LPGA KEB • HanaBank Championship - First-Round Notes and Interviews

Amy Yang
Photo Credit: Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

Amy Yang of South Korea reacts after a shot during the first round of LPGA KEB • HanaBank Championship at Sky 72 Golf Club Ocean Course on October 18, 2013 in Incheon, South Korea.

LPGA KEB·HanaBank Championship
Sky 72 Golf Club
Incheon, South Korea
First-Round Notes and Interviews
October 18, 2013


Katherine Hull-Kirk, Rolex Rankings No. 93

Anna Nordqvist, Rolex Rankings No. 24
Amy Yang, Rolex Rankings No. 27
Ju Young Pak

Inbee Park, Rolex Rankings No. 1

There is a logjam atop of leaderboard after the first-round of the LPGA KEB·HanaBank Championship as four players fired 5-under 67’s to grab ahold of the lead.

LPGA Tour players Katherine Hull-Kirk, Amy Yang, Anna Nordqvist and KLPGA Tour player Ju Young Pak will take a 1-stroke lead over Caroline Hedwall into tomorrow’s second-round.

It has been a four year winless drought for Swede Anna Nordqvist, who last made her way to the winner’s circle at the 2009 LPGA Tour Championship Presented by Rolex, but after recording six birdies and one bogey in the opening round, she has inched her way closer to hoisting the trophy on Sunday.

“I would definitely like to win again, that’s why we’re out here,” said Nordqvist.  “I feel like I put myself in a couple of good positions I just haven't really finished well. All I can do is try to get better each day and right now that's what I'm trying to focus on. Everything else will happen.”

Despite the solid first-round for Nordqvist, she admitted the round could have been even lower if only a few more putts would have rolled-in.

“I hit the ball really, really well today,” said Nordqvist. “I gave myself a lot of good opportunities and hit quite a few close. I think I still had three or four lip‑outs and still shot 5‑under. I'm very happy with the day and I felt good out there.”

Also looking to put an end to a winless drought is Katherine Hull-Kirk, who hasn’t won since the 2010 Navistar LPGA Classic.

“The last few years have been a little bit frustrating but at the same time, I've learned a lot and I think I'm a better player now than I was even when I won,” said Hull-Kirk. “I think my best golf is still ahead of me, so I'm excited for the future and hopefully a lot more wins.”

With her game better than ever, the Aussie wasted little time moving into the red numbers after reeling off three birdies in her first three holes. Momentum continued to swing Hull-Kirk’s way during the remaining opening 9-holes as she made the turn at 5-under needing only 11 putts.

“I had a hard time on the first nine holes I played,” said Hull-Kirk. “I think I had 11 putts through the first nine holes, so that was really what got my round going.”

Despite cooling off a bit on the back-nine, Hull-Kirk feels right at home this week in South Korea and on the immaculate Sky 72 Golf Club.

“This is definitely one of best golf courses we play all year,” said Hull-Kirk. “It's always in perfect condition.  The bunkers are great and I really love the greens here because they are so true and they roll probably on the faster scale for us.”

Also joining Hull-Kirk and Nordqvist at the top of the leaderboard is South Korean Amy Yang. Feeling a bit under the weather this week, Yang was able to persevere as she carded six birdies and one bogey in the opening round.

Yang got off to a bit of a slow start during Friday’s first-round after recording a bogey on the first hole. Things would soon begin to heat-up for Yang however as she reeled off five consecutive birdies on holes four through eight.

“It's been a long time since I played in Korea, so I had a lot of family and friends around me,” said Yang. “So in the beginning I was a little bit nervous, but later on I had better concentration and focus on the game, so I made five birdies in-a-row.”

From South Korea, this week marks the first-time the sixth-year LPGA Tour member has returned home. Reunited with her family and friends this week, Yang is making the most of her time and indulging in some of South Korea’s delicious fare.

“It's really nice,” said Yang. “This is ‑‑ since last winter, I wasn't able to come home.  So I can see my family and also I can eat as much as I want to.  So it's real nice.”

