RANCHO MIRAGE, CA – The Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) announced today that Hana Financial Group, PANDORA Jewelry and Rolex, will participate as Ambassador Sponsors for the inaugural LPGA International Crown, to be played July 24-27, 2014 at Caves Valley Golf Club in Owings Mills, MD.
The International Crown is the first-of-its-kind biennial, team match play competition featuring the best female golfers from the top eight countries across the globe, based on the combined Rolex World Ranking of the top four players from each country. The countries that have qualified to compete in 2014 include Australia, Chinese Taipei, Japan, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, the United States and Thailand. The player field has been finalized and includes several former number one players in the world.
“The LPGA is pleased to announce the support of our Ambassador Sponsors for the inaugural International Crown Tournament,” said LPGA Commissioner Michael Whan. “Hana Financial Group, PANDORA Jewelry and Rolex are tremendous global brands that we are proud to have associated with our new marquee global event in women’s professional golf.”
These three companies enjoy a history with the LPGA and have sought to partner on the International Crown because of the unique team match play format and knowing the passion that the players will exhibit in representing their country.
Hana Financial Group has been the title sponsor of the LPGA KEB HanaBank Championship in Korea for the last five years and sponsors several LPGA players including Hee Young Park, Vicky Hurst and International Crown participants I.K. Kim and So Yeon Ryu.
"We are very excited to be a part of the LPGA's inaugural International Crown event, representing Team Korea with two players, So Yeon Ryu and I.K.Kim, sponsored by our company," Said Mr. Jung-Tai Kim, CEO of Hana Financial Group. "We will continue to support women's golf with the LPGA KEB-Hana Bank Championship in Korea, which has developed into one of the top tournaments on the LPGA Tour, and partner on other worldwide opportunities such as the International Crown.
PANDORA is new to the LPGA family and is partnering this year with players Brittany Lincicome, Lizette Salas and Gerina Pillar as brand ambassadors.
“PANDORA is thrilled to be sponsoring the 2014 International Crown,” said Nikolette Gayk, Marketing Manager for PANDORA Jewelry. “ To have the opportunity to be involved from the very beginning of a new venture that recognizes and celebrates women globally -- their abilities, capabilities, experiences and successes -- is an honor and extremely exciting and also fits so perfectly with what PANDORA has been focused on for more than 30 years - celebrating women.”
Rolex, the “Official Timepiece of the LPGA,” has partnered with the association for the last 34 years. Rolex honors the best of the best each year on the LPGA through the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year award and the Rolex First-Time Winner award. Since 2006, Rolex also has titled the Rolex Rankings, the first-ever comprehensive world rankings system for women’s golf and since 2009 as a Global Partner of the Solheim Cup.
“We are extremely pleased that Rolex is extending its global support to partner with the exciting launch of The International Crown,” said Whan.
At today’s press conference, the three Ambassador partners helped unveil the custom International Crown trophy, which was designed and hand crafted by Tiffany & Co. The trophy weighs 20 pounds and stands 23 inches tall. One hundred and sixty-five hours of labor went into crafting the trophy, including silversmith soldering, hand bending and polishing the trophy into its finished pristine product.
During the 18th green awards ceremony at the International Crown, the four players from the winning country willbe presented with their own “Crowns” which will be exact replicas of the one displayed as part of the tournament trophy.
Individual tickets to the tournament are on sale via the tournament website, www.LPGAInternationalCrown.com. Weekly Grounds tickets are just $99, with single-day Competition Round tickets starting at just $25. Children 17 and under receive complimentary admission to the Grounds with a paying adult.
Sponsorship opportunities remain available with hospitality, Pro-Am and advertising options. Interested corporations should contact Steve Schoenfeld, Director of Marketing and Corporate Partnerships, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
AN INTERVIEW WITH:
Na Yeon Choi
KRAIG KANN: Thank you for joining us. I'm Kraig Kann, the chief communications officers of the LPGA.
In 2013 the, LPGA announced to the world a new global team competition that we feel is not only long overdue but also innovative in its conceptual design and something that will appeal to fans who watch us in more than 150 countries each week.
