Kia Classic First-Round Notes and Interviews

Kia Classic
Aviara Golf Club
Carlsbad, Calif.

First-round notes and interviews
March 21, 2013

Growing pains
Translating success
It’s rough
Rooting interest
Tweet of the Day
Of Note

Jane Park -6, Rolex Rankings No. 298
Karrie Webb -5, Rolex Rankings No. 15
Caroline Hedwall -5, Rolex Rankings No. 37
Jessica Korda -4, Rolex Rankings No. 42
Amanda Blumenherst -3, Rolex Rankings 234

 

Seven-year LPGA Tour veteran Jane Park (@TheJanePark) got off to a hot start on Thursday at the Kia Classic (@LPGAKiaClassic) and took the first-round lead after carding a 6-under 66 at Aviara Golf Club. Park had a bogey-free round with six birdies including three-consecutive on Nos. 4, 5, 6. It was Park’s best round since she shot a 66 in the final round of the Evian Masters in 2009.

She holds a one-shot lead over World and LPGA Halls of Fame member Karrie Webb and 2011 European Solheim Cup Team member Caroline Hedwall. Park had 26 putts in the round and said Southern California weather is always an added perk.

“The weather was fantastic today like it always is in San Diego and just wanted to take advantage of that and the fresh greens this morning, and fortunately I made a ton of putts today,” said Park.

“I love playing golf here,” said Park, who resides in Rancho Cucamonga about an hour north of Carlsbad.  “Obviously I'm from here, but yeah, the golf courses here just really fit my eye.  I love the -- I just love this style of golf course, so maybe that's why I played pretty well today.”

 

Growing pains: In her seven years on the LPGA Tour, Jane Park has managed the ups and downs of the grind as a professional golfer. The former U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship winner turned pro at 19 and has had trouble replicating her success she had early on in her career.

“Well, my first year on Tour I played pretty well,” said Park. “I finished 25th on the money list at the end of the year and that was an awesome year.  I had so much fun.  I think once you start thinking of it as a job and you kind of put too much pressure on yourself, that's kind of what happened to me as well.  But, you know, it's great to finally get a good round under my belt.  It's a little difficult to not play as well as I know I can, but I think with a lot of hard work I can get up there.”

Park has been plagued by injuries and also said some growing pains got in the way. After her 6-under 66 in the opening round on Thursday, she said she hasn’t played that well in about three years. Park made seven cuts in 15 starts last season on tour, finishing 94th on the money list.

“Some injuries and some personal family issues, and I don't know, just growing up, I guess.  I got on Tour pretty young, I was only 19, fresh out of my first year at UCLA, and thinking back it might have been a little premature, but yeah, it was just growing pains.  I would say it's been about three years, about three years.  I went through a couple struggles, about three years ago is when I started to struggle.”

Some well-tweaked preparation this past off season had the Southern California native in high spirits at the start of the year and things have seemed to come together for the 26-year old.

“I think my preparation in the off season was much better this off season than it has been in the past,” said Park. “My career's been riddled with injuries and different things here and there, but I prepared really well and I was pretty confident coming into this week.”

 

Translating success: Third-year LPGA Tour pro Caroline Hedwall knows how to win. But the Swede’s eight professional victories have all come either on the Ladies European Tour (LET) or the Australian Ladies Professional Golf Tour (ALPG) and she’s still looking to break into the winner’s circle on the LPGA. She got off on the right foot to start the year in 2013 and captured back-to-back victories in Australia at the Mount Broughton Classic and the Bing Lee Samsung Women’s New South Wales Open in January.

“I played a lot of events in Australia on the ALPG Tour and won a couple there,” said Hedwall. “I feel like I've got off to a pretty good start, but I haven't really played well in the bigger events.  But I feel confident about my game and I hope I can get that feeling in the beginning of the year back and shoot low.”

Hedwall’s career-best finish came in Carlsbad a year ago at the Kia Classic at La Costa when she tied for fifth. The 23-year old has goals to translate her early success this year to her season on the LPGA.