Rounding out the group of players tied atop the leaderboard is KLPGA Tour member Je Young Pak. The younger sister of LPGA Tour standout Hee Young Park, turned to her sister to show the ropes of this week’s event.

“When I was walking around the official golf course with my sister, she gave a lot of lessons and also how to address the certain play,” said Pak. “That was a big help.”


Home away from home…
Several LPGA Tour players are feeling right at home this week in Incheon, South Korea thanks to the warm hospitality of a few LPGA Tour members. On Monday night of tournament week, Chella Choi and her father hosted several LPGA Tour players at a Korean BBQ restaurant where they had the chance to experience some of South Korea’s most popular cuisine.

“Chella and her dad were really kind enough to host us and treat us to a Korean restaurant,” said Hull-Kirk. “We had so much fun.  We ate bulgogi and Gal‑bi and then we tried some soju and some beer. We just had a great time and it was nice to hang out with her away from the golf course.  Certainly we enjoyed the Korean hospitality.”

The dinner helped propel Hull-Kirk into position to record her first LPGA Tour win since 2010 after firing an opening 5-under 67. The Australian is feeling right at home this week as she walks inside the ropes of the enthusiastic South Korean fans and even has her own little cheering section amongst the gallery.

When playing in Australia a couple years ago, Hull-Kirk met Julie who still frequently comes to tournaments to support her favorite LPGA Tour player.

“The fans are great here,” said Hull-Kirk. “I always look forward to playing here. I love the golf course, and I have good memories obviously from 2008. So this is certainly a tournament I'm excited to play. There is actually a young girl by the name of Julie who always comes out to watch me here. She saw an event in Australia a few years ago.  It's been nice to kind of watch her grow up, and hopefully we'll see her out here playing one day as well.”


Under the weather…
Amy Yang might be feeling a bit under the weather this week but that didn’t stop her from firing a blistering 5-under 67 opening round to move to the top of the leaderboard. Playing in front of a hometown crowd of 20 family and friends, Yang was able to fight off the sniffles which suddenly came on after her flight to South Korea.

“In the beginning during practice, I didn't feel well,” said Yang. “I think I got a cold. I took some medicine and I think I'm getting better. So just I had a runny nose, but other than that I'm okay.”

Currently No. 27 in the Rolex Rankings, Yang has had to find her way to the winner’s circle since joining the LPGA Tour in 2008. Despite several runner-up finishes including last year’s U.S. Women’s Open, Yang knows it is only a matter time before she becomes a Rolex First-Time Winner.

“I'm not sure of the reasons why,” said Yang of the reasons why she hasn’t won on the LPGA. “I'm trying hard and working hard, and I never thought that I cannot do that and I cannot win.  I try to be positive every time and maybe I sort of missed some opportunities but I think it would be better in the future.”

Homecoming… Friday’s first-round of the LPGA KEB·HanaBank Championship marked the first-time Inbee Park has played in an LPGA Tour event in South Korea since holding the top spot in the Rolex Rankings.

Galleries could be heard all across the golf course cheering on Park as she opened with a first-round 2-under 70.

“It was really great, a lot of the crowds followed our group and it was a lovely day today,” said Park. “On the front-nine my putting wasn’t on and on the back-nine I hit a couple of bad shots but overall I think today’s round was not a bad round.”


Of Note…
Defending champion Suzann Pettersen fired a first-round 3-under 69 and stands in a tie for sixth.


Katherine Hull-Kirk, Rolex Rankings No. 93

THE MODERATOR:  I'd like to welcome Katherine Hull Kirk into the interview.  Katherine, solid day out there.  What worked for you?
KATHERINE HULL‑KIRK:  I had a hard time on the first nine holes I played.  I think I had 11 putts through the first nine holes, so that was really what got my round going.