The International Crown will debut this July, the 24th through 27th, at Caves Valley, golf club outside Baltimore, with eight countries taking part, having qualified officially back in mid-November based on the merits of the combined official world rankings of their top four players at that time.
Those countries, you see them right here to my left and right. Australia, Chinese Taipei, Japan, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Thailand and the United States. They were announced at our season-ending event back in Naples. Since that time, the players who are here today and others have been competing, jockeying, wishing for a position on their country's four-player roster.
Sunday's final round at the Kia Classic was spectacular for many reasons. It was the last day for players to earn a spot among the top four ranked players from their qualifying home country. And what a day it was, especially for Team USA. It came down to the last pairing of the day, Cristie Kerr and Lizette Salas.
On the team side of things, there was the battle for the top overall seed at stake, as the United States closed in on South Korea and ultimately edged out South Korea for the top overall seed in the upcoming International Crown by the slimmest of margins, one world ranking point.
We are all set, 32 players, eight countries, four players per country, and just one crown to wear this summer and proudly carry bragging rights as the best golfing nation in the world.
Today at this press conference we're going to do a couple of things. We're going to announce some news, bring up a qualified team member for each country, and we're going to go through some of the particulars of how the week will look from a pool perspective.
First I'd like to turn it over to our chief marketing officer, Jon Podany, who is here. He would like to make a rather large business announcement regarding the upcoming International Crown.
JON PODANY: Thank you. We've been talking about this for almost two years. I have to admit it is pretty exciting to actually have it become closer to reality only a few months away.
First thing I wanted to do today is introduce some very important partners to this event. As you all know, these events don't happen without strong sponsorship and partnership support. We have three companies that have stepped up to be major partners of this event going forward. We're very excited about that. Three strong partners.
I'm going to introduce each of them, ask a representative of each to come up, then we have another announcement following that.
First I'd like to introduce Rolex as one of our ambassador partners. Representing Rolex is Arnaud Laborde. We also have Peter Nicholson and Alex Gasser with us today.
Rolex, as many of you know, is one of the biggest supporters, if not the biggest supporter of women's golf. Been with the LPGA for 34 years. You see their imprint on so many big events that we do. We're delighted to have Rolex join us at the Crown.
Secondly, I'd like to recognize the Hana Financial Group. We have three representatives with us today. Mr. Choi, if you'd come up and represent Hana Financial Group.
For those of you that travel with us on our tour, you'll know that the KEB HanaBank Championship is one of the very best tournaments on the LPGA. This year alone we had 28,000 people there on Sunday. If you've ever been to see that mass of people coming down the hill following our players, it's a big event. They also support four of our players. Hana Financial Group is a perfect fit for this kind of championship.
Lastly, I'd like to introduce a new partner of ours, Pandora. Nikolette Gayk is here to represent Pandora. Just to give you a little bit about Pandora, which plays right into the global aspect of this championship, their headquarters are in Copenhagen, Denmark. Their production facility is in Thailand. They hand-make all their jewelry in Thailand. I think very representative of what we expect the International Crown to become. So thank you to Pandora. I have three daughters, so we're quite familiar with the Pandora brand.
One more special announcement I'd like to make before turning it back over to Kraig. We'd like to unveil the International Crown trophy which was designed by Tiffany & Company. I'll ask our ambassador partners to help me in that unveiling.
As I mentioned, it's designed by Tiffany & Company, weighs 23 pounds, 23 inches high, and took 165 hours to develop. So very proud to have Tiffany & Company as the designer of our trophy. One unique aspect we're pretty excited about is that each of the four players on the winning team will receive a replica crown like you see at the top of the trophy.
We will crown the best golfing nation in the world, maybe the queens of women's golf, per se. We're looking forward to that aspect of the event on Sunday afternoon.
Thank you for coming and thank you to our ambassador partners for joining together with us in what we think is going to be a terrific event and we hope we're together a very long time.
KRAIG KANN: I now officially know there will be no bouncing or running on this stage. We'll be very careful of what is right in front of me (laughter).