“Yeah, obviously.  I mean, I won a lot of events, so I feel confident when I'm up there, but I've just struggled to be up there during the weekend,” said Hedwall. “That's what I'm trying to do, set myself in a good position coming into the weekend because I know when I'm there, I love it and I enjoy playing so much that I usually play well, too.”

 

It’s rough: Players have had the task of preparing for a new track this week at Aviara Golf Club and players have said that the rough has proved to be a challenge already. When asked what she thought the key was to go low this week, Jessica Korda (@JessicaKorda) said keeping the ball in the fairway is imperative.

“Staying in the fairway, staying in the fairway,” said Korda. “The rough is really thick and it's cold outside so you're not hitting it as far, you're having longer clubs and you don't want longer clubs in the rough.  I kind of experienced that on the last couple holes and it wasn't pretty.”

Karrie Webb, who hit 12 out of 14 fairways in the first round, agreed and said the thick stuff is nothing she wants to be dealing with.

“Yeah, you don't -- I mean, the fairways are wide enough but you definitely don't want to mess with the rough,” said  Webb. “And it's pretty patchy, so you could get lucky and then you could get pretty ripped off, so I was just happy to get done.”

 

Rooting interests: Amanda Blumenherst (@Blumenherst) is focused on golf this week at the Kia Classic but she’s also tuned in to the start of the NCAA College Basketball Tournament. The Duke University graduate filled out a bracket for this year’s tournament and there was no question where her allegiance lies.

“Duke all the way,” Blumenherst said. “My parents went to Indiana, though, so I have them in the finals.  So we have a family house divided.”

Blumenherst got off to a hot start herself in Thursday’s first round of the Kia Classic, shooting a 3-under 69. The three-time National Collegiate Player of the Year while at Duke and 2008 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion hasn’t been able to duplicate her amateur success since joining the LPGA Tour in 2010. But while there have been a few ups and downs over the past few years, Blumenherst was excited about the state of her game on Thursday.

“It was solid, it was solid golf,” Blumenherst said. “I've been struggling off the tee a little bit, so it was nice to hit a few fairways and it just was hitting really solid ball striking.  It was fun.  It's been a while, so it was good to get a low number in there.”

 

Tweet of the Day: Goes to LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan who admitted his mom bought one of his bobbleheads last week in Phoenix.

“RT @matt_brisson: @LPGACommish where can I get a commish bobble head?

 they made 100 - so that means there are 99 left (my mom bought 1 :))”

 

Of Note…Rolex Rankings No. 1 Stacy Lewis opened her week with a 2-under 70 and is T16. Natalie Gulbis withdrew prior to the first round citing fatigue…Sophie Gustafson withdrew prior to the first round.

 

JANE PARK, Rolex Rankings No. 298

MODERATOR:  All right, everyone.  I'd like to welcome in Jane Park, shot 6-under 66 opening round.  Great day out there.  Just start us off with some opening thoughts and how your day went.

JANE PARKWell, the weather was fantastic today like it always is in San Diego and just wanted to take advantage of that and the fresh greens this morning, and fortunately I made a ton of putts today.

MODERATOR:  You're a southern California girl but you've never played this course before.  Does it feel like home here or does it feel good to come back to southern California?

JANE PARKI love playing golf here.  Obviously I'm from here, but yeah, the golf courses here just really fit my eye.  I love the -- I just love this style of golf course, so maybe that's why I played pretty well today.

MODERATOR:  You've had some struggles in the past couple years, you just mentioned you had some issues with confidence going into certain weeks, changing things up, you said you're studying with a new coach.  What was your mentality coming into this season and in particular this week?

JANE PARKI think my preparation in the off season was much better this off season than it has been in the past.  My career's been riddled with injuries and different things here and there, but I prepared really well and I was pretty confident coming into this week.

Q.  How long has it been since you kind of felt this good on a golf course like you did today?

JANE PARKWow, that's a good question.  I would say it's been about three years, about three years.  I went through a couple struggles, about three years ago is when I started to struggle.

