HSBC LPGA Brasil Cup 2012 Pre-tournament notes and interviews

HSBC LPGA Brasil Cup 2012
Itanhanga Golf Club
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
May 4, 2012
Pre-tournament notes and interviews

 

Suzann Pettersen, Rolex Rankings No. 3
Paula Creamer, Rolex Rankings No. 10
Angela Park, Brazil native
Annika Sorenstam, LPGA and World Golf Halls of Fame member

 

The LPGA Tour traveled to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil this week for the fourth annual HSBC LPGA Brasil Cup 2012, the first unofficial event of the season. A total of 30 international players will compete in the two-round event for a $720,000 purse and a $108,000 first-prize check, all unofficial money.

Headlining this week’s field at Itanhanga Golf Club are Rolex Rankings No. 3 Suzann Pettersen, No. 10 Paula Creamer along with the 2011 champ Mariajo Uribe. Entering the second round of play, Uribe was two strokes behind Heather Bowie-Young but quickly gained the lead after a birdie on the fifth hole. She held on to the lead and claimed the title, one year after losing in a playoff to Meaghan Francella.

Welcome back! It’s been a little over a year and a half since Angela Park last played in an LPGA Tour event. At the end of the 2010 season, Park decided to call it quits from golf citing mental and physical exhaustion and burnout. Park, who was the 2007 Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year and earned over $2 million in four years on Tour, instead found a job in the working world which included being a receptionist at a hotel in California.

But after a long layoff from professional golf, Park decided that she wanted to return to her first career and this week in her native Brazil will mark the start of her comeback to golf.

“The main reason that I am returning is because I miss it so much,” said Park, who finished runner-up at the 2007 U.S. Women’s Open.  “Ultimately it took me a year and a half to realize what I wanted to do. So I’m taking a firm heart and decision to stay with this and really sticking through with it.”

Park was asked what she has learned from her time working in the “real world.”

“It was a very humbling experience,” Park said. “It just made me realize what I had at such a young age. It just gave me a really different perspective on life. When you’re young and you reach all of your goals, you don’t realize how lucky you are and how fortunate you are. Once I was working and having a regular life, it made me really realize what I had.”

 

Welcome to Rio! For some players in this week’s field, this is their second or third trip to Brazil. For others, like Paula Creamer, this event marks the first time they have ever visited the South American country.

“It’s absolutely beautiful,” Creamer said when asked about Rio de Janeiro. “I want to come back on a vacation. I’ve said that four or five times so far since I’ve been here. Hopefully it will happen before the Olympics. To me, the Olympics are one of the greatest things that sports has. I love watching people represent their country and the fact that golf is now a part of that is very special and very motivating. Hopefully in 2016, I’ll be back here.”

Some players have taken advantage of the trip to Brazil, visiting sites such as Sugarloaf Mountain and the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio.

 

Growing the game: This week’s tournament in Brazil is special to many of the players not only for the fact that it’s the city where golf will return to the Olympics in 2016 but also because it provides an opportunity to get more people interested in golf.

This year HSBC flew LPGA and World Golf Halls of Fame member Annika Sorenstam to Rio de Janeiro to host a series of clinics and introduce other juniors to the game of golf. Since stepping away from the LPGA Tour at the end of the 2008 season, Sorenstam has not only started a family but has also dedicated her time to helping to grow the game throughout the world. So this week provides Sorenstam, who is third on the LPGA career wins list with 72 victories, with an opportunity to reach out in South America.

“One of the biggest things I’m doing is with my foundation and that’s one of the reasons why I’m here and that’s to grow the game globally,” Sorenstam said. “It can be either with a golf academy, it could be scholarships or golf tournaments. We now have 3 junior girls’ tournaments in the world and obviously we are looking at this part of the world to add another Annika Invitational. The objective is to inspire young girls to pick up the game.”

Sorenstam played in Friday’s pro-am at Itanhanga Golf Club but she won’t be playing in this week’s tournament. She was asked by the Brazilian media how she has dealt with no longer competing on the big stage.

“You might think that competing for 16 years and then to just leave it abruptly that I would miss it, but I have not looked back,” Sorenstam said. “I have been very busy doing other things. The biggest thing is obviously starting a family and still staying involved in the game in different ventures. I get my golf fix one way or another just not inside the ropes anymore.”

 

Of Note…There are three Brazilians in this week’s field: Luciana Bemvenuti, Angela Park and Victoria Lovelady Alimonda. Bemvenuti, the first Brazilian to compete on the LPGA Tour, is from Porto Alegre located 697 miles from Rio de Janeiro. Her career-best finish on the LPGA came when she finished tied for fourth at the 1998 Longs Drug Challenge. Lovelady is a native of Sao Paulo, Brazil, located about 250 miles from Rio de Janeiro, while Park was born in Brazil but moved to Southern California at the age of 8…Suzann Pettersen is making her second straight appearance at the HSBC LPGA Brasil Cup. “It’s so nice to see so many young kids come out to watch and the Olympics has always been a dream of mine and it’s nice to bring our game to the next generation,” Pettersen said. “That’s obviously our future and I think HSBC has done a great job trying to promote golf here in Rio.”

 

MODERATOR:  We’d like to welcome everyone to the 2012 HSBC LPGA Brasil Cup. This is the fourth year that the event has been played here in Rio de Janeiro and we are pleased to welcome four special guests to today’s press conference. Joining us are Brazil native Angela Park, Rolex Rankings No. 10 Paula Creamer, Rolex Rankings No. 3 Suzann Pettersen and LPGA and World Golf Halls of Fame member Annika Sorenstam. Can each of you talk a little about what it means to be here in Brazil this week?

