The LPGA returns to the Lone Star State for the second annual North Texas LPGA Shootout Presented by JTBC.
One of the unique aspects of the tournament are the high school and college Shootouts held on Sunday and Monday respectively which allow a pair of high school and college players to qualify to tee it up with the best players in the world.
“One of the things I love about this tournament is the fact that we get the younger girls in here and give them a chance to learn a little bit, to play, to play with the pros,” Rolex No. 3 Stacy Lewis said. “That’s something that I got to do in college that I think really helped me a lot coming out here, kind of knowing what to expect and also knowing where my game stood and where I could improve.”
Qualifying from high school were Annika Clark and Maddie Szeryk who shot 71 and the college qualifiers are Brittany Fan and Sammi Stevens who shot 68s. The players seem to be up to the challenge of competing on the big stage.
“My goal is to shoot red numbers every day, and I think that will be enough to make the cut,” Fan said. “But of course I’d love to be in contention.”
Stevens echoed the comments of her fellow competitor, “Like Brittany said, right around par or better I think would be a good goal, and hopefully we can both make the cut.”
COLLEGE QUALIFIERS ENJOYING THE WEEK
While this years college shootout qualifiers may be at different ages of the spectrum, with Sammi Stevens graduation from the University of New Mexico mere weeks away and Brittany Fan just getting ready to start her freshman year at the University of Colorado, both are looking forward to spending a week competing against the LPGA’s best.
“I’m really excited this week,” Fan said. “Any chance I get a chance to play with the LPGA, which are the best in the competition, I would get to learn so much. I love watching them play, and I’m looking forward to it.”
“It’s just been pretty incredible so far,” Stevens said. “I think the biggest thing is when you’re just practicing with all these pros, it’s just like you’re one of them, and I think that by far is just the coolest part for me. It’s been pretty awesome getting the VIP treatment really. It’s just been unreal.”
The week has been extra special for Stevens as today is her 22nd birthday.
The Woodlands, Texas, native and Rolex Rankings No. 3 Stacy Lewis is looking forward to a week back in her homestate to try and breakthrough for her first win of 2014.
“I’m excited to be back,” Lewis said. “This is a week where I get to enjoy my family and get to have some friends around, definitely play in some weather and at a golf course that I’m used to the style of it. But more than that I think it’s nice to be back a little bit closer to home.”
Lewis will have the advantage of a large following including a few little ones.
“My nephew is getting old enough that he’s kind of starting to figure things out, so hopefully he behaves and doesn’t make too much of a scene.”
Lewis has gotten off to a stellar start on her season with seven top-10s in her eight events, including a trio of runner-up finishes.
Angela Stanford, a Texan and Rangers season-ticket holder, was able to throw out the first pitch at the Rangers and A’s game on Monday night.
“It’s always fun walking out on the field,” Stanford said. “You want to make sure you get it air born and get it over the plate and I did that so it was fun.”
Not only did the pitch make it air born but it crossed the plate for a strike. It was Stanford’s fourth time throwing out a first pitch.
“She did pretty good,” said Stacy Lewis who is one of the players who joined Stanford in a suite on Monday night. “I think this was her third or fourth time doing it, so I would think she would get better at it as time goes on.”
“It get’s harder,” Stanford said about throwing out the first pitch multiple times. “You think to yourself ‘well you haven’t bounced it yet’ but it’s always fun.”
Seo Yeon Ryu has withdrawn from this week’s North Texas Shootout Presented by JTBC citing illness. With Ryu’s WD, Louise Friberg is now in the field.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“Well, I can tell you that, the old saying the more you do things, the easier it gets, I can tell you that finishing second doesn’t get any easier.”
–Stacy Lewis on finishing second at the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic last week.
THE SOCIAL SCENE
Azahara Munoz had a pair of former World Series Champions in her pro-am pairing this morning in Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez and Juan Guzman. The group, along with Belen Mozo who played the front nine with Rodriguez and Guzman, finished at -12 for the pro-am.