Q.  You finished second here, I believe in 2008.  How nice is it to come back to South Korea with all the fans here supporting you?
KATHERINE HULL‑KIRK:  The fans are great here.  I always look forward to playing here.  I love the golf course, and I have good memories obviously from 2008.  So this is certainly a tournament I'm excited to play.
           
There is actually a young girl by the name of Julie who always comes out to watch me here.  She saw an event in Australia a few years ago.  It's been nice to kind of watch her grow up, and hopefully we'll see her out here playing one day as well.

Q.  Katherine, I know you went to dinner with a few players on Monday night.  Can you tell everyone a little about that?  You kind of got a full taste of Korea.
KATHERINE HULL‑KIRK:  Chella and her dad were really kind enough to host us and treat us to a Korean restaurant.  We had so much fun.  We ate bulgogi and Gal‑bi and then we tried some soju and some beer. We just had a great time and it was nice to hang out with her away from the golf course.  Certainly we enjoyed the Korean hospitality.

Q.  (Inaudible)?
KATHERINE HULL‑KIRK:  Today, for me I had five birdies on the back nine and two bogeys and two birdies on the front nine.  So I guess a little slow on my last nine holes.
           
But I think probably the 14th is a really tough hole, and so if you can make three pars on that hole in the week, you are doing well.  There's certainly a lot of holes out there that you can birdie if you play smart.

Q.  Who do you think dresses better? Players on the KLPGA or LPGA Tour?
KATHERINE HULL‑KIRK:  I think all Korean players dress in really bright colors, so I love seeing their outfits and bright colors.  I think Hee Young Park catches my attention.  She usually wears some interesting combinations.

Q.  Katherine, you have won twice on Tour, but you haven't won since 2010.  Do you think about that at all or has it been frustrating or do you just try to block it out?
KATHERINE HULL‑KIRK:  The last few years have been a little bit frustrating but at the same time, I've learned a lot and I think I'm a better player now than I was even when I won.  I think my best golf is still ahead of me, so I'm excited for the future and hopefully a lot more wins.

Q.  What are your thoughts on the golf course?
KATHERINE HULL‑KIRK:  This is definitely one of best golf courses we play all year.  It's always in perfect condition.  The bunkers are great and I really love the greens here because they are so true and they roll probably on the faster scale for us.
           
So I was in one bunker today on the 14th hole, but I managed to hit it well and get up and down for far. Yeah, this golf course is immaculate and we love playing here.

Anna Nordqvist, Rolex Rankings No. 24

Q.  Solid day out there.  What was working for you?
ANNA NORDQVIST:  I hit the ball really, really well today.  I gave myself a lot of good opportunities and hit quite a few close. I think I still had three or four lip‑outs and still shot 5‑under. I'm very happy with the day and I felt good out there.

Q.  How has your time been in Korea?  I know you had some fun on Monday night, but what's it like here?
ANNA NORDQVIST:  I think it's good.  I'm just trying to enjoy golf right now.
           
It's been a lot warmer these last couple of days than what I expected.  You know, it's been good.  You do your things on the golf course and then go have some dinners with some friends and just have a good time.

Q.  You have been on a couple of Solheim Cup teams.  We have International Crown coming up next year.  You all are right up there in it.  How excited are you for that?
ANNA NORDQVIST:  It's going on the fun.  Obviously having another team event, me and Caroline Hedwall seem to be a pretty good fit in the Solheim.  So I can't wait to play with her.

Q.  It's a been a while since you've made your way to the winner's circle.  Do you think about that at all or do you just block it out and stick to your routine?
ANNA NORDQVIST:  I would definitely like to win again, that’s why we’re out here. I feel like I put myself in a couple of good positions I just haven't really finished well. All I can do is try to get better each day and right now that's what I'm trying to focus on. Everything else will happen.

Q.  With only two rounds left, what is your mindset?
ANNA NORDQVIST:  I felt pretty good out there today.  I know what I should try to focus on.  It's just a matter of keeping it going.


