LPGA KEB·HanaBank Championship Pre-tournament notes & interviews - Thursday

LPGA KEB·HanaBank Championship
Sky 72 Golf Club
Incheon, South Korea
Pre-Tournament Notes and Interviews
October 17, 2013

Inbee Park, Rolex Rankings No. 1
So Yeon Ryu, Rolex Rankings No. 4
Na Yeon Choi, Rolex Rankings No. 6
Hee Young Park, Rolex Rankings No. 17
Grace Park, 6-time LPGA Tour winner
Cristie Kerr, Rolex Rankings No. 12
Se Ri Pak, Rolex Rankings No. 32

A round to remember… During Friday’s first-round of the LPGA KEB·HanaBank Championship, all eyes will be on the pairing of South Korean golf pioneers Grace Park and Se Ri Pak, and American Cristie Kerr. Park will be teeing-it-up this week in her final LPGA Tour event and will have a pair of close friends by her side every step of the way on Friday.

“It’s been quite a long time since I played with Grace,” said Park. “After her retirement announcement, she came to Orlando and we practiced together. We were always together. While I play during this week, I guess every moment and every hole will give me a precious memory with her to me. For the next three days, I will spend time with Grace and make it as enjoyable as possible. Apart from being a player, I will try to make sure that she will have a wonderful memory in this last tournament.”

Between the pairing of Park and Pak, they helped pioneer the way for several aspiring South Korean golfers. The duo has a pair of resumes that could rival any professional athlete as Pak has 25 LPGA Tour wins under her belt while Park has six, including the 2004 Kraft Nabisco Championship.

For Kerr, a 16-time LPGA Tour winner, the chance to play alongside her longtime friend will be reminiscent of their days as junior golfers in Arizona.

“One of the earliest memories of playing junior golf with Grace was playing in Arizona and our fathers walking together during practice rounds,” said Kerr. “We just wanted to talk about shopping. To be able to play with her, alongside her and Se Ri in this tournament is very special to me and I get to play with one of my best friends.”


Excitement for International Crown…
Next year, 32 players from eight countries will have the opportunity to compete for one crown at the inaugural International Crown. The first-of-its-kind biennial match play event will take place July 21-27, 2014 at Caves Valley Golf Club in Owings Mills, Maryland.

While the teams who will compete in the inaugural event will not be final until after the CME Group Titleholders, South Korea currently holds a commanding lead in the standings.

With the Solheim Cup only featuring the United States and Europe, the International Crown will give other countries like South Korea the opportunity to compete in a team style event.

“I thought it was a very good opportunity for all the other countries because the Solheim Cup is only for Europe and the United States,” said Rolex Rankings No. 1 Inbee Park. “We always wanted to be a part of it and we realize that we have a great opportunity. It will be good practice for the 2016 Olympics and I think to get experience before that will be a huge advantage.”
 
“The LPGA Tour is going global, not only the America and Europe so I always thought, why didn’t they have more competitions,” added Hee Young Park. “Now we have an opportunity with the International Crown so I think it’s really exciting and I wish I can be there.”

The International Crown will not be the typical stroke-play event with every player competing for themselves but instead, players will join forces to compete in the match play style event. According to Rolex Rankings No. 6 Choi, it will give players the opportunity to become one as they support their teammates during 2014’s inaugural year.

“I was very excited and I think it’s a great opportunity to play a different format,” said Choi. “We always compete against each other every week but that week we will stand behind each other and support each other. I think it will be a great event.”


Korean golf dynasty…
During Thursday’s pre-tournament press conference honoring LPGA Tour great Grace Park, Cristie Kerr found herself nestled comfortably between two South Koreans who helped introduce the game of golf to their country.

This week, Park will be competing in her final LPGA Tour event and Thursday’s press conference offered a brief trip down memory lane for Park, Kerr, and Se Ri Pak.

“I am sitting with Korean golf royalty, both of these players,” said Kerr. “Grace paved the way for the rest of Korean players on our Tour. They are both amazing players on their own right. They bring strength, beauty, all the things that Korean people love to the game of golf. That’s why we have so many fans here in Korea. If you ask each Korean golfer on Tour, you know what, Grace has meant to the game, I think you will get some great answers. I always looked-up to her in junior golf and throughout the professional ranks. I always tried to dress better, I always tried to put make-up on better and tried to be elegant. That’s what Grace stands for.”

Inbee Park, Rolex Rankings No. 1
So Yeon Ryu, Rolex Rankings No. 4
Na Yeon Choi, Rolex Rankings No. 6
Hee Young Park, Rolex Rankings No. 17

MODERATOR:  Ladies and gentlemen, next year we will have the inaugural International Crown that will consist of 32 players, representing eight countries, all competing for one Crown. Today we have some top players from South Korea including Inbee Park, So Yeon Ryu, Na Yeon Choi, and Hee Young Park.

First question for each of you, what was the first thing that went through your mind when you heard about the International Crown?
Inbee Park:  I thought it was a very good opportunity for all the other countries because the Solheim Cup is only for Europe and the United States. We always wanted to be a part of it and we realize that we have a great opportunity. It will be good practice for the 2016 Olympics and I think to get experience before that will be a huge advantage.

So Yeon Ryu:  When I first heard about the International Crown I really wanted to represent my country. I think it will be really hard to represent my country but I’m still really excited about it. Soccer has World Cup and also baseball has the World Baseball and golf has Solheim Cup for Europe and the USA but I think this event can be a festival for the LPGA and LPGA fans so I’m really looking forward to it.

Na Yeon Choi:  I was very excited and I think it’s a great opportunity to play a different format. We always compete against each other every week but that week we will stand behind each other and support each other. I think it will be a great event.

Hee Young Park:  The LPGA Tour is going global, not only the America and Europe so I always thought, why didn’t they have more competitions. Now we have an opportunity with the International Crown so I think it’s really exciting and I wish I can be there.

MODERATOR:  All of you are playing at home this week in South Korea. What would it mean to each of you to represent your country in the International Crown?
Inbee Park:  It’s not just the International Crown, we are always representing our country, especially when we are playing Korea. Next year there’s the International Crown and you need to play good to get on the team. Obviously we are leading by far but I think it is tough to just get on the team and I think we all want to play good to represent our country.

So Yeon Ryu:  It’s always really hard to represent my country because it’s always just for me, it’s my game but at the International Crown, you have support your team. I don’t want to help them lose or whatever so it’s really hard to represent our country but I will try to do my best. I’m sure it will be really fun for us.

Na Yeon Choi:  When we were juniors, the four of us have played on the Korean National Team and we played tournaments in different countries so we would support each other and we had a great experience. It really is a lot of pressure to play in the tournament because a lot of people expect Korea to play well in that tournament but it’s not easy to play under pressure. We will do our best and hope for some good results.

Hee Young Park:  The International Crown is going to be really fun to play as a player and also all the national people will be supporting. It’s different and it’s really an important competition but it’s going to be a fun time for everyone.

MODERATOR:  Hee Young, the final team will not be determined until after the Kraft Nabisco Championship next year, you’re on the outside looking in right now, is that in the back of your mind as you play each week or do you try to block it out?
Hee Young Park:  Yeah, I was talking to Kylie (Pratt) and we always make a goal at the end of December to finish the season but this is a new goal for us to use as motivation to make some good golf before the International Crown. I’m still really happy with my golf game but if I make it on the team then I will be really happy. I’m going to make it my goal.

Q:  Na Yeon, how do you think the fans will react here to South Korea competing in the International Crown? What feedback do you think you will get in South Korea?
Na Yeon Choi:  I think so many fans expect Korea to win but it’s all about the results and nobody can control that. When we try too hard, we don’t get good results so we have to encourage each other and go out there and have some fun. If we have good results it will be an honor but there are so many good players in America or Australia. We can promise that we will do our best.

Q:  Inbee, you are the number one player in the world right now. What would it mean to you to be wearing the Crown at the end of the event?
Inbee Park:  Being number one as an individual is a great honor and to be able to become number one as a country is a different type of an honor. I think it is going to be a very tough challenge for all the countries and whoever plays good that week is going to win. Like I said, you have to try hard to win because it’s not just going to be given away. It’s going to be great fun.

MODERATOR:  So Yeon, do you think the fact that you all have played together as a team before will help take the pressure off?  
So Yeon Ryu:  We had a great experience last year, we played a Korea against Japan tournament and Inbee and I were on a team. It was actually a really tough format, we played a four ball and Inbee would hit a great shot and I would hit it everywhere but one thing I learned is that I don’t really have to care about what I’m doing but I have to respect what the other player is playing. The main thing is not thinking that I have to win this tournament or that I have to play well but I realize it can be like that. The one important thing is just to hang out and enjoy the tournament and enjoy it with the friends. If we do that then I think we can win the tournament.

Grace Park, 6-time LPGA Tour winner
Cristie Kerr, Rolex Rankings No. 12
Se Ri Pak, Rolex Rankings No. 32

MODERATOR: Grace, how does it feel back to home back in South Korea?
Grace Park:  It’s nice to be back home. I’ve been back for one year and four months and it’s nice to see familiar faces here. This last game will be a very special game for me.

MODERATOR : Cristie, you have been friends with Grace Park for many years. Do you have any funny story you can tell us?
Cristie Kerr : No. it is pretty embarrassing for me and Grace. We’ve known each other since we were 14-years-old and I just remember so many good memories, playing junior amateur golf. It is great to be here to support her today. She has been amazing career. There are just too many stories, pretty good memories. It’s great to see her again.

MODERATOR: Seri, how about you? Any funny stories?
Se Ri Pak: I’ve been playing in tour with Grace for more than 10 years. Now that Grace is retiring, I feel very sorry that we don’t have much time to have fun. Mostly I remember that we supported each other as golf players. We did not have a retirement ceremony last year, but now she announces her retirement. Last year and this year again I feel very sorry that we didn’t have much meaningful time together but she’s been a great example to our juniors. She’s been very warm to juniors, supporting and encouraging them a lot as a senior. She is finishing her career with a lot of good memory so that she may feel happiness. From now on I’d like to share good friendship not as a golf player but as an adult. I’m expecting a close and good friend from her.

Q.: Question for Grace, what are your expectations for tournament this weekend?
 Grace Park: It was a very sudden decision to participate in this tournament so I was not able to prepare much. Since my retirement I haven’t gripped a golf club but after deciding to play this game, I have practiced some. During my career, I played golf in tournaments only for performance and record but this time I’m going to play for those who have supported me and I want to create some good memories throughout entire game. My goal is not shoot a good score, but rather to have a meaningful time.

Q: I have a question to Grace Park. What was your most regrettable and most memorable games?
Grace Park : There are numerous games that I can pick as regrettable games but the most regrettable game was the Rochester last year when I announced my retirement. When I concluded my golf career I wish I had finished with a good performance and in good condition but unfortunately, it was not the case. The most memorable is that 2004 CJ Nine Bridge Classic and the next most memorable will be this Hana KEB LPGA Championship, I guess.

MODERATOR: Cristie, how excited are you playing along with Grace?
Cristie Kerr: Before that question, I want to add that one of the earliest memories of playing junior golf with Grace was playing in Arizona and our fathers walking together during practice rounds. We just wanted to talk about shopping. To be able to play with her, alongside her and Se Ri in this tournament is very special to me and I get to play with one of my best friends.

MODERATOR: Seri, the same question to you. How excited are you to play with Grace?
Se Ri Pak: It’s been quite a long time since I played with Grace. After her retirement announcement, she came to Orlando and we practiced together. We were always together. While I play during this week, I guess every moment and every hole will give me a precious memory with her to me. For the next three days, I will spend time with Grace and make it as enjoyable as possible. Apart from being a player, I will try to make sure that she will have a wonderful memory in this last tournament.

Q.: I have a question to Se Ri Park and Cristie Kerr. Now that Grace is retiring, what kind of player Grace is going to be in your memory?
 Cristie Kerr: I’ll start up the answer. I am sitting with Korean golf royalty, both of these players. Grace paved the way for the rest of Korean players on our Tour. They are both amazing players on their own right. They bring strength, beauty, all the things that Korean people love to the game of golf. That’s why we have so many fans here in Korea. If you ask each Korean golfer on Tour, you know what, Grace has meant to the game, I think you will get some great answers. I always look-up to her in junior golf and throughout the professional ranks. I always tried to dress better, I always tried to put make-up on better and tried to be elegant. That’s what Grace stands for.

Se Ri Pak : For me, most of my memories with her are in competition during tournaments. Every time when I saw her outside of golf course, I feel that she has a lot of energy and positive. She always leaves her bright image to the rest of players. During the career, difficult times outnumber good times. Even though it is difficult and lonely, she always shows bright face and makes some jokes, encouraging and supporting co-players. I believe that is the biggest advantage found in her. Every time I see her, I can smile and feel better. Grace is a cute junior to me but to many juniors she never forget smiling, which leaves good impression.

Q : I have questions for each one of you. First to Cristie Kerr, I admire her great passion. When I see her playing, she is very passionate with great immersion in games. Where does that energy come from? To Seri park, many of your close player are getting married. When are you going to give good news? To Grace Park, after retirement what is your plan or schedule?
Cristie Kerr : I’ve always been a very intense competitor. Where do I get that from? I think honestly from my parents. My mother and my father, they are both athletes, not the professional ranks but my father plays baseball and my mother was a swimmer. I don’t know I just have that fire inside of me and that’s where I get that.

Se Ri Pak : Every week the first question to me is that, why is it always first to me? I think marriage does not come easy to me. Though many surrounding me get married, getting married is only difficult to me. For reference, I wish you introduce a good person first before asking that question. Meeting a right person is not easy but also my life style does make it difficult. Finding important life time partner is not easy. As you can see from Grace Park, who got married last year, we have spent much time and effort playing golf. Though it is important to find life time partner, doing what I enjoy most , which is golf, is also important. That’s why I cannot decide and find a good person. But I am still looking for someone and if you find someone good for me, let me know.

Grace Park : That is also the question I’ve been ask most since retirement announcement. As for the plan after retirement, frankly speaking, I have no answer in terms of career. I haven’t given much thought on that. There was also one of the biggest decisions, marriage last November. I got married and enjoyed newly-married life. Looking back on my past 20 years of career, I didn’t have any single holiday or vacation. Like any other player, I ceaselessly ran for the past 20 years. As much as I complete my golf career excellently, I want to give good rest to myself. I am just enjoying my life as an ordinary person not as golf player. I also need to plan a family. I will set a post-retirement plan in a calm and orderly way.

Topics: Notes and Interviews, LPGA KEB • HanaBank Championship

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