“Played w @Pudge_Rodriguez today!!!! Had a great time. Not every day u get lucky to play w a champion like that!! :) :)”
THE MODERATOR: We're here with Stacy Lewis, Rolex Rankings No. 2, native Texan. Talk about what it means to be back in Texas for this tournament.
STACY LEWIS: Yeah, I'm excited to be back. This is a week where I get to enjoy my family and get to have some friends around, definitely play in some weather and at a golf course that I'm used to the style of it. But more than that I think it's nice to be back a little bit closer to home.
THE MODERATOR: You mentioned the family around. You have a couple nieces and nephews coming out. Who else is coming out from the Lewis family?
STACY LEWIS: Well, I've got my parents, of course, and then my sister and little niece and nephew. My nephew is getting old enough that he's kind of starting to figure things out, so hopefully he behaves and doesn't make too much of a scene.
THE MODERATOR: Going back to the Texas thing, I know you were at the Rangers game on Sunday. The Stanford‑Lang‑Piller Classic Presented by Lewis and Futcher, what do you think about that?
STACY LEWIS: I don't know about that. You know, we have fun. The baseball game was a lot of fun. Just coming off of last week, it was nice to just be able to relax a little bit, and the game wasn't all that great, I guess, if you're a Rangers fan. But it was fun to just hang out and just, again, try to take my mind off of the golf and get ready for this week.
THE MODERATOR: Angela threw out the first pitch at that event. What did you think of her form?
STACY LEWIS: She did pretty good. I think this was her third or fourth time doing it, so I would think she would get better at it as time goes on.
THE MODERATOR: And then another thing about the North Texas Shootout that's unique to this event is they have the two qualifiers for the two high school girls in the field, two college girls. I know you're a big fan of growing the sport of golf especially among the younger generations. Can you talk about what that is and what it means for those girls?
STACY LEWIS: Yeah, you know, it's one of the things I love about this tournament is the fact that we get the younger girls in here and give them a chance to learn a little bit, to play, to play with the pros. That's something that I got to do in college that I think really helped me a lot coming out here, kind of knowing what to expect and also knowing where my game stood and where I could improve.
You know, I like that we get to be around the kids a little bit and have some fun.
THE MODERATOR: Do you have any advice for them?
STACY LEWIS: Just for this week, just to really watch the other players, and that's something I even try to do is to watch the people you play with and see what they do that makes them ‑‑ whether it's a great putter, great driver of the ball, whatever it is, see what makes them great, and try to take little pieces of everybody's game.
Q. Style‑wise does this course set up for a certain type of golfer?
STACY LEWIS: You know, I think this course requires just a lot of strategic play. There's a couple goofy tee shots where you've got to kind of be careful with. But the greens this year are in much better shape. They're a lot more receptive. You're going to get rewarded more for good shots. So that's one thing I'm excited about this year. The course is definitely more green, which is nice.
You know, I think length is always an advantage, especially on the par‑5s here, but at the same time there's holes you've got to kind of reel it back in and hit a little bit less off the tee.
Q. When you come off a week like last week where you had a chance on the last day if you make some putts to do something, does that drive you more, and how do you take last week into the next week, or do you have to forget about it and try to start over?
STACY LEWIS: Well, I can tell you that, the old saying the more you do things, the easier it gets, I can tell you that finishing second doesn't get any easier. You know, I didn't get a lot of sleep on Sunday and Monday. You sit there and you think about all the shots, what you could have done different, you could have done this or that. It's really hard to come off a week like last week where I had a chance to win, but I'm not the kind of person that's going to lay around and feel sorry for myself. I came out and got right back to work.
I mean, my game is in a great place. I've got to get my mind back centered on what I'm doing. I'm playing good golf. I'm excited that we get to kind of keep going and keep playing, but it definitely takes a couple days to come off of something like that, like what happened last week.
Q. You talked about the young players a minute ago, the high school players. The youth on Tour right now, talk about what you see that's doing to the game right now, the fact that the players that are young are the ones that are having quite an impact right now.
