KOREAN FANS SET FOR STAR-STUDDED EXHIBITION MATCH FEATURING LPGA LEGENDS SE RI PAK, ANNIKA SORENSTAM, LORENA OCHOA AND JULI INKSTER
A little over two years ago in Mexico City, the local golf fans savored a trip down memory lane as they watched LPGA legends Lorena Ochoa, Annika Sorenstam, Se Ri Pak and Juli Inkster take part in a couple of exhibition matches at Club de Golf Mexico. It was a golden opportunity to see four Hall of Fame players turn back the clock and produce some superb golf in two encounters that were contested in a wonderful spirit.
Jokes and anecdotes were shared as the four legends strode the fairways with their caddies and a few family members in tow, while the players made the most of every chance that came their way to engage with the fans, have a quick chat here and there and sign any autographs that were requested.
Fast forward two months and golf fans in the Republic of Korea will enjoy that same trip down memory lane - with the same quartet of LPGA legends. Pak, Sorenstam, Ochoa and Inkster will join forces with "Next Generation" players Sung Hyun Park, Ariya Jutanugarn, Lexi Thompson and Minjee Lee in the inaugural Seolhaeone Legends Match that will take place from Sept. 21-22 at Seolhaeone Resort in Yangyang on the east coast of South Korea.
The first day will feature foursomes match play where each team will comprise an "LPGA Legend" paired up with a "Next Generation" player, based on voting by Korean golf fans. On the second day, the four "Next Generation" players will compete in a skins game with the four Legends providing commentary and analysis. The prize money won from each hole will be donated to help the eastern province of Gangwon with its recovery efforts after severe wildfires earlier this year killed one person and forced more than 4,000 to flee their homes.
"It will be great fun, to just be out there celebrating women's golf," LPGA and World Golf Halls of Fame member Sorenstam told LPGA.com. "It's more about interacting with the fans, hitting some golf shots and having a little bit of a competitive atmosphere but mostly it's just that all the fans will be able to see all of us together at once. I don't necessarily play a lot of rounds of golf nowadays and I don't think the others do either, so it will be a good mix. There's a lot of different activities on the side, too, with dinners and meet-and-greets. That's really the concept of it all.
"I'm good friends with the other Legends. We've kept in touch and we've been lucky to play in some of these exhibition matches. It was just recently that I saw Se Ri and Lorena at the inaugural Augusta National Women's Amateur championship. We have a lot of mutual respect for each another and we still care about the game, not necessarily from a competitive 72-hole level but just being part of the game and the things we do to give back to the game at different levels and in different parts of the world. So it's really cool to be invited to the country where Se Ri is from and have the chance to be with the Korean golf fans."
GLOBAL NATURE OF WOMEN’S GOLF
The eight players who will take part in the Seolhaeone Legends Match represent six countries - Korea, Sweden, the United States, Mexico, Thailand, Australia - a geographical spread that certainly underlines the global nature of women's golf.
"It's so cool that we all come from different parts of the world," said Sorenstam, whose stellar LPGA career was highlighted by 10 major titles among her 72 victories. "All four Legends are from different places and we all bring something to the game, we all give back to different parts of the world. All four of us still have a good fan base over there (in Korea). So it's just maintaining that and being in the public eye because we all respect the game. But the competitive spirit never leaves you so once you are standing on the first tee, it's fun and giggles but it's also, 'Let's hit a good shot and see if we can make some birdies!' I'm very excited to be a part of it."
Sorenstam, whose total of 10 LPGA Tour majors trails only Patty Berg (15), Mickey Wright (13) and Louise Suggs (11) on the all-time list, retired from competition in 2008. Pak, a five-time major winner who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2007, ended her competitive career in 2016. Ochoa, Mexico's greatest ever player who won 27 times on the LPGA Tour, stunned the golf world by announcing her retirement from the game in 2010 at the age of 28. She was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2017.
Only Inkster among the four LPGA Legends is still an active player. A 31-time winner (including seven major victories) on the LPGA Tour who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2000, Inkster will captain the United States for a third consecutive time at this year's Solheim Cup in Scotland.
Asked how much golf she had played since the Mexico City exhibition matches in 2017 and how much practice she planned to put in before the Seolhaeone Legends Match in September, Sorenstam replied: "I don't practice a whole lot but I do go out here and there and I play with my kids. It varies. Like this week, I will probably go out twice and then it can go a few weeks where I don't touch a golf club. I was playing in the 3M Greats of Golf in Houston two months ago and that was four days of golf in a row. It's very sporadic. I don't have a practice schedule by any means, and I'm certainly not on a tournament schedule. There are times with my travel schedule when I do a lot of clinics, a lot of business clinics for the ANNIKA Foundation and so forth. Who knows? We'll see how I feel!"
Details about the Seolhaeone Legends Match were announced last week during a press conference in Seoul where Pak unveiled the star-studded line-up of eight players for the two-day event.
"I am very happy to have the opportunity to play again with legends like Annika Sorenstam, Juli Inkster and Lorena Ochoa," said Pak, a 25-winner on the LPGA Tour. "This takes me back in time to my playing days when we were competing against each other. This event was planned in the hopes that we would be able to play with each other again. I hadn't played much golf after retirement, but I started training for this event a while ago. I now feel like I am back to being a player! I would like to thank Seolhaeone once again for their support and for allowing us to hold such a great event."