Q.  Why were you struggling?

JANE PARKSome injuries and some personal family issues, and I don't know, just growing up, I guess.  I got on Tour pretty young, I was only 19, fresh out of my first year at UCLA, and thinking back it might have been a little premature, but yeah, it was just growing pains.

Q.  I think we who followed you remember that you had this fantastic amateur career and junior career, and then what's it like getting out here and not being able to succeed right away or be in the upper echelon?

JANE PARKWell, my first year on Tour was -- well, my first full year on Tour was 2008 and I played pretty quell, I finished 25th on the money list at the end of the year and that was an awesome year.  I had so much fun.  I think once you start thinking of it as a job and you kind of put too much pressure on yourself, that's kind of what happened to me as well.  But, you know, it's great to finally get a good round under my belt.  It's a little difficult to not play as well as I know I can, but I think with a lot of hard work I can get up there.

Q.  What were the injuries?  Was there anything really serious?

JANE PARKI'll be pretty specific.  It was an L5 in my lower back, and I have a lot of tendonitis in my wrist as well and some neck problems.  They're lingering, but they're manageable.

Q.  Is it a bummer to kind of go through that at your age?

JANE PARKYeah, it is a bummer, but almost every girl out here has injuries from grinding away on the driving range.  It comes with the job, so not a big deal.

Q.  Who goes farther in the post season, UCLA or the Lakers?

JANE PARKWow, I don't really want to talk about the Lakers right now.

Q.  They're doing the best they have all year, what do you mean?

JANE PARKI know, I know.  I'm going to say UCLA.

Q.  Okay.  Why such a Laker honk?

JANE PARKI was born in Chicago but I was raised in LA, and I'm a huge sports fan particular and I watch hockey, I watch everything.  I've been to a ton of Laker games, been to a couple Clipper games, so got to support my LA teams.

 

KARRIE WEBB, Rolex Rankings No. 15

Q.  Just take me through what really was working well for you and being able to shoot that.

KARRIE WEBBYeah, everything really.  Tee to green was pretty solid.  I only missed a couple fairways, a couple greens and made some putts, which is good in the afternoon on these poa annua greens, so it was a pretty solid round.  I didn't really get myself in too much trouble, just one hole I missed a fairway and was in the deep rough, but other than that it was all right.

Q.  Is that one of the big keys?  I was talking with Jessica and she said at the end of her round she got a little wayward and got in that rough and that really ended up costing her.

KARRIE WEBBYeah, you don't -- I mean, the fairways are wide enough but you definitely don't want to mess with the rough.  And it's pretty patchy, so you could get lucky and then you could get pretty ripped off, so I was just happy to get done, it's getting dark and cold.

Q.  To be able to shoot the round you did in the afternoon, it seemed like scoring conditions were easier in the morning and now you have the morning tee time tomorrow.  Do you feel pretty good to be able to put together a round in the conditions --

KARRIE WEBBYeah, definitely.  Like I said, the afternoon poa annua greens are nice and bumpy.  Some bumped in for me and some bumped out of the hole for me today.  It's one of those situations where you've got to be really patient, but I'm glad I got through it with a 67 and see what we can do in the morning.

Q.  You've been playing well so far early in the year.  What's been kind of the key to your game and how are you feeling about the game overall?

KARRIE WEBBWell, my ball striking's been a little bit inconsistent the last few events, but today it was quite consistent.  With this heavy sea air, it's really hard to not have (inaudible) hitting it, but we did a got job with that and hit some quality iron shots out there today, which is really what I've wanted to see for a couple weeks.

 

CAROLINE HEDWALL, Rolex Rankings No. 37

MODERATOR:  I'd like to welcome in Caroline Hedwall, who shot a 5-under 67.  Caroline, nice day out there today.  Take us through your round, what was working for you, what felt good.

CAROLINE HEDWALLWell, I got off to a really good start and made a whole budge of birdies on the front 9.  Turned in 30 shots, which was really nice.  Then kind of drew my driver a little bit too much on No. 10 and ended up in the water, and hit again in the water and made a double on No. 10 and I was back to 4-under, but kind of fought back and 5-under, it feels like a good start.

