Wildfire Golf Club at JW Marriott Desert Ridge
Pre-Tournament Notes and Interviews - Wednesday
March 18, 2015
Girls Golf Press Conference featuring Stacy Lewis, Brittany Lincicome, Tiffany Joh and Lizette Salas
NFL and LPGA Press Conference featuring Nicole Castrale, Juli Inkster, Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Roberts, Brad Sowell
Rolex Rankings No. 1 Lydia Ko
Rolex Rankings No. 3 Stacy Lewis
The LPGA-USGA Girls Golf program will introduce more than 50,000 girls to the game of golf in 2015 and for many of those girls, the dream is to one day play on the LPGA Tour. Someone who understands that dream all too well is five-time LPGA Tour winner Brittany Lincicome, who not too many years ago was a Girls Golf member herself.
“I wish I was 12 again and I could be a part of 50,000 girls that are now involved, because it’s incredible to see how far it’s come in a short amount of time,” Lincicome said of the program, who just fi ve years ago had less than 5,000 girls involved per year. “Hopefully we can keep growing that. It was super beneficial to me. I don’t know if I would be here without it because like I said, other girls didn’t play golf and didn’t think it was cool back when I was 12 years old. Now to see where it’s grown, it’s incredible.”
LPGA-USGA Girls Golf is all about inspiration and Wednesday’s press conference at the JTBC Founders Cup showcased that. At the press conference, the LPGA-USGA Girls Golf program kicked off their “Little Girls, Big Dreams” campaign with four of their LPGA Tour ambassadors: Tiffany Joh, Stacy Lewis, Lizette Salas and Lincicome. Sitting next to the players were five young members of the Girl Golf program who looked like the younger versions of the ambassadors. A reminder to all in attendance that all of these amazing players in the field this week were once little girls with big dreams.
This is a special week for Girls Golf as the spotlight shines brightly on the program. The JTBC Founders Cup, which began five years ago, was a vision of Commissioner Mike Whan to honor the past of the LPGA, celebrate the present and pay it forward to the future. Each year the LPGA celebrates its 13 Founders at this event as the best in the game compete on a grand stage with the proceeds going towards the future of golf.
And for the LPGA Tour players, the goal this week is to show these young golfers that anything they dream up is possible.
“Sky is the limit to play golf at the highest level you possibly can,” Salas said. “It’s up to you guys on how much you want it and you guys just want to play college golf, that’s great, and if you guys want to go to the highest level and play on the LPGA Tour, all of you can do it.”
NFL MEETS LPGA
Prior to the start of the JTBC Founders Cup several NFL players were able to team up with LPGA golfers to compete in the pro-am. Following their rounds, Arizona Cardinals Larry Fitzgerald and Brad Sowell joined former teammate and current Washington Redskin Andre Roberts as well as LPGA pros Juli Inkster and Nicole Castrale on stage for a press conference.
“It was a great experience, playing with Sandy and Nicole and Morgan,” Fitzgerald said. “It was really something special to be able to go out there and walk the fairways with some of the greatest players in the world is something I’ll never forget.”
Sowell, a two handicap, also walked away impressed.
“You don’t realize how good the pros are compared to us.,” Sowell said. “We’re good; but when you have to play it out, putt it out, do all the rules and stuff, it’s really hard to shoot a good score. That’s why you have got to respect pro golf because it’s extremely hard to get there.”
Inkster and Castrale also took a lot out of the day on the links with the NFL players.
“I think it’s great for our Tour,” Inkster said. “It brings a lot of respect for our Tour for these guys to come out and support us. It’s great to see kids out here with their jerseys on the back and their numbers. I think that’s really cool. The nine holes and playing with these guys, I mean, it was a breeze. It was a lot of fun. I enjoyed it and I wish we could do more like this. It’s great.
Castrale echoed Inkster’s statements.
“It’s great for the LPGA Tour,” Castrale said. “It definitely brings more exposure, but also shows how well rounded we are, and athletes respect athletes. Overall it was a win win for both. And maybe Cardinals will get another fan with Jules.”
While the golfers enjoyed the day they were able to teach the football players a thing or two as well.
“Swing easy,” Roberts said when asked of the main thing he learned. “Their swings are so easy and so smooth, and they get all the distance they need and all the accuracy they need. As guys, we always want to swing the club as hard as we can to get it to go far, and you know, watching the guys like Dustin Johnson just blow it past people swinging so hard, looks like it, but he’s probably swinging easy. But that’s one of the biggest things I see. They have got this smooth swing path. They swing easy and get everything they need out of it.”
NO. 1 BUT STILL A KID
World No. 1 Lydia Ko has been off to a stellar start in 2015; taking over the top spot, two straight wins, and a second place finish. Not to your typical teenager, but maintaining number one in the world is not what surprised Ko this week. It was that she could still be eligible for the LPGA-USGA Girls Golf program.
“They were doing some fun things with music and they said, you know, kids that are 17 years and younger can participate in this game and you can enter for a prize,” Ko said. “I told David (Leadbetter), can I go up and sign up.”
Ko would have obviously had an unfair advantage over the other girl golfers, but the modest teenager still realizes the impact she has on younger golfers and ones of her own age. For Ko, golf has become her job and she has continued to master her craft while influencing girls entering the game.
“I don’t get to think about my age and all that,” Ko said. “But to see a lot of the girls here that are not much younger than me or the same age, it’s pretty cool. I just feel more fortunate that I can do this at my age.”
LEWIS GUNNING FOR FIRST TITLE OF 2015
Stacy Lewis has found herself in contention several times this season, tied for second on Tour with three top-10 finishes, but the Rolex Rankings No. 3 has yet to raise a trophy.
“I’m pretty happy actually with the way I played,” Lewis said. “I’m kind of been working on my golf swing and the old stuff kind of crept in on Sundays when the pressure got on. I would rather find that out now than in a week or two from now. So in that aspect, I’m working on the right things because obviously it’s there.”
As Lewis mentioned, her downfall this year has been the final round where she is averaging 72.5 strokes per round.
“A little bit frustrated that I didn’t play better on the Sundays but I mean, to be in contention, to make Top 10s, that’s the ultimate goal. So I’m happy. I’m happy with what we’re working on and the way we’re going with things.”
MUNOZ INJURY UPDATE
Azahara Munoz underwent surgery on Monday to remove a tumor in her left hand. She is expected to miss at least a month while she recovers from the surgery. Munoz withdrew from the JTBC Founders Cup last week prior to her surgery.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“Growing up, I couldn’t play until after noon on the weekend. Even though I could beat most of the guys on the golf course, I still couldn’t play. You’re seeing things changing and we’re getting it at a good time right now where the money is there, the opportunity is there - it’s really a huge opportunity right now and we just need people to jump on board.”
-Stacy Lewis on the growth of women and young girls involved in golf and how it’s impacting the game