STACY LEWIS: Yeah, it's pretty amazing really to think like what Lydia and Lexi are doing at such a young age. I was never close to what they're doing at that age. More than anything it creates good story lines. It creates exposure for the Tour. It draws attention. If somebody is 26, 27 doing what Lydia is doing, it's a little different story than if you're 17. It creates those story lines, gets people talking, and that's the best thing about what's going on right now is the LPGA is kind of moving in the right direction as far as tournaments, and now you've got some great players playing some really good golf, and that just helps our momentum.
Q. Can you address this event, how it went last year and what you think of the course, stuff like that?
STACY LEWIS: Yeah, you know, last year I thought for the first year of a tournament, the turnout, just with the crowds, was unbelievable. I remember it was either Saturday or Sunday just the ropes from the 18th tee all the way to the clubhouse were just lined with kids, and that was the coolest thing. I've never seen that at any other tournament, just all the kids that came out, because the more we get into the markets where junior golf is big, that's where we need those junior players to be playing good golf.
The fact that we're here and we're back again is a great thing. I hope we're coming back next year. I know we've got some work to make that happen. But I think this is a place that we need to be playing.
Q. Going back to the question previously about the young players on Tour, talk about the expanded growth this year of the Tour and adding two or three more tournaments. Do you think that kind of goes hand in hand?
STACY LEWIS: Yeah, I mean, I think the more playing opportunities you have, for sure you get into more of a rhythm. But the Tour this year, I mean, we're adding tournaments, we're adding sponsors, increases in social media and media hits. I mean, you can feel it amongst the Tour. You can feel the momentum going.
I don't know, it's hard to say whether getting more tournaments has led to better play, but it's just good timing, I guess, for everything. I don't know, I think we maybe could have used this a few years ago, but I think now we kind of have a really solid base of over 30 events. Now you get some stars playing well, you start increasing purses, you start getting on network TV, things like that, and then the Tour just kind of keeps growing from there.
THE MODERATOR: It is my pleasure to welcome in our two collegiate shootout qualifiers this week at the North Texas LPGA Shootout, Brittany Fan and Sammi Stevens. You guys shot 68s on Monday to qualify for this event, the first LPGA event for each of you. Brittany, start us off how this whole experience has been for you. Talk about how excited you are this week.
BRITTANY FAN: I'm really excited this week. Any chance I get a chance to play with the LPGA, which are the best in the competition, I would get to learn so much. I love watching them play, and I'm looking forward to it.
THE MODERATOR: Sammi, happy birthday I guess we can say, 22 today. This is a pretty special week, and you just said you're coming off a conference win with the University of New Mexico Lobos. You said you're on cloud nine. Talk about how happy you are to be here and what this experience has been like for you.
SAMMI STEVENS: Yeah, this has just been unbelievable. It's just a one‑day qualifier. You go out, and you never know how it's going to go. Just happened to get hot that day, and I'm so honored to be here. This is really neat that this event allows two high school and two college players to get in.
THE MODERATOR: Give us your thoughts on the course. I know you guys had a little differing views. Talk about the course, how it suits your game and what you'll try to do this week to go low.
BRITTANY FAN: Well, my goal is to shoot red numbers every day, and I think that will be enough to make the cut. But of course I'd love to be in contention.
I think the course is really nice. It's kind of quirky because you have some dogleg left but the fairway goes right, and then vice versa. I think the bunkers are tough, but I have adjusted my swing and now it's better.
THE MODERATOR: I know you said you were going to go back to the range after your round and work on a couple things. How did that go and what were you working on?
BRITTANY FAN: Well, I was having some issues with my tee shots on the qualifying round. I was coming too much over the top, and my finish was too low, kind of like a cut finish. So I had to get the feeling of dropping underneath and then finishing more out. So worked on that.
THE MODERATOR: Sammi, what about you?
SAMMI STEVENS: I feel like this course is definitely a positioning course. You have to get precise as far as where you want to be in the fairway. I think it's going to be just really key to have my short game sharp this week. It's playing a little longer than your typical college course, a lot of long irons, might not hit as many greens as you're used to, so as long as I can keep my short irons sharp, I think I'll be in good shape.
Like Brittany said, right around par or better I think would be a good goal, and hopefully we can both make the cut.
