HSBC Women's Champions Tuesday Pre-tournament Notes and Interviews

HSBC Women's Champions
Photo Credit: Andrew Redington/Getty Images

Four of the world’s top ten women golfers displayed their warrior spirit as they dressed in martial arts attire to launch the seventh annual HSBC Women’s Champions in Singapore.

HSBC Women’s Champions
Sentosa Country Club, Serapong Course
Singapore
Pre-Tournament Notes and Interviews
February 25, 2014

INBEE PARK, Rolex Rankings No. 1
SUZANN PETTERSEN, Rolex Rankings No. 2
SHANSHAN FENG, Rolex Rankings No. 6
PAULA CREAMER, Rolex Rankings No. 11

GUY HARVEY-SAMUEL, CEO, HSBC Singapore
MIKE WHAN, Commissioner, LPGA
GILE MORGAN, Group Head of Sponsorship, HSBC
ROBBIE HENCHMAN, Senior Vice President, IMG

 

The LPGA Tour makes its way to Singapore this week for the seventh-annual HSBC Women’s Champions, where 63 of the world’s elite female golfers will compete for $210,000 first-place check and the “Champion of Champions” title.

Defending champion, Rolex Rankings No. 3 Stacy Lewis, faces the challenging task of defending her title against 19 of the world's top 20 players on the Official Rolex Rankings. Lewis is currently in a streak of 13 consecutive top-10 finishes and is coming off a tie for fifth finish at last week’s Honda LPGA Thailand. The sixth-year LPGA Tour member battled down the stretch in Singapore last year and saw a three-shot lead shrink to one shot with one hole to play at The Serapong Course at Sentosa Country Club. A par on the final hole secured her sixth-career victory and first of the 2013 season.

The all-star line-up this week also features No. 1 Inbee Park and four other past champions: Angela Stanford (2012), Karrie Webb (2011), Ai Miyazato (2010) and Jiyai Shin (2009).

 

We are Warriors: Four of the top players in the world kicked off the week in Singapore with the unique opportunity to embrace traditional Asian martial arts at the HSBC Women’s Champions official press conference on Tuesday.

No. 1 Inbee Park, No. 2 Suzann Pettersen, No. 6 Shanshan Feng and No. 11 Paula Creamer all donned warrior costumes and learned their own set of martial arts moves: Park with the Malaysian silat melayu, Pettersen with the Indian thang-ta, Feng with the Indonesian pencak silat and Creamer with the Chinese fung fu.

“We all know how tough this tournament is so it makes a lot of sense for us to adopt these warrior personalities as we get ready to go into battle,” said Park. “We all love coming here to Singapore but make no mistake this is serious business and a challenge which lives up to its billing as ‘Asia’s Major’.”

Paula Creamer credited HSBC for always organizing one-of-a-kind events for the players to take part in every year.

“It feels great,” said Creamer. “I'm ready to go.  But this is great.  We always do something exciting with HSBC.  I never thought I'd be a Kung‑fu warrior, I can tell you that.  But just being back with the girls and learning all of this, it's been fun.  Like I said, there is no other tournament, and no other events that we get to do something like this.  But there is always something new and exciting with HSBC.”

Pettersen displayed some exceptional coordination with her thang-ta demonstration that she used her driver as a stand-in defense weapon. The Norwegian joked that she just might include martial arts into her training regime since she showed so much talent on stage.

“It's definitely something I'm going to keep doing,” said Pettersen. “I feel like I have huge potential.  I'm good with all the clubs.  It's always fun coming here to Singapore.  This is one of our premier events that we have, and I think all the players are very happy to be back to Sentosa Golf Club once again.”

Three Groups to Watch:

Group 15: 9:42 am (Tee 1) – Yani Tseng, Catriona Matthew, Suzann Pettersen
Tseng showed glimpses of her old self last week in Thailand, posting rounds of 66-68 on the weekend; Matthew lit up the Old Course last week and almost broke the tournament record on Saturday, she finished in third; the No. 2 player in the world has sights on the No. 1 spot and will be fighting until she reaches it

Group 19: 10:04 am (Tee 1) – Angela Stanford, Anna Nordqvist, Michelle Wie
Stanford won in Singapore in 2012 and has two top-25 finishes in two starts this year; Nordqvist is coming off her third-career victory last week in Thailand; Wie battled Nordqvist down the stretch last week and finished solo fourth

Group 21: 10:15 am (Tee 1) –Jiyai Shin, Karrie Webb, Stacy Lewis
Three past champions in the final group of the day; Shin will be making her first appearance in an LPGA Tour event this season as a non-member after giving up revoking membership before the season; Webb already has a win this year at the ISPS Handa Australian Women’s Open; Lewis is defending champions and will be bringing momentum over from a nice finish last week where she finished T5 and shot 66 on Sunday

Keys to the Course: Creamer touched on what she thought would be keys to success this week on the Serapong Course at Sentosa Country Club.