Let's get to the qualifying country and now how they're seeded for the competition. We'll bring up a representative of each country for some commentary and questions from the media.
The competition will look like this. We're dividing the countries into two pools. The qualifying countries are listed on the side there in alphabetical order.
In pool A are countries seeded one, four, five and eight. In pool B, countries seeded two, three, six and seven. To make it simple for you, this right here is pool A, this is pool B.
Now let's introduce some of the players. Let's start with pool A and the number one overall seed at the International Crown. Sliding in at the very last event on the very last day, the United States has the first spot because of, why, because of Lexi Thompson. She went from 10 to 9 in the Rolex women's world rankings and that one point allowed the United States to be at the top.
Representing the red, white and blue today, the number three ranked player in the world, former number one, hoping to get back there, ladies and gentlemen, Stacy Lewis is here.
Down in pool B, the number two overall seed is the country who led the standings from the day the International Crown was launched in January of 2013, South Korea is the number two seed. Representing South Korea here today the owner of seven career LPGA Tour titles, including the United States Open. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Na Yeon Choi.
Also in pool B, we find the number three seed in the International Crown, Japan. Up at the top is Mika Miyazato. Representing this country here today, former number one in the Rolex world rankings, a nine-time winner on the LPGA Tour, say hello to Ai Miyazato
Let's go back to pool A for our fourth seed, that is Thailand. Here today to represent Team Thailand, after six top-20 finishes and a season-best fourth-place finish at the Australian Open, please welcome Moriya Jutanugarn.
Staying in pool A, the number five ranked country, which is Spain. The woman here today, very recognizable, three LPGA Tour victories, 19 top 10s, please welcome Beatriz Recari.
The sixth seeded team falls in pool B. It is Team Sweden. Here today is a rising talent who carried cards on both the LPGA and LET in 2010, still does. Four top 25s last year. Say hello to Pernilla Lindberg.
Rounding out pool B is the team from Chinese Taipei. Here on the stage, please welcome four-time LPGA Tour winner, career earnings approaching $6 million, Candie Kung.
Our final qualifier falls in pool A. That spot belongs to Team Australia. Representing Team Australia here today, who else but 41-time LPGA winner, including seven major championships, she is the two-time Rolex Player of the Year, two-time winner this year, welcome Karrie Webb.
Let's get comments from each of you on this event. Karrie, I'll let you have the microphone first. What has you most excited about this event?
KARRIE WEBB: Well, that Australia's in it is the first thing. We qualified last. But very, very excited to be able to represent Australia. Obviously Australia hasn't had the opportunity to have many team competitions at the professional level. I'm really excited about it.
I think we've got a fun team. Minjee Lee is a rising star. I think you'll see lots of her in the future. I think it will be a really great experience for her. Obviously Katherine and Lindsey, we've all been out here quite a while. I think we'll have quite a group. I think we'll all get along well. Hopefully we'll take a laid back atmosphere into it and try and have some fun and see how we go.
KRAIG KANN: Candie, representing Chinese Taipei, what does this event mean for you personally?
CANDIE KUNG: It's a fun event for us. I feel honored to be part of Chinese Taipei. I didn't even know we had a fourth player till late last year. But we're all looking forward to it. We're all very excited. This is actually the first time that we actually get to play in a team event, to represent Chinese Taipei in an international event, so we're looking forward to it.
KRAIG KANN: Pernilla, what does an event like this do for you?
PERNILLA LINDBERG: The Solheim Cup, growing up in Europe, obviously it's a big goal in any girl's mind growing up. Now, having the chance to play in this kind of team event where I get to represent Sweden is a big deal.
With other events coming up like the Olympics, this just feels even more special to get a taste of representing my country already now. Anna, Caroline and myself, we played a lot on the national team growing up. We won the world amateur championships together in 2008. I feel pretty good about having us together again.
KRAIG KANN: Early confidence from Team Sweden.
Let's go back to this side and talk to Beatriz. Team Spain looks fairly dangerous. What will it be like to represent your country and not just Europe as you do in a Solheim Cup?