THE MODERATOR: I laughed when you said you're 22 but you feel like the old lady next to her. You're graduating in a couple weeks from University of New Mexico. Congratulations on that, but you've been through four years now of college golf. She's just starting in Colorado this fall. What advice do you have for her to hopefully expand the college experience or what she can do to hopefully succeed in those four years?
SAMMI STEVENS: I think just try to enjoy it as much as you can. I know for me it was quite a growing experience just as a person and as a golfer. The biggest thing is just to be as organized as you can. With all the traveling and schoolwork, if you can just keep on top of everything, it makes your life a lot easier.
Q. For both players, can you just talk about what the experience has been like this week and have you picked up any advice from players?
SAMMI STEVENS: It's just been pretty incredible so far. I think the biggest thing is when you're just practicing with all these pros, it's just like you're one of them, and I think that by far is just the coolest part for me. It's been pretty awesome getting the VIP treatment really. It's just been unreal.
THE MODERATOR: What's been the biggest surprise out of an LPGA event that you thought, oh, wow, these girls get this every week?
SAMMI STEVENS: I think it's just awesome. You've got all the medical van and like all the grips and everything you can think of, really. It's just everything is here. You don't really have to worry about anything else.
BRITTANY FAN: I think it's cool being inside the ropes. It's kind of different. It's not what everyone thinks. I enjoy watching how players interact with each other. I think it's cool. Everyone is friendly, but when they step on the course it's competition, so I think that's really cool, a different mindset.
I do like the VIP treatment, and I do think it's cool everyone opens doors for you and everything. I like it.
THE MODERATOR: Stacy Lewis was in here just a little earlier and we asked her if she had any advice for you guys, and she loves the idea of having college players come in, and she said just to take in as much as what the professionals do in practice. Have you guys watched them and anything that kind of stuck out to you what they do in their preparation which is a huge part of their game?
BRITTANY FAN: I like the fact that they focus solely on what they're doing. So they're not really distracted. There's always someone there helping them, so because you can't see yourself when you're swinging or putting, they always have someone there to watch it for them.
Q. Caddies this week, what do you have? I know moms are both here from the qualifiers, your dad flew in from Hawai'i, your coach is here, your dad is driving from home in Texas. What about your crews here? Who's going to be caddying for you and who's going to be here with you?
BRITTANY FAN: I had my coach fly out from Hawai'i, back there in the corner.
SAMMI STEVENS: I actually ran into a caddie yesterday, his nickname is Bully, and he's from Hawai'i. He knows my assistant coach Britney Choy, and he's typically a Tour caddie but he's doing it kind of as a favor to my coach, so it worked out.
Q. I was just going to ask Sammi, with this being your birthday this week, how much does this feel like a magical week to you? What do you feel like is capable for you going forward?
SAMMI STEVENS: It really does feel like a magical week. I feel like I haven't even come down from our conference win last week. This is just pretty spectacular. It's an honor to be here. After the qualifying day, it was a good way to see that I am capable of scoring on this golf course. I've just got to keep it simple out there. Golf is golf; I can't get too overwhelmed and just stay in the moment.
THE MODERATOR: Sammi, I know you said your plans are to try to hopefully hit the pro circuit. What will that do for you this week if you say you were to be able to play well? Obviously you've already scored low on Monday, but how much would that do for your confidence to know that you competed against the world's best?
SAMMI STEVENS: Yeah, I mean, that would be huge. I'm guaranteed two days already and just this whole experience I've learned so much. Kind of more than anything, you have to be okay with the lifestyle. It's tough traveling and all this, and I've been gone for about a week and a half now straight, but I'm loving it. That's been the biggest test for me that it really seems to fit, and I'm excited to try it in this next year.
THE MODERATOR: I know you mentioned Britney Choy, your assistant coach. I actually knew her when she was on the Symetra Tour. Has she given you any advice about turning pro or just this week? Have you spoken with her?
SAMMI STEVENS: Yeah, she actually texted me happy birthday this morning and just was telling me just to enjoy every minute of it and learn as much as you can. Just enjoy it. That's why I'm here.