This golf course is very demanding on the sections of the greens a lot like last week and basically Australia too.  So being a good iron player, being able to, I think, take advantage of the par‑5s is very important here.  There are a couple reachable ones that you have to ‑‑ you don't make a birdie and you're losing a shot to the field.  The par‑3s, I think, are awesome.  They're some of the prettiest and best par‑3s that we play.

Over by the water there it gets pretty windy, so being able to have a little bit of everything this golf course makes you have.  You have to bring out shots that you normally wouldn't need to hit a knock down here, but you kind of need to this golf course.  It all comes down to giving yourself as many opportunities as you can.

But I think the par‑5s are something that as a player, we have to take advantage and hopefully make as many birdies in a couple of the holes where you can have a birdie par or eagle putt.  I think 12 is a pretty easily reachable par‑5, so that's going to be a big turning point.

 

Let’s Dance: Paula Creamer credited her coordinated moves on stage this morning to her background in competitive dancing as a young girl. Creamer said she always encourages young girls to take up the activity since it made her tougher mentally and stronger physically.

“I've always said to anybody that I've come across with their fathers and mothers or the daughters, that you have to put your little girl into dance,” said Creamer. “I think it's the way that you present yourself, the way that you carry yourself.  There is a confidence within a dancer.  They always have such good posture, very elegant, and being able to perform, you only have three minutes to come out there and do what you have to do and someone else tells you what to do.  It makes you tougher, it makes you stronger.”

The nine-time LPGA Tour winner said she thinks the lessons from having to perform in front of a crowd in such a short amount of time taught her to deal with high-pressure situations from an early age.

“I don't know if my career and what I have done in golf would be the same if I wasn't a dancer,” said Creamer. “Being able to learn that you only have ‑‑ in golf you have 18 holes, four days in a row.  As a dancer, you only have three minutes, and I kind of had to learn and had to accept that growing up.  I truly believe that and think every little girl should go through dance.”

Creamer said she still has dancing aspirations and hopes to find time in her schedule to fit in a run at Dancing with the Stars.”

“Maybe one day I'll be able to go on Dancing With the Stars or something,” said Creamer. “That's always been a goal of mine.  I would love to do it.  But the timing with the schedule is a little bit difficult.”

Happy Campers: ‘Love is in the air’ has been a recent theme on the LPGA Tour with several players getting married and engaged within the past year. Park and Creamer, who are both currently engaged, said that off-course happiness and balance truly leads to better results on the course.

“I think just getting a lot more experience and getting a lot more mature as a person and being a more happier person I think really helped me play good the last couple years,” said Park. “Of course this year there is a lot to achieve, and there are things that I want to achieve.  But I think the most important thing that I need to think about is just being happier. 

“Trying to be a more happier person than last year and trying to enjoy what you're doing,” Park added. “Just realize how lucky you are just being out here and playing golf.  It's something that I like to do and love to do.  Yeah, I think there are a million things that I could list to the things that I can achieve.  But the most important thing is you have to be happy.” 

Creamer agreed that in having balance off the course and support from her fiancé, performing on the course has come easier to her. She said that her new-come happiness and excitement for planning her December wedding has friends avoiding her enthusiasm.

“I'm over the moon,” said Creamer. “My friends don't like talking to me anymore because I'm like this little girl in the Barbie doll store.”

 

Tweet of the Day: “Scared of heights:)))) HSBC puts in some great promos around the city! @lpga is in town!” --@suzannpettersen posting a picture from an appearance on Tuesday with a 3-D simulator in Singapore

 

INBEE PARK, Rolex Rankings No. 1
SUZANN PETTERSEN, Rolex Rankings No. 2
SHANSHAN FENG, Rolex Rankings No. 6
PAULA CREAMER, Rolex Rankings No. 11

THE MODERATOR:  Inbee, you've been No. 1 now for 45 weeks.  Is that a position you try to guard, or do you simply come out at the beginning of the week trying to win every tournament that you compete in?
INBEE PARK:  It's actually really tough to win a tournament.  It's only my second week back this year, and I think the world rankings points‑wise, there's not much gap in between, one, two, three, so obviously there are going to be some changes this year.  My goal would be just maybe maintain the number one spot maybe again this year.  But during the year whoever has a good first week I think isn't going to change the rankings.  So, yeah, I think I'll just try to enjoy the week and try to enjoy my time here.

