Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic Tuesday Notes and Interviews

Ilhee Lee
Photo Credit: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Ilhee Lee of South Korea celebrates after winning the Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic at the Ocean Club course on May 26, 2013 in Paradise Island, Bahamas.

Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic
Ocean Club Golf Course
Atlantis, Paradise Island, Nassau, Bahamas
Tuesday Pre-Tournament Notes and Interviews
January 21, 2014

Rolex Rankings No. 32 and defending champion Ilhee Lee

The 2014 LPGA season kicks off in paradise this week at the Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic. The Ocean Club Golf Course on Paradise Island hosts the event for the second year and features a star-studded field of 108 players competing over four days for a chance at a $195,000 first-place check and to etch their name on the tournament trophy.

Last year’s Pure Silk-Bahamas Classic winner Ilhee Lee joins five of the top 10 players in the Rolex Rankings, who are slated to be in the field this week including No. 2 Suzann Pettersen, and No. 3 Stacy Lewis. Rolex Rankings No. 4 Lydia Ko will also be making her first appearance as an LPGA Tour member as she kicks off her rookie season in 2014.  Pettersen won four times in 2013 giving her 14 career victories while Lewis won three times last season. Ko is certainly no stranger to winning either having captured victories at the past two CN Canadian Women’s Opens, both while still competing as an amateur.

Lee returns to defend her two-shot victory over Irene Cho in what turned out to be an unusual event for the LPGA Tour at the Ocean Club Golf Course. Due to record torrential rain early in the week that caused much of the course to be unplayable, the Bahamas event in 2013 was shortened to a creative 12-hole layout and was contested over just three rounds.

Same venue, new test: Ilhee Lee enters this week as the defending champion of the Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic but she acknowledges that it’s not exactly a typical title defense. After all, she won the inaugural event in the Bahamas last year while playing only a 12-hole format due to a torrential rainfall early in the week that made many holes on the Ocean Club Golf Course unplayable.

“I think everybody is thinking the same thing - it feels like the first event because it's the first time we played the whole golf course,” Lee said. “It doesn't really matter to me because I always try one shot at a time, one hole at a time.  So whether it's 12 holes or 18 holes, it doesn't matter to me because I try to focus one shot at a time.”

While rain played havoc on the golf course last year, the weather has cooperated so far this week. Players raved about the condition of the golf course following practice rounds on Tuesday and there is a lot of excitement with the tournament moving up to January on the schedule – marking the first time since 2001 that the LPGA has opened their season during the first month of the year.

A trip to the Bahamas is great any time of the year but for players like Lee, who spend their offseasons in typically warm climates, this event couldn’t have come at a better time. With temperatures in the high 70s on Paradise Island, it was a welcome respite from the cold that has recently plagued the entire continental United States.

“It was very, very cold,” Lee said of Dallas, where she spent the past few weeks practicing. “I almost think move to different place. laug.”

The Race is On! The inaugural Race to the CME Globe will officially kicks off this week at the season-opening Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic. Players will accumulate points at each official LPGA event from the Bahamas through the Lorena Ochoa Invitational Presented by Banamex. The Race to the CME Globe will then come to an exciting conclusion on Sunday at the newly renamed CME Group Tour Championship.

Two big purses and two big winner’s payouts will be on the line during the final day of the CME Group Tour Championship. The winner of the CME Group Tour Championship will take home a $500,000 first-place prize, while the player who has accumulated the most points in the season-long points competition will be announced as the Race to the CME Globe champion with a $1 million unofficial money payout – the largest in all of women’s golf.

A total of 500 points will be awarded to the winner of this week’s Pure-Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic.

“I think it's great,” Ilhee Lee said of the new Race to the CME Globe. “It will make more excitement for the fans, for the players and for the sponsors, too.  Yeah, it’s like a PGA TOUR FedExCup.  It's going to be really good.  I like it.”

Five Things You Don’t Know About…Danielle Kang

  1. Danielle plays the piano and the alto saxophone
  2. She would love to be on the Ellen DeGeneres show
  3. Her top three travel destinations are 1) Space 2) Easter Island 3) To see the Northern Lights
  4. Urban Outfitters is the store she would choose if she could max out her credit card
  5. Her favorite on-course snack is raw almonds

Ilhee Lee, Rolex Rankings No. 32 and defending champion

Q. We are here at the 2014 Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic with the defending champion Ilhee Lee.  Congratulations on the victory last year.  What has been different for you since winning here last year?
ILHEE LEE:  It has been a great year since my win last year.  I don't think I changed at all.  I feel because I'm an LPGA winner I'm more recognizable.

Q.  It was quite a memorable event last year with all of the rain and the 12‑hole format that went on, but what memories stick out to you from that victory?
ILHEE LEE:  First of all, the tournament staff and the grounds crew did a great job setting up the course for play.  If it wasn't for them I would not have an opportunity to win this tournament here.

Q.  They did do a great job setting that up.  How different is it now since I'm sure you got to go out and play today?  How different is it to play all 18 holes when your victory came when it was just 12 holes?
ILHEE LEE:  I think everybody is thinking the same thing.  It feels like the first event because it's the first time we played the whole golf course.  It doesn't really matter to me because I always try one shot at a time, one hole at a time.  So whether it's 12 holes or 18 holes, it doesn't matter to me because I try to focus one shot at a time.

Q.  Talking with a lot of the players, they said the course looks in great shape.  How did you find the golf course out there today?
ILHEE LEE:  It's beautiful here.  It was beautiful last year, too.  The golf course shape is perfect.  It's ready for play.

Q.  This is the first event of the 2014 season.  We're getting ready to get back into competition.  How was your off‑season?  How did you spend your time?  I guess it was a shorter off‑season than normal, just a couple months.  How did you spend your time off?
ILHEE LEE:  I spent three weeks in Korea for fun, and then came back to Dallas for four weeks or three weeks.  I worked on my swing a little bit, and I worked out a little bit.  Much better now.  Feel better than last year.

Q.  Being down in Dallas, I know it's been cold throughout the United States.  Did you get a lot of the cold weather down there?
ILHEE LEE:  Uh‑huh, it was very, very cold.  I always think move to different place.

Q.  It's a little tough when you have to go out there and play in those conditions.
ILHEE LEE:  Uh‑huh, it was very, very cold, yeah.

Q.  One other exciting thing for the 2014 season, we just announced the Race to the CME Globe, which is our new season‑long points competition on the LPGA Tour where the player who earns the most points over the season will win a million dollars.  How does that kind of change the season?  Does it make things more exciting out here on the LPGA Tour?
ILHEE LEE:  Oh, yeah.  I think it's great.  It will make more excitement for the fans, for the players and for the sponsors, too.  Yeah, it's just like a PGA TOUR FedExCup.  It's going to be really good.  I like it.

Q.  Does it also change as a player how many events when you look at a schedule, how many events you might play and kind of making sure that you put yourself in position to play at the CME Group Tour Championship at the end of the year?
ILHEE LEE:  Yes.  I'm going to play as much as I can play this year, not like last year.  So yeah.

Q.  And now thinking about it, when you tee off on Thursday, they're going to announce you as the defending champion.  How nice will that sound, and is it going to be a little different teeing off and hearing that by your name?
ILHEE LEE:  I don't know.  I'll be very excited to play.  It's very special to me, yeah, my first win in Bahamas.  I think I'm so fortunate to win my first win here in Bahamas.

 

 

Topics: Notes and Interviews, Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic, Lee, Ilhee