I know, I mean I definitely worried about that after winning Evian.  I'm just very happy that I was able to do it, the thing that I couldn't do before.  You know, I think that was the biggest accomplishment that I've done this year, I think, playing well after a win and playing ‑‑ I mean winning after the win, winning for multiple times per year, I think that's been the best achievement this year.

Q.  Just going back a little bit to the travel, were you surprised at how expensive it got traveling to all these different tournaments, and how are you able to handle that, especially in the years when things weren't going that well?
INBEE PARK:  Can you repeat that question?

Q.  First of all, were you surprised by the expenses involved in traveling?
INBEE PARK:  Expenses?

Q.  For traveling.
MODERATOR:  How much it costs to travel, like when you first started coming out, all the costs that go into being a professional.
INBEE PARK:  Yeah, but I mean, I was pretty ‑‑ because in the summertime when I was young as a junior golfer, I traveled probably like two, three months in the summertime to play tournaments which I didn't get any money from, I didn't get any checks from.  Still, you know, took quite a bit of money because I travel with my mom and dad and myself, so actually I wasn't that surprised when I came on the Tour because you actually get a paycheck.

Q.  You talked about trying to enjoy the week, but you still have a couple of opportunities to take home some hardware besides just the tournament trophy.  Talk about, you know, going for the money title, and you still have some work to do so lock up the Vare trophy.  How important are those to you?
INBEE PARK:  It is very important, but what I can control is my own game.  I can't control how Stacy's going to play or how other players are going to play, so I just try to do my own thing.  When you try to think about awards and try to think about that player's got to play bad, that player's got to play good, it's too complicated.  So I just try to think for myself and it is very important that I think I've got to give my best for it this week.  I'll give all my energy into this week, but that's all I can do, just try to do my best on my own game and just got to see what happens.

Q.  Is there much disappointment that Stacy locked up the Player of Year?
INBEE PARK:  After she won the Mizuno, I think it was kind of tough to catch her after that.  So, I mean, I was a little bit disappointed with more of that I didn't win last week, but I want to congratulate Stacy for a great season.  She definitely had a lot more wins than me and she had more Top 10s than me.  She played very consistent and very good, so I think she deserves it.

So Yeon Ryu, Rolex Rankings No. 9

MODERATOR:  We'd like to welcome the 2012 Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year So Yeon Ryu to the media center at the CME Group Titleholders.  So Yeon, you just put up with me for the last five and a half hours in the pro‑am.
SO YEON RYU:  Yes, I am.

MODERATOR:  I want to just get some thoughts from you on my game.  How did I play?
SO YEON RYU:  Am I have to answer this question?  Well, you know, I think he has a really, really great swing.  I was surprised.  His swing is really great, but his putting wasn't great, same as me.  But yeah, if he practice some more putting, he can hit like 60 something shot under the par.  You have a really great swing.

MODERATOR:  Well, enough about me.  That's nice of you to say.  This week is a very special week for you.  On Friday you will walk up on stage ‑‑
SO YEON RYU:  Yes, I'm nervous.

MODERATOR:  ‑‑ and take the Rolex Rookie of the Year trophy.  Just talk about this season.  It's been a long year.  You've had some really good tournaments, you shot 62 to win at the Jamie Farr.  Just tell us about this season and what it's been like. 
SO YEON RYU:  Actually, really big thing is last year I won the U.S. Women's Open so everybody expectation was so huge.  I felt some anxiety because everybody really focus on me, everybody expect other win.  But I couldn't win any tournament after U.S. Women's Open at the LPGA, even at the KLPGA, so I really wanted to make another win.  Then in Jamie Farr I shot 62 that I finally got my trophy and then I'm relieved.  I think after that my game is really consistent.  I made a lot of Top 10.  Actually, yeah, if I won the other tournament, that's be more happy, but anyway, I'm really, really happen with my results so far.

MODERATOR:  You talked about the Top 10s.  You had 15 Top 10s this year in your rookie season.  You won more than a million dollars, but what people might not know about you is that off the golf course you're actually about to finish a sports marketing degree in university in Korea.  Tell us about that.
SO YEON RYU:  Actually, now I'm studying about physical education, but I'm really interested in sports marketing, especially when I turned a professional golfer, I joined my company, I mean, my agent, and I felt like if my agent helped me (indiscernible) my game has improved.  So I really pretty impressive about that, so that's why I interested in sports marketing.  Especially I see the LPGA slogan is See Why It's Different Out Here, then I could felt it why it's different about if the sports marketing effect like that.  So I really interested in sports marketing and I want to become sports marketer, like a managed athlete.

MODERATOR:  You mentioned the See Why It's Different Out Here.  On Friday we will see why it's different when you get to walk the red carpet.  Did you pick out a dress?
SO YEON RYU:  Yes, I did.  It was really tough, it was really tough work because I want to looking great, I want to looking pretty.  I want to look a little different as golf course because we are athletes, so looks like not really pretty, I mean, a little muscular and really healthy, strong.  We hit it like 250‑yard driver.  But I want to look like girly on the red carpet, so I picked a really classic style dress and high heels, maybe really pretty nail like that, so I really look forward to it.

MODERATOR:  The last couple years the rookies of the year have set the bar really high with the speeches.  Aza Munoz had the whole room crying.  Last year Hee Kyung Seo had some laughs for Yani Tseng when she challenged her.  What can we expect from you?
SO YEON RYU:  That's why I'm nervous, it's really hard to prepare the speech.  I tried to search the speech on YouTube and I watched Hee Kyung's and I watched Aza's one.  I pretty impressed with Aza's one because everybody cry.  So I want to make a bit more the smiling, I want to see the smiling on crowds, but it's still going on.  It's like I'm writing about the like 70 percent, 80 percent.  I have to confirm to somebody, maybe Hee Kyung or Aza. 

MODERATOR:  If you would, just tell us about this week.  It's the last tournament of the year, $500,000 first place check.  I know you've had a great year.  How much would it mean to get another victory here at the Titleholders?
SO YEON RYU:  Well, this is my last tournament in the 2012 season.  I think I'm really ‑‑ I can't wait to play on Thursday.  It feels like really, really important tournament for me.  Everything is ‑‑ I mean, everything is really important to start than finish.  Well, my start was really pretty great, I finished second place in Australian Open, I lose playoff, but I want to make a strong finish in this tournament.

Q.  So now that you're almost completed with your rookie year, are you tired?
SO YEON RYU:  I'm tired?  

Q.  From all the travel?
SO YEON RYU:  Well, yes, I'm tired, but, you know, the hardest thing here on LPGA is traveling, but happiest thing is traveling.  This is my first visit in Florida, also the last week was my first visit in Mexico.  I have lots of opportunity to visit the new city, new country, and I have opportunity to make meeting new friends, overseas friends.  So it's really, really, yeah, I'm tired but it's fun, yeah.

Q.  Do you find yourself more mentally or physically tired?
SO YEON RYU:  Now more physically tired because I already decide Rookie of the Year worry, it made me relieved.  Then especially the LPGA announced I decided the Rookie of the Year after Taiwan event, then I played in Mexico.  Then I felt like really relieved, so I could more enjoy the tournament.

Q.  The other thing I wanted to ask you about travel, too, is my guess is you have to pay most of your own travel expenses.  Was that surprising as far as how much it took out of your paycheck then?
SO YEON RYU:  Sometimes, but my mother just control the money and actually I never check my money, how many costs my money ran or something.  I don't care about money thing.  I just love the golf, that's why I am being a professional golfer.  I'm just focused on golf.  I really don't know about the cost, but I think definitely it's expensive, but it's right deserve, I think, yeah.

Q.  What did you think of the golf course?
SO YEON RYU:  Green is really tough.  I really surprised green is how much (inaudible) like that.  Some hole is like pizza slice.  But I like the tough golf course.  I think the tough golf course is better than an easy golf course.  I like the challenging.  It might be really fun.

Q.  After winning the U.S. Open last year, did you think that the wins were going to come easy and did you have to kind of refocus after that?
  No, no, you know, everyone is really, really tough, especially if you win the major tournament, everybody thought oh, you win major tournament, maybe another tournament is really easy to you.  But no, every tournament is really, really tough, especially LPGA players playing so great, playing so great.  I pretty surprised with LPGA players' short game skill is really, really great.  So that's why these days I'm more focused on my short game.  If my short game is improved, maybe I can make more winning, but still every tournament is really hard to make a win.

Q.  Last one from me:  You have a connection to Psy ‑‑
:  Yes, I am.

Q.  ‑‑ of Gangnam Style fame, which is all the rage on the Internet.  Tell us how you know his family.
SO YEON RYU:  Well, his father graduate from my university, so sometimes we play together.  Actually, before his little bit of fame, Psy's become artist signer, but Gangnam Style is super famous now and his father's company stock huge increase.  He really proud of Psy.

Q.  Have you ever met him?
SO YEON RYU:  Well, after I won the Jamie Farr, Psy gave me the letter, autograph it there to congrats winning the Jamie Farr Classic, then please become Rookie of the Year, blah blah.  So I really thanks to Psy and I really proud of Psy because he is like superstar in ‑‑ not in just Korea, like global style, so I'm really proud of him.

Q.  Maybe if you win this week, you can send him a letter and sign it.
SO YEON RYU:  First I'll be dancing on the green.

Q.  Do you promise?  Promise you'll dance?
SO YEON RYU:  Yep, if I win.




Topics: Notes and Interviews, CME Group Tour Championship, Park, Inbee, Ryu, So Yeon

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