THE MODERATOR:  There is a very close gap between you and Suzann, world No. 2 at the top of the Rolex Rankings.  The LPGA revealing all sorts of stats this week on how that could change and the scenarios.
Paula, you played very well in Australia.  But today, you are a Kung‑fu warrior.  How does it feel to be a Kung‑fu warrior?
PAULA CREAMER:  It feels great.  I'm ready to go.  But this is great.  We always do something exciting with HSBC.  I never thought I'd be a Kung‑fu warrior, I can tell you that.  But just being back with the girls and learning all of this, it's been fun.  Like I said, there is no other tournament, and no other events that we get to do something like this.  But there is always something new and exciting with HSBC.

THE MODERATOR:  Terrific.  Suzann, you are an Indian martial artist, practicing that today.  That's what you embody.  Is martial arts part of your regime?  We know you're a gym junky off the golf course.
SUZANN PETTERSEN:  It's definitely something I'm going to keep doing.  I feel like I have huge potential.  I'm good with all the clubs.  It's always fun coming here to Singapore.  This is one of our premier events that we have, and I think all the players are very happy to be back to Sentosa Golf Club once again.  It's great to mix it up.  We've played a little golf here in Singapore through the years.  This is always one that we look forward to, so...

THE MODERATOR:  It's going to be a terrific test out there.  And Shanshan you're representing Pencak silat, which is a tradition in this part of the world.  I'm sure it's lovely to be back in Singapore.
SHANSHAN FENG:  Yeah, it feels like it's at home, because most of the people here speak Chinese and especially Cantonese, and I'm Cantonese, so I feel really friendly here.  I've always loved Singapore.  I like Singapore food.  Today I tried hard and practiced hard at the back of the stage, because I think I am Chinese, I should be good at Kung‑fu.  I think that's what everybody expects, so I don't know how I did.

THE MODERATOR:  Very well, we thought.  It was a very good performance.  Well done.
Well, ladies and gentlemen, our women's warriors will take to the golf course and get a chance to play a little bit this afternoon and are perhaps tomorrow before the contest kicks off in earnest Thursday morning.  But I'm sure you have questions that you'd like to ask our four leading players.

Q.  Suzann, how big a goal was it for you to reach world No. 1?
SUZANN PETTERSEN:  I haven't been asked these questions for a while, but I think from my standpoint I'm going to try to be the best I can be.  I think I can be good enough to be the best in the world, otherwise I don't think I would have kept playing.  So that's kind of my motivation every day.  I think the internal drive of trying to get better every day is what gets you up in the morning and what kind of gets you through the tough days.

I mean, it's been a great ten years on Tour for me, and we've had some phenomenal number ones and they keep us behind getting even better and together make each other better as well.  So it's obviously a dream of mine to become the best female golfer in the world.  I'm not going to hide that.  But at the same time, I want to see how good I can be.

Q.  Paula, I remember your father once saying that you as a child were often dancing?  Did that help you today doing your moves?
PAULA CREAMER:  Did you see my moves?

Q.  Yes, very impressive.  I just wondered if you were the only one of the four that was a dancer as a child.
PAULA CREAMER:  Were you guys?  She's very soft on her toes, that's for sure.  No, I guess the dancing did.  I do a lot of martial arts when I work out.  I do a lot of MMA stuff, boxing and things.  Not quite the same as my Tai Chi.  But, like I said, it's fun.  It's always something we get to do differently.

Maybe one day I'll be able to go on Dancing With the Stars or something.  That's always been a goal of mine.  I would love to do it.  But the timing with the schedule is a little bit difficult.

Q.  Being a dancer as a child did it make it easier for you to go on the first tee and know that you were going to hit a good shot and be confident?
PAULA CREAMER:  I've always said to anybody that I've come across with their fathers and mothers or the daughters, that you have to put your little girl into dance.  I think it's the way that you present yourself, the way that you carry yourself.  There is a confidence within a dancer.  They always have such good posture, very elegant, and being able to perform, you only have three minutes to come out there and do what you have to do and someone else tells you what to do.  It makes you tougher, it makes you stronger.

I don't know if my career and what I have done in golf would be the same if I wasn't a dancer.  Being able to learn that you only have ‑‑ in golf you have 18 holes, four days in a row.  As a dancer, you only have three minutes, and I kind of had to learn and had to accept that growing up.  I truly believe that and think every little girl should go through dance.

Q.  Inbee, you had a fantastic year in 2013.  I've got a couple questions for you.  One, what do you think happened in 2013 that made you perform so fantastically?  How are you preparing for 2014 as a fall back to 2013 in terms of mentally or gamewise?
INBEE PARK:  I think last year I think the main reason was the swing changes I made two years ago were in place last year and I was getting used to my swing.  I think just getting a lot more experience and getting a lot more mature as a person and being a more happier person I think really helped me play good the last couple years.

Of course this year there is a lot to achieve, and there are things that I want to achieve.  But I think the most important thing that I need to think about is just being happier.  Trying to be a more happier person than last year and trying to enjoy what you're doing.  Just realize how lucky you are just being out here and playing golf.  It's something that I like to do and love to do.  Yeah, I think there are a million things that I could list to the things that I can achieve.  But the most important thing is you have to be happy.  So, yeah, that would be my goal?

Q.  Shanshan, you've always been a really fun player to watch.  But last year you really established yourself as a serious top player.  We'll never forget the finish in China and then of course to win the Titleholders at the end of the year.  What's that done for your confidence?  Has it put you to a whole new level now?
SHANSHAN FENG:  Well, actually like many people are still reminding me about my victories last year, but I think what I'm going to do is actually forget all of those because that is already in the past.  Of course that gave me confidence, but I'm not going to let that give myself too much pressure.  I'm the same me, and I just remain in good condition and just try my best every week.  It doesn't matter how I do, as long as I try my best.

Q.  What has been your training regime like for this upcoming week, and can you share some secrets with us to help you become a better golfer?
THE MODERATOR:  We'll start with Suzann, she's a real gym junky.  You work out really hard.
SUZANN PETTERSEN:  I think this is an early part of the season.  I think for most of us players, preparing for the majors that's coming up.  And for my own sake, I'm trying to get as many rounds as I can in before Kraft, and this is a fantastic stop.  This Asian swing has been part of our schedule for years, as long as I can remember, as long as I've been on Tour, so it's been a while.  But I think I like what Shanshan said.  I think all of us had a pretty good 2013, but that's history.

Everyone starts with a blank paper and everyone starts from scratch.  You build a new season and build a new year.  I guess I've been working on a lot this off‑season.  Been working on my game, trying to improve your weakest part.  Then obviously trying to enjoy it.  I'm getting to the age now where I'm just trying to enjoy it while it lasts.  You're not going to play golf forever, so I'm really trying to make the most out of the years to come.

THE MODERATOR:  Suzann, you talked about it in Australia that you increased your distance off the tee by about 15 yards and that was by increasing your club head speed.  Is that something that you think will make a difference in 2014?
SUZANN PETTERSEN:  It's one of the small pieces to a big puzzle.  I'm more excited to hit the driver now, but also hitting the ball you have to be accurate.  But it's nice to have a second gear if you really need to.  I feel like I've missed it in the past, especially on par‑5s when you just come off short of reaching it in two.  So to me that's just been I finally found the key.  So that might help me.  I'm still trying to get used to it.  So for me, I feel pretty good and I'm ready for a new week here.

THE MODERATOR:  Paula, same question to you.  We know you work incredibly hard in the off‑season not just on your swing by your general fitness.
PAULA CREAMER:  I've always loved working out and things like that.  I don't hit it quite as far as Suzann in that.  But I do think that physical fitness is so important, just being healthy.  I know I've gone through so many battles out here health‑wise, and I've made some huge changes in my diet and the way I go about things.

I just have so much more energy to work out.  I've picked up a bunch of speed.  Instead of sitting there and lifting repetitious weights over and over and over again, I'm much more fast, twitch muscles, working on those kinds of things.  I've gained some distance, for sure.  But a lot of that has been just building strength within my own golf swing and being more simple and using and having effortless energy, basically.  That's been going on for about a year and a half.

Kind of what Inbee said, it takes time.  Sometimes you have to work on things and go backwards to gain momentum and go forward and start to see the light at the end of the tunnel, basically, with my golf swing.

THE MODERATOR:  Good round on Sunday in Thailand, nice round of 68 coming into the week.  Inbee, if we can keep on the fitness theme with you.  As world No. 1, everybody breathing down your neck, have you felt that you needed to step it up in the gym in the off‑season or just stick to the game?
INBEE PARK:  I didn't try to gain distance over the last off‑season.  But I don't work out a lot during the season, but in the off‑season I workout.  So I don't get injuries during the season.  Obviously, with the golfers there are a lot of injuries.  I often get a sore neck and back.  So this year I'm traveling with the physio together to get loosened up.  Obviously, it's very important to stay fit and healthy and play 25, 30 events a year.  So I think you have to be physically and mentally prepared to get ready for the season.

Q.  Paula, last week we saw the entire leg gearing up to the second shot on the golf course, which was really important, the approach shot into the green.  You're in the mix last year.  If there was one thing this week you have to do really well to win, what do you think that would be?
PAULA CREAMER:  This golf course is very demanding on the sections of the greens a lot like last week and basically Australia too.  So being a good iron player, being able to, I think, take advantage of the par‑5s is very important here.  There are a couple reachable ones that you have to ‑‑ you don't make a birdie and you're losing a shot to the field.  The par‑3s, I think, are awesome.  They're some of the prettiest and best par‑3s that we play.

Over by the water there it gets pretty windy, so being able to have a little bit of everything this golf course makes you have.  You have to bring out shots that you normally wouldn't need to hit a knock down here, but you kind of need to this golf course.  It all comes down to giving yourself as many opportunities as you can.

But I think the par‑5s are something that as a player, we have to take advantage and hopefully make as many birdies in a couple of the holes where you can have a birdie par or eagle putt.  I think 12 is a pretty easily reachable par‑5, so that's going to be a big turning point.

THE MODERATOR:  If you're brave enough on the very narrow par‑5, will you always go for the green on the seventh?  It gets very narrow with water on the right.

Q.  Paula, I have to ask, because I'm sitting here just blown away by the engagement ring.  It is amazing.
PAULA CREAMER:  What, this one?

Q.  I can't see a thing on the stage.  Congratulations on your engagement.  Apparently you're getting married this December?
PAULA CREAMER:  In December, yes.

Q.  How does that ‑‑ you're obviously in a great place at the moment.  How does that change your thinking on coming into this year?  Has it made you more ‑‑ I don't know, how are you feeling about the whole thing?
PAULA CREAMER:  I'm over the moon.  My friends don't like talking to me anymore because I'm like this little girl in the Barbie doll store.

 

GUY HARVEY-SAMUEL, CEO, HSBC Singapore
MIKE WHAN, Commissioner, LPGA
GILE MORGAN, Group Head of Sponsorship, HSBC
ROBBIE HENCHMAN, Senior Vice President, IMG

THE MODERATOR:  Guy Harvey Samuel to come to the lectern and share his thoughts.
GUY HARVEY SAMUEL:  Thank you.  Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, and thank you for joining us here today.  This is our seventh year sponsoring the HSBC Women's Champions, and we're extremely proud to continue to be associated with the tournament that is firmly established as one of the premier events on the LPGA Tour.

This is a championship that truly captivates and inspires golfers and sports fans globally.  The good news is that we all have four days of world class golf to look forward to, with four of our players relishing the chance to join our distinguished list of champions that bear already to its name such as Lorena Ochoa, Karrie Webb, Ai Miyazato, Jiyai Shin, Angela Stanford, and of course, current champion, Stacy Lewis.

HSBC wants to open up the world of golf to all comers, and we recognize the importance of nurturing local talent.  Each year we're pleased to be able to provide one of Singapore's leading female golfers with an opportunity to compete against the champions of the game.  This year, Amanda Tan won this opportunity at our local qualifying tournament a few weeks ago.  I'm sure we all hope Amanda has an inspiring and memorable experience to build upon as she walks alongside and competes against many of her idols.

HSBC has much to be proud of and much to anticipate at the start of what promises to be a sensational tournament, and I'm sure you're all looking forward to watching all our champions tee off as much as I am on Thursday morning.  Thank you.

THE MODERATOR:  Thank you, guy.  Now if I can hear from the LPGA, 32‑events this year, the LPGA is just getting bigger and better every year, and much due to the terrific leadership of their Commissioner, Mike Whan.
MIKE WHAN:  Thank you for that rousing applause.  Guy, Giles, Robbie, on behalf of 63 periods of time best golfers in the world.  Thank you so much for hosting us.  I hope you get 163 thank yous as you get repeat orders throughout the week.  But I think just sitting here thinking about this event, there are a lot of sponsors and a lot of tournaments around the world in all kinds of sports that talk about being great and putting on something truly special that the world cares about, because everybody who puts on an event wants that.  The difference in this case is HSBC and ING deliver that, and they deliver it year in and year out.

As I was saying to, Guy, getting off the plane yesterday, and getting into the Jaguar, which is the first great experience, and heading to the Fairmont, everybody has smiles on their face.  They're talking about the golf course, they're talking about the restaurants, and they're talking about, this may come as a shock to you, but they're talking about HSBC customers that have been with us many years that have become friends of players and staff alike.

That doesn't happen every day in sporting events.  It definitely doesn't happen every day in golf.  It happens when somebody makes a commitment to say I don't want to just create a great event, I want to do what it takes to make sure it gets executed.  There are so many things that HSBC, ING and the LPGA have in common.  The list is long.  You guys know I'm not good with notes, so I almost never take them.  But I jotted down three this morning, which is the first three I've jotted down in five years as Commissioner.  So humor me.

Global, bringing together the best, and partnerships, these are three things that are critical to HSBC and we have complete alignment with the LPGA.  We believe in being global with the LPGA and making a global footprint.  Lot of sports want to be global, but don't really want to go.  You can't be global unless you want to go and showcase your sport around the world, and HSBC banks the same way we play.

We bring together the best, and they bring together the best.  I looked at the chart today, and there are 58 of the top 60 players on the list here and those two players are injured.  So that tells you something.  I always say if you want to know how good a tournament is, look at the field.  When the only two players that aren't here are injured, that tells you everything you need to know.  I don't get to say that about too many golf tournaments, 58 of the top 60.

And partnerships, we've been in this a long time together and I hope we're in this a lot longer as well.  We're committed to making sure this event works for them, as well as obviously working for us.

The last thing I'll say is when the Rolex Rankings came out this morning I'm always the first to get them, so I looked and said we've talked a lot about being a global sport.  HSBC really brings the world together through golf and introduces the world to golf.  If you look at the top 15 in the Rolex World Rankings this morning, six players from Asia, four from America, three from Europe, two from Australia and New Zealand.  This game is global.  The best in the world come from around the world, and that is why so many countries around the world pay attention to this.  That's what makes HSBC and LPGA together with ING's leadership an incredible event.

I hope you guys don't take this for granted.  I know some of you have been in the room before, but we don't take this one for granted.  The rest of the world realizes what's going to happen here Thursday through Sunday.  Thank you.

THE MODERATOR:  Thank you, Mike, and I don't think you'll need notes again.
Now, it gives me great pleasure to please invite Giles Morgan.  From the HSBC Group's head sponsor.
GILES MORGAN:  Thank you very much for your kind words, Mike P particularly to invited members of the media, thank you for all your support for the many years we've been holding this tournament here.  It is great to be back in Singapore, and it is a very, very special week for our golf program.  Mike talked about the stats, the top 10 players in the world playing here, 18 nations being represented.  Players with over 430 wins with 39 major victories between them, it's a truly stellar list of golfers and their achievements.
We're very, very proud to host this tournament for this our seventh year, because it provides us here in Singapore with a perfect platform to build relationships with our customers and deliver a global experience to people around the world.

As you know, our commitment to golf goes beyond Singapore, because our vision is to use golf to open up the world of golf and open up our business.

In the last decade we've been involved in 36 professional golf tournaments, and it's these flagship events around the globe that put us right in the heart of elite level golf.  In 2014 we started on a journey stretching from Shanghai in the east to Sao Paulo in the West.  It's a journey that's already started in Abu Dhabi and arriving here in Singapore for what promises to be a memorable week.  Looking ahead to what will take us to Brazil as golf prepares to rejoin the Olympics, then on to Sir Royal Liverpool Golf Club for the 143rd Open Golf Championship before finishing in the WGC World Champions, the brother tournament of this event in Shanghai.

We continue to support the game in all levels.  Opening up new territories and new opportunities for young talent.  It is this focus on future talent that underpins all of our elite events and lies at the heart of our support.  After all, today's prodigies are tomorrow's superstars.  That's why in Singapore specifically events such as the HSBC Youth Golf Challenge are making a real difference.  It's the achievements of Amanda Tan who qualified this year that really excites us. They are perfect examples of how HSBC is helping opening up the world of golf and there are more children out there.

It's been really fascinating to see the developments of golf both in Asia and with women's golf here in recent years.  We hope and believe that we are one of the catalysts for that growth and for grass roots programs making a real difference.

For HSBC, whether it's in Singapore or Shanghai or indeed in Rio all of our ambition is the same, to grow the game of golf at all levels and to open up new territories and new opportunities for young talent.  We look forward to sharing four days of world class golf with you this week.  Thank you.

THE MODERATOR:  Thank you, Giles.  It certainly will be four days of world class golf.
Our final gentleman to say a few works is Robbie Henchman.  Robbie?

ROBBIE HENCHMAN:  It's always great going last at these things, there is so much left to say.

Good morning, everyone.  ING has been running golf tournaments for over 50 years and has staged 750 events worldwide in the sport of golf.  However the HSBC Women's Champions is without a doubt one of the jewels in our portfolio and one of my favorite events.  HSBC's commitment to building this event into one of the best women's sporting events in the world is what makes them such a special partner.  Their dedication makes our job really easy.

This tournament works on so many levels for HSBC, and I believe that's because it enjoys the wholehearted support of both the local and international teams.  They share the same vision and their never‑ending enthusiasm for making this event stand out above the rest.  The players also do their best to make this tournament the success that it is.  Without exception, the players on the LPGA, perhaps more than any other TOUR, globally continually go the extra mile to make ensure their sponsors are happy with their investment.

With ten of the top 10 players on the Rolex Rankings in the field, there is no doubt about the stature of the tournament in the players' minds.

Finally, a special thanks to our friends at Sentosa Golf Club who hosted us last year with great success, and our other great sponsors in Rolex, Jaguar, Singapore Airlines, Swissotel, to name just a few.  We're all looking forward to another fantastic week, and thank you so much for your support.

Q.  Mike, I hate to say this, but the LPGA has entered somewhat of a golden era in the history of the LPGA.
MIKE WHAN:  Would you say that again?

Q.  I know, I know.  It's become a really hard act to follow.  How do you and what have you got in place to bring it to the next level in this coming year or the years ahead.
MIKE WHAN:  You're essentially saying I can't enjoy it even for a season?  I have to talk about what's coming next.  The bottom line is I've said this many times, I realized in the first few months of this job.  This isn't my Tour, this is the players Tour.  We get to be here for a while, and leave it better for the next generation.

I think to Robbie's point, we're the only sport in the world that takes time in educating the athletes about the people that are actually writing the check.  I think that's really what made the difference in terms of our growth.  I think what HSBC showed the world years ago is now becoming the new normal.  I think back when Giles was up on that podium five or six years ago talking about players from all over the world.  Lot of golf fans all over the world said, ha?  And the women's game has led the way and shown that players are going to come from around the world.  When they do, fans are going to come from around the world.  When that happens, sponsors come from around the world and that's what's happened.

One of the nice additions you'll see this year is something we call the international crown where eight countries will come together, four players per country to compete over four days and we'll crown the best female golfing in the world, and that will be played every other year and that will be a nice addition.

To be perfectly honest with you, I'm not excited about much more expansion than we've seen right now in the LPGA.  We've spent a lot of time and money investing in the growth of our schedule.  You'll see a lot more time and money invested in making events that we now have even bigger and better that the LPGA has invested in as well, that we haven't been able to do in the past.

I really think 33, 34, like I've said since I started is the right number.  Top players play 29, 30 times a year, and if you have 45 or 50 events, you have a lot of fields to apologize for, and a lot of sponsors are trying to make it the field better.  I believe if we have to work that hard to get someone to support us financially, I want to make sure they get what they want.

So if your question is how much more expansion will we see?  I'd say probably not as much.  If the question is can we bring significantly more exposure and opportunity for these women?  I think we're only at the very beginning of that.

Q.  Robbie, can you give us some indication of how it is to put on an event like this?  What it takes to put on an event like this?
ROBBIE HENCHMAN:  Well, hopefully after doing something several times you've got something right.  But no, joking aside, it's about working with great partners, especially the partners of HSBC who are so, so knowledgeable in terms of the event and sponsorship in general.  They're supportive and engaged.  It makes our life so much easier.

Having a strong venue for any golf tournament, to have a very supportive title sponsor and a good venue, that makes a recipe for great success.  Further to that, it's about going to team work.  There is literally hundreds of years of experience in terms of the people working on this event.  Marc Webster is a very experienced tournament director.  These guys have done literally dozens and dozens of tournaments, and that creates an extremely good platform for us and makes it a quality event to sponsor.

           
Q.  Mike, the LPGA has quite a lot invested in Lydia Ko after you waived the age requirement for her to join the Tour.  How important is it for you that she has a solid season this year?  Have you been making any moves, giving her any guidance about her schedule and stretching her season, things like that, to make sure she does well?
MIKE WHAN:  Good question.  The first part of the question is how important is it for us that she does well, it's completely not important at all.  I would say that to you and to her and her family.  She's going to have a long golfing career.  Hopefully a lot of great years.  She doesn't have to have them in the first.  I find a lot with rookies when you ask them what their goals are, they say, well, I want to win a couple times.  Well, then you say not that many rookies win a couple times.  There is a lot going on.  She's going to have a lot of changes.

Second part of your question in terms of her transition period.  She'll be a rookie on the LPGA.  She'll go through quite a bit of rookie orientation, probably more than she envisioned.  She also has rookie hours, which are hours to understand what happens outside the ropes, whether that's in the TV booth, working on sponsor hospitality, whether that's walking on the fairway with somebody like me.  We want to make sure she's not only good inside the ropes, but she's good outside the ropes.  That is the formula for success with the LPGA.

In terms of it seems like now in my fifth year as Commissioner, there is always someone whether it's Michelle Wie or Suzann Pettersen, Lydia Ko, it's not important to me.  They don't need any more pressure than they already put on themselves.  If she wins ten times this year or not at all, I want to make sure this is a great opportunity for her and she has her best golfing here as an LPGA member.  If that happens, we're all good.

THE MODERATOR:  Lydia Ko is making her debut in the HSBC Women's Champion.
How good has she been?  She was pretty amazing before she turned pro, but her record also as a professional in professional events is terrific.
MIKE WHAN:  On the plane last night we were talking about Captain and Tennille, and I looked over and realized there was nobody in my row that would have any idea who Captain and Tennille are because they were all born in the 1990s.

THE MODERATOR:  We were saying it seems Lydia Ko has been playing for years now and it's April before she turns 17.  Quite a remarkable record and another player to watch out for this week.

Q.  Guy, you've been on the ground here at Singapore and you've seen the emergence of this tournament.  But you must be really thrilled with the way the public has actually embraced the seven stagings of this?
GUY HARVEY SAMUEL:  That's a great question.  It certainly seems a long time ago since 2008 when Robbie, Giles and I put the first tournament together then as you were too, and we have a lot to be proud of.  From an HSBC perspective, our aim is to bring golf to all comers, and I think that over the seven years that you can say that we've done that.  Attendances have gone up from 19,000 up to well over 26,000, a 33% increase.  We still guarantee one slot every year for an aspiring young Singaporean junior to play with the big guys, the idols, as I've said.

And perhaps most importantly in terms of grass roots and the public, we work throughout the year with the Singapore Golf Association to really develop and refine the HSBC Youth Golf Challenge that's been going on since 2008 as well.  Just last year we had 264 young juniors, young Singaporeans, boys, girls, ranging from handicaps of 20 to 27, right down to scratch, competing for this challenge, which is pretty remarkable, really, starting from scratch a few years ago.

But the great news is that Amanda Tan who is competing this week actually won that challenge as well.

           
Q.  Yesterday I was privy to a private event that most people don't hear about, the one that was golfer Shanshan out in the middle of the dock.  No big flashy cameras or retail branding, but she was there (No microphone) speaking with us and some neighborhood kids.  It was very heartening.  And I just want to find out.  Obviously, these programs exist, and how does HSBC view the efficacy of these programs which are attached to tournaments all over the world.  I'm not just talking about Women's Championships here in Singapore, but at HSBC tournaments all over the world?  Perhaps, Giles or Guy maybe you can share with us some of the community‑based programs and how tournaments like this enhance those programs that presumably have been with HSBC for many years?
GUY HARVEY SAMUEL:  There's only one program in HSBC Singapore that I'm prouder of than the HSBC Women's Champions, and that is the Corporate Responsibility Champions we do every year.  We over the last eight years have gotten the Women's Champions started, we started this program where for a four day period we fixed old timers and disadvantaged kids as partners ‑‑ and the kids are individuals who are having trouble studying or don't have anywhere at home where they can study.

So last year over those four days, we had 800 colleagues and a number of customers who volunteered to help us fix well over 100 modules. The figures are remarkable in terms of the children and their ability to improve their grades.  Their ability to improve their focus was truly remarkable.  And we thought with Shanshan here, in particularly being a speaker, it was quite appropriate to take her up to the heartlands of Singapore and show her what we were doing.

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to attend yesterday, but I was catching up with my colleagues this morning.  Incidentally the press covered it tremendously well, and it was a bonus and not something we normally look after.  But the press was saying how wonderful Shanshan was with the kids.  How she had missed her putt, but some of the kids had gotten theirs, and just a wonderful day everyone had.  And that was just the filling on the cake as far as we're concerned this week.
Giles, do you want to say something on that?

GILES MORGAN:  I think the great thing about sponsorship and why HSBC sponsors the way we do, it's an investment that allows us to do a lot of different things to interact with our communities around the world.  When you think of an event like this, we have our top customers coming, a global TV audience, but it also allows us to showcase what we do in the community by utilizing whether it be golf, rugby, tennis, whatever it may be, using this to bring it all to life.

How we measure efficacy is we look at all of the different things that we do, and you'll see it at this tournament during the week.  You'll see it around the village, whether it's customers or whether it's with media.  It provides us with a very, very good rate of return which is great for ING and for the LPGA.

Q.  Giles, you're playing with Michelle Wie in the Pro‑Am tomorrow.  Given the fact that she drove it 316 yards off the tee at the 10th last Sunday, how confident are you that you'll be able to keep up with her?
GUY HARVEY SAMUEL:  Perhaps I should answer that.  Let me tell you, he has no chance.
GILES MORGAN:  I think slim to none.

 

Topics: Notes and Interviews, HSBC Women's Champions

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