Amy Yang, Rolex Rankings No. 27

THE MODERATOR:  All right.  I'd like to welcome Amy Yang into the interview room.  Amy, thanks for coming in.  Nice round, up there on top of the leaderboard.  What went well for you?
AMY YANG:  It's been a long time since I played in Korea, so I had a lot of family and friends around me.  So in the beginning I was a little bit nervous, but later on I had better concentration and focus on the game, so I made five birdies in-a-row.

Q.  Amy, you are from South Korea, how nice is it to be home in week?
AMY YANG:  It's really nice.  This is ‑‑ since last winter, I wasn't able to come home.  So I can see my family and also I can eat as much as I want to.  So it's real nice.

Q.  How many families do you have out here watching you this week?
AMY YANG:  It's about 20 people from my family.

Q.  Amy, we were talking on the way in.  You're feeling a little sick right now.  How tough was it to play out there?  Were you able to just stay focused?
AMY YANG:  In the beginning during practice, I didn't feel well.  I think I got a cold.  I took some medicine and I think I'm getting better.  So just I had a runny nose, but other than that I'm okay.

Q.  Amy, you haven't won out here, but you've been up there an awful lot.  Has that been frustrating to you at all or do you put it in the back of your mind?
AMY YANG:  I haven’t won up until now but I don’t really care much. I think I will do well and I think I will have a good performance this week. I’m expecting to do well.

Q.  You have won overseas. What is making it difficult for you to win on the LPGA?
AMY YANG:  I'm not sure of the reasons why.  I'm trying hard and working hard, and I never thought that I cannot do that and I cannot win.  I try to be positive every time and maybe I sort of missed some opportunities but I think it would be better in the future.

Q.  (Inaudible)?
AMY YANG:  I think that you maintain the score and if the weather allows, (indiscernible) what we can expect probably can be achieved.  I think (indiscernible) is very important.

Ju Young Pak

Q.  Before you start playing today, did you receive any advice and consultation from your sister?
JU YOUNG PAK:  When I was walking around the official golf course with my sister, she gave a lot of lessons and also how to address the certain play.  That was a big help.

Q.  First of all, congratulations on your good performance in the first round.  What was the biggest help and advice from your sister?  I saw you played with your sister and your sister made fun of you.  And so what I want to know is what was really helpful when you were with your sister?
JU YOUNG PAK:  First of all, the coach management styles between the two of us are totally different.  For me, I always take a good look at the grass shape, the point I need to be aggressive.  But my sister, she is always concentrating on parts and areas where she should be defensive.
           
So since both of us are totally different from that point, I take a lesson from the differences.

Q.  Did you receive any specific advice for you to address the specific holes?
JU YOUNG PAK:  For example, she said that for the par‑3, I should focus on the center of the green.  That's what she said and that was really helpful.
           
As for par‑5s, I shouldn't be always aggressive.  She advised me to use wedge shot.  That was really helpful.  So using wedge shot create some sort of spin in the ball.  That is the advice from my sister and also that was very helpful.

Q.  Do you have any specific method and strategy to address this course?  Let us know your own know how to address this course.
JU YOUNG PAK:  It is most important to keep the tee shot in the fairway.


Inbee Park, Rolex Rankings No. 1

Q.  How was it out there? It’s your first time playing at home as number one, what was it like?
INBEE PARK:  It was really great, a lot of the crowds followed our group and it was a lovely day today. On the front-nine my putting wasn’t on and on the back-nine I hit a couple of bad shots but overall I think today’s round was not a bad round.

Q.  Yeah, it seemed like you brought it back on the back-nine. Did something click?
INBEE PARK:  Not exactly, I had a good front-nine but I missed a lot of putts. On the back-nine I hit a lot of bad shots but on 17 I hit a really good shot. Today I just missed a lot of putts again.

 

Topics: Park, Inbee, Nordqvist, Anna, Kirk, Katherine, Yang, Amy, LPGA KEB • HanaBank Championship, News and Notes [+]

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