MODERATOR:  That's good.  How important is it for you to get off to a good start in a week?  Do you rather kind of get out to a hot start or kind of chip away through the week?

CAROLINE HEDWALLIt's always nice to get off to a good start and you're up there right away.  It's always nice.

MODERATOR:  You had some hip issues last year.  How's year health, how's the process of kind of going through that, coming back from an injury and rehabbing that? 

CAROLINE HEDWALLWell, I got back in September last year and I won on the LET in my comeback event and that was really nice and gave me a lot of confidence.  And then I kind of struggled a bit in the fall but had a good finish at Titleholders.  And this year I played a lot of events in Australia on the ALPG Tour and won a couple there.  I feel like I've got off to a pretty good start, but I haven't really played well in the bigger events.  But I feel confident about my game and I hope I can get that feeling in the beginning of the year back and shoot low.

MODERATOR:  Good.  Now, your career best was here last year tied for 5th.  Good memories in San Diego.  What do you like playing here the best?

CAROLINE HEDWALLI just really like this area.  I think I could live over here, it's really nice.  I was running next to the ocean yesterday and it's just really nice here, I like it.

MODERATOR:  This year's a Solheim Cup year, you played your first Solheim in 2011.  What does playing in the Solheim mean to you and how important is it for you to make the team again?

CAROLINE HEDWALLWell, that was one of the best weeks of my life really when I played in 2011 and I obviously really want to make the team this year and I hope I can.  And it's so much fun playing on a team when you're out here playing as an individual all the time, it's a great week.

Q.  You got off to such a hot start.  What's going through your mind as you make the turn at 9 with that kind of number already? 

CAROLINE HEDWALLWell, I felt really good and then I just got too much draw in my driver and ended up in the water, and I felt like I didn't hit that bad of a shot but obviously that is a tricky tee shot and that was unfortunate.  But I feel like I kept on playing and tried to forget about it and I did that pretty well though.  Then I feel confident going into tomorrow and that's the important thing.

Q.  So on 10, were you trying to take out basically all the water? 

CAROLINE HEDWALLNo, there's one tree that I tried to hit over and I got too much draw on it so I guess it carried in the water actually.  It was just unfortunate.

Q.  Then you hit it in again?

CAROLINE HEDWALLYeah, I had to drop way back from like 300 yards and I hit -- I thought it was fine and then when we came up there, the spectator said it went in the water, kicked and went in the water, so I had to drop it again.

Q.  How did you overcome that mentally?  What were you going through at that point?

CAROLINE HEDWALLWell, my caddie helped me a lot, just try to forget about it, let's just make a double here and keep on playing.  I came back pretty nice making a birdie on No. 11, so that was nice, and after that I pretty much forgot about it.

Q.  In general, Caroline, how do you handle like tough holes like that?  Are you emotional or not that emotional about tough holes when you get a double? 

CAROLINE HEDWALLWell, I usually just want to get it out of my system.  Like I just talk to my caddie a lot and like that was, you know, just went off at him pretty much, you know?  Just get it out and then I'm good, you know?  Just head on to the next one.  But I forget about it.  It takes me 10 seconds and then I'm good.

Q.  What language are you cussing in?

CAROLINE HEDWALLSwedish.  It's better.

Q.  Sounds like you've had very recent success, European, you know, Australia.  I mean, that's got to be a huge confidence booster coming over here again, right? 

CAROLINE HEDWALLYeah, obviously.  I mean, I won a lot of events, so I feel confident when I'm up there, but I've just struggled to be up there during the weekend.  That's what I'm trying to do, set myself in a good position coming into the weekend because I know when I'm there, I love it and I enjoy playing so much that I usually play well, too.

Q.  How many events have you won in other parts of the world not on the LPGA?

CAROLINE HEDWALLSeven, I think, yeah.  Five on the European Tour -- no, and three on the ALPG Tour.

Q.  And that's in a short period of time, right?  That's only A couple years?

CAROLINE HEDWALLYeah, two years basically.