BEATRIZ RECARI: It's going to be a great experience to finally represent your country professionally because growing up in Europe, like Pernilla said, we always had every year national competitions. It's going to be great to have that feeling again because all four of us, we're almost the same age, so we always competed together on the national team and we always beat Sweden. We're always like lined up going to the opening ceremony, always like Spain and Sweden. We're always in front alphabetically.
I think it's going to be good memories, and also playing for your country professionally puts that little extra pressure. I think we're all four very, very thrilled.
KRAIG KANN: Moriya, you and your sister both representing Team Thailand. Your sister is here, as well. Knowing you already have an event in your country that we play on the LPGA, what will this mean for you and your country to be involved?
MORIYA JUTANUGARN: I think it's my first time play for country, so represent Thailand. This my first time. It's the first time that we play for the team, four of us. Normally we are good friends, so I hope we going to be a good friends when we play the tournament, too.
I'm really glad that we in one of the eight teams because it's very exciting when you wait till the cut and it's like, Wow, we're in!
KRAIG KANN: Any team you really want to beat? We have Sweden and Spain ready to go at it.
MORIYA JUTANUGARN: I need more experience, so maybe I take experience from them.
KRAIG KANN: You were the Rookie of the Year last year, but you've moved on, fully aware of how to handle these things.
Let's talk to Ai Miyazato. Golf is popular in Japan. As are you. What do you think it will be like for you and how much pressure might there be on a country like Japan to play in an event like this?
AI MIYAZATO: I think it's going to be a great team because me and Mika plays on the LPGA Tour. We obviously know each other a long time. We can get along together. I promise it's going to be no drama. Most of the Japanese girls is really polite and really fun to be with, so it's going to be a great team.
But women's golf is getting really popular in Japan right now. We get all the attention from the golf fans. This tournament, it's going to be really a huge impact to Japan golf. I'm really happy that our country qualified for this tournament.
KRAIG KANN: You're a big part of the promo. You're the one that says who gets to wear the crown. Have you thought what that would mean, to have the first crown?
AI MIYAZATO: I've seen the trophy, so it even feels better.
Obviously I knew it's going to be really huge tournament, but now I realize and I've seen the other players, it's going to be tough matches against any country. It's going to be really fun.
KRAIG KANN: There might be some drama, still?
AI MIYAZATO: Not on the Japanese team, but against the other countries could be drama.
KRAIG KANN: Na Yeon, South Korea has so much talent on this team, what does it feel like for you to be a part of it?
NA YEON CHOI: I think all the Korean players have some pressure, extra pressure than normal LPGA tournament players.
We just finished the number two seed after last week, so I just talked with Inbee and So Yeon and IK. We feel a little less pressure than before. I think USA has a lot of pressure now. But it's all fun for each other, for each country. We feel like honored to play the tournament. I really looking forward to that tournament.
KRAIG KANN: Let me make sure I understand your quote exactly right. The United States is the one that has more pressure, am I understanding that right?
NA YEON CHOI: Yes.
KRAIG KANN: Let's go to Stacy. Top seed for the United States. I remember a few years ago, I don't want to talk about the drama just yet, but people were talking about why the Americans hadn't stepped up, there weren't enough American players in the winner's circle. Things seemed to have changed. You have made a huge run over the last few months to become the number one seed. What does that state about American golf?
STACY LEWIS: I've been beating my head against the wall saying that for the last year and a half and nobody would write about it. I've been saying American golf is in a really good place. The way Lexi, Paula and even Christie have played in the last few weeks, it shows we're in a great place right now.
It's nice to get that number one seed and to prove to people that we're here and we're competing.
It was hard to make the team. Kerr ended up 12 or 13 in the world so you had play really good golf to be a part of the team. To represent your country is really such an honor.
KRAIG KANN: Any commentary to NYC's commentary?
STACY LEWIS: The South Koreans are good at down playing everything.
KRAIG KANN: Any pressure for the United States?
STACY LEWIS: Kind of like a