ANGELA PARK: This is basically history in the making, there are so many things going on in golf and in Rio.

PAULA CREAMER: This is my first time here to Brazil. It’s absolutely beautiful. I want to come back on a vacation. I’ve said that four or five times so far since I’ve been here. Hopefully it will happen before the Olympics. To me, the Olympics are one of the greatest things that sports has. I love watching people represent their country and the fact that golf is now a part of that is very special and very motivating. Hopefully in 2016, I’ll be back here.

SUZANN PETTERSEN: This is my second time around here in Brazil. I was here last year. I had a great time last year. We travel the world to different places and I think it’s very important that we introduce the game of golf to young kids in different parts of the world. It’s so nice to see so many young kids come out to watch and the Olympics has always been a dream of mine and it’s nice to bring our game to the next generation. That’s obviously our future and I think HSBC has done a great job trying to promote golf here in Rio and I just think it has to maintain for the next 3-4 years so we have a great time in the Olympics.

ANNIKA SORENSTAM: This is my second trip to Rio. I was here in February when I presented with Jack Nicklaus to design the Olympic course. But I was only here for 30 hours so now I’m going to stay a little longer and I look forward to seeing a little bit more now than I did then. I can only echo what Angela, Paula and Suzann have said about growing the game in this part of the world. I am here for a little different reason than them. I am not playing in the competition but I’m delighted to be here and to help inspire young girls to play golf. And I want to thank HSBC for the initiative. I think what they are doing is a wonderful step towards growing this game and also accelerate the growth. It’s going to be fun to be here the next few days.

 

Q. Angela, are you really returning professionally to golf?
ANGELA PARK: Yes, I am.

Q. Angela, can you talk about your reasons for wanting to come back and what was the decision process like for you?
ANGELA PARK: The main reason that I am returning is because I miss it so much. Ultimately it took me a year and a half to realize what I wanted to do. So I’m taking a firm heart and decision to stay with this and really sticking through with it.

Q. How do you plan this return of yours, Angela?
ANGELA PARK: I think it’s going to require a lot of hard work. There are no shortcuts. All I’m really concerned about is getting back and just enjoying it. So it basically will just be hard work that will get me back.

Q. Angela, we know that you were working in hotels when you were away from golf. How was that experience for you?
ANGELA PARK: It was a very humbling experience. It just made me realize what I had at such a young age. It just gave me a really different perspective on life. When you’re young and you reach all of your goals, you don’t realize how lucky you are and how fortunate you are. Once I was working and having a regular life, it made me really realize what I had.

 

Q. Paula, a lot of international papers are mentioning the changes that you’ve made to your swing. How is this training going?
PAULA CREAMER: It’s going laug. It’s very hard. Taking something from the driving range to competition is one of the hardest things. That’s something that I’m learning how to handle. For me to get better and to get more consistent and to have a longer career, I have to change my golf swing. I know I’ve had a lot of success with just my natural golf swing but I want to get better and I feel that it’s something I have to do. It’s a long process and it’s very hard but it keeps getting better and better as the year goes on.

Q. Paula, you’ve been playing golf out here on the LPGA Tour for 8 years and have done so well at such a young age. How do you explain that?
PAULA CREAMER: I don’t know. I truly enjoy getting better. I love the game and I love the fact that I can control my own destiny and how hard I work. I used to be a dancer and I was constantly told how I performed, being judged. I didn’t like that. I knew I did better than what I was told I did. Being introduced to the game of golf was the best thing that’s ever happened to me. It’s hard, it’s rewarding, and you get to travel the world. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t want to push myself to be the best. I can’t control other people, I can only control myself but I want to push myself to the limit. So for me, it’s really the love of the game.

 

Q. Annika, how has it been not competing and being away from the game?
ANNIKA SORENSTAM: You might think that competing for 16 years and then to just leave it abruptly that I would miss it, but I have not looked back. I have been very busy doing other things. The biggest thing is obviously starting a family and still staying involved in the game in different ventures. I get my golf fix one way or another just not inside the ropes anymore.

Q. Can you tell us more about the other things you are involved in with golf now?
ANNIKA SORENSTAM:  One of the biggest things I’m doing is with my foundation and that’s one of the reasons why I’m here and that’s to grow the game globally. It can be either with a golf academy, it could be scholarships or golf tournaments. We now have 3 junior girls’ tournaments in the world and obviously we are looking at this part of the world to add another Annika Invitational. The objective is to inspire young girls to pick up the game.

 

Q. Suzann, what would it mean to represent your country in the Olympics and who would you like to have playing with you on your team?
SUZANN PETTERSEN: Wow, that’s a long time away. I’m just trying to get through this weekend laug. It’s four years ahead. Time flies and who might be playing with me, I have no idea. I don’t know yet what format they are going to play. Hopefully I will be playing. That’s my goal laug.

Q. Since this is your second time here, Suzann, has there been anything that’s changed in your game?
SUZANN PETTERSEN: I feel very good with everything. My game is starting to come around. All I’m trying to do is go out there today and make every session, every round of golf, the best and everyday try to learn something new.

Topics: Notes and Interviews, Creamer, Paula, Pettersen, Suzann, Sorenstam, Annika, HSBC LPGA Brasil Cup [+]

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