 

JESSICA KORDA, Rolex Rankings No. 42

Q.  Great playing out there today.  Just take me through the round.  What was really working well for you?

JESSICA KORDA:  I don't know, I was just having a lot of fun out there today.  Putts were dropping early.  It's dropped like 20 degrees outside right now, so the holes coming in (inaudible).  It's the first day and 4-under, I'll take that any day.

Q.  For you, you've had coming off two strong finishes, Singapore and then in Phoenix.  What's been going really well with your game lately that seems to be clicking?

JESSICA KORDA:  Just starting to kind of make a little bit more putts here and there.  I've just been having fun on the course.  I've play well, finished 5th in Gold Coast, a European Tour event, and just kept myself in the Top 20 and so far I'm just trying to have a lot of fun out here.

Q.  We joke about all the different (inaudible) now that you've been out here, but what have you learned over the past couple -- like last year getting your first win, what have you taken from last year?

JESSICA KORDA:  Well, now that I'm a junior.

Q.  Yeah, junior, not a sophomore.

JESSICA KORDA:  Now that I'm a junior, I don't know, I think you just try and relax out here.  You know more of the girls, you don't get kind of freaked out by the cut line anymore.  You just try to enjoy it.  First year I was really stressing out, and then second year it was great to win and to kind of have a set schedule.  Now that I have a set schedule for this year, literally just try to enjoy it.

Q.  You were talking about the American flag little ball marker.  Is that your reminder about what's coming up later this year, a goal that you probably have of making that team?

JESSICA KORDA:  Yeah, I wouldn't say -- goals lead to expectations.  If I don't make it, I don't make it, but it would be really great to make it.  It would be awesome actually.  But it's a little reminder to never give up even if you're kind of getting really pissed off at the end and nothing's going your way, you're not making putts, you just kind of look at it like okay, I can still keep going, still keep going.  It's a little kind of memorabilia type thing.

Q.  Not a bad little memorabilia up there.

JESSICA KORDA:  I've had it since Curtis Cup, too, so it's kind of nice.

Q.  Just talk about the golf course.  What have been the keys of really playing well on this golf course?

JESSICA KORDA:  Staying in the fairway, staying in the fairway.  The rough is really thick and it's cold outside so you're not hitting it as far, you're having longer clubs and you don't want longer clubs in the rough.  I kind of experienced that on the last couple holes and it wasn't pretty.

 

AMANDA BLUMENHERST, Rolex Rankings No. 234

MODERATOR:  We welcome Amanda Blumenherst.  Great round, 3-under 69.  Great round.  Your opening thoughts on the round?

AMANDA BLUMENHERSTThank you.  No, it was solid, it was solid golf.  I've been struggling off the tee a little bit, so it was nice to hit a few fairways and it just was hitting really solid ball striking.  It was fun.  It's been a while, so it was good to get a low number in there.

MODERATOR:  Three birdies on the front and you had the eagle on the 10th.  Take us through the eagle.

AMANDA BLUMENHERSTOh, the eagle was great.  I had a beautiful drive and then crushed a 3-wood to about 9 feet and made the putt so it was a fun hole.

MODERATOR:  Your fourth year on Tour, you've had some ups and downs.  What was your, I guess, perspective on kind of going through you've been through missed cuts, dealing with the struggles on Tour and trying to bounce back.  Obviously coming off a missed cut last week, you did a pretty good job of coming out strong.

AMANDA BLUMENHERSTThank you.  You know, it's tough out here.  I mean, these girls are great.  The competition is just phenomenal.  So you really truly are playing the golf course because you can feel like you have a great round and still not make the cut or still you're not really in the hunt.  So just trying to focus on my game, putting the pieces together and trying to get better each tournament.

MODERATOR:  Now you're pretty much a newlywed, you got married in the off season.  You said you had the honeymoon of your dreams.  How hard was that to kind of come back and kind of get back to work?

AMANDA BLUMENHERSTWell, we didn't want to leave.  We went to Jamaica, it was awesome, it was absolutely beautiful.  We were there for 10 days and we came back mid January, so I had some time to get the rust off, get the golf clubs, get some practicing in and be able to focus.

MODERATOR:  I have to ask, you're a Duke grad, Duke basketball fan.  You said you filled out your bracket.  I'm assuming it's pretty much a given you picked Duke to win?

AMANDA BLUMENHERSTOh, of course, Duke all the way.  My parents went to Indiana, though, so I have them in the finals.  So we have a family house divided.

Q.   What was particularly worked well today?

AMANDA BLUMENHERSTI just had a very solid round of golf.  I mean, I really didn't line it up where I was dropping long putts.  I was hitting the ball really well and when I hit it within six feet, they were the birdie putts and the eagle, so I just played consistent golf.

Q.  And all that success as an amateur.  Is that tough to come out here and not experience that right away?  How do you work that around your noggin?

AMANDA BLUMENHERSTWell, definitely I had very high expectations, so the first couple years were tough just getting over the fact that I wasn't in my mind meeting them, even though I was playing well across the board, but I had expected so much out of myself.  And now I'm just trying to pull back, pull those good memories out of hibernation a little bit, remember that U.S. Amateur win, grab some confidence.

Q.  Do you start to question yourself and your game?

AMANDA BLUMENHERSTA little.  It's easy to question, like it was easy for question myself just the last couple years.  It's been a little rough compared to how I played in college, but every time I have a round like this, I see glimmer, a glimmer of what -- how I had played in amateur golf and it's still there.

Q.  And you had a couple putts lip out, didn't you? 

AMANDA BLUMENHERSTI did.  I was putting really well today.  I had a couple putts that were just in and out, so those fall, it's a lot lower.

Q.  Did the wind come into play at all out there? 

AMANDA BLUMENHERSTThe last couple holes.  The last couple holes are straight into the wind.  18 was playing pretty difficult.  We actually had a two-group backup on the tee, so it kind of felt like they were icing the kicker a little bit.

Q.  How is this course, if at all, that much different from La Costa from last year?

AMANDA BLUMENHERSTThey really are fairly similar.  This is very hilly as opposed to La Costa, but you're wanting to hit really solid iron shots into the greens because the greens are fairly large and the fairways are pretty generous, too.  I see similarities.

Q.  I'm curious about when you came out here, did you feel like you were playing that much differently than in college, or was it just the competition a lot different?

AMANDA BLUMENHERSTMy rookie year, now that I look back, I see that I actually played pretty well.  It's just the competition is that good.  I think that if probably I had had those numbers in college, I would have been up at the top in college.  It just shows you how amazing these women are.

Q.  And then did you feel like, okay, I've really got to step this up, I've got -- how much work did you then feel like you had to do to reach that other level?

AMANDA BLUMENHERSTI mean, golf isn't a game of perfect, but now that I'm -- when I saw how good the competition really is, I try to become perfect, practice and practice so much more, especially on my short game.  I really focus on that.  I was getting help from Stan Utley with my short game, which has improved quite a bit.  But yeah, it's definitely needing to sharpen all the skills.

Q.  And did you feel coming into the season, coming off the wedding and the honeymoon and all that, did you feel like you were going to get off to a good start, or what sense did you have of your game when the season started?

AMANDA BLUMENHERSTThat was one of the more frustrating parts of the first two tournaments is I actually went into them very confident.  I felt like I was playing well.  The practice sessions that I had were going smoothly and I was feeling confident, so that was a little tough to not shoot what I felt I was capable of.  So it was nice to have a day like today where the pieces are falling into place a little bit more.

Q.  What kind of day does this do mentally?  Physically you were there, but what's it do upstairs? AMANDA BLUMENHERSTIt's a great confidence booster to see that I'm still capable of those numbers and that I kept the ball in play every time, and hitting it solid and made some putts, so it's a huge, huge confidence builder.

Q.  Talk about your driving.  Were you really struggling with it?

AMANDA BLUMENHERSTThe last couple years, that was the part that had fallen apart was my tee ball.  So hitting it a lot straighter, much better contact, and so that's obviously -- I mean, they say drive for show, putt for dough.  For me, it was drive for dough, too.

Topics: Notes and Interviews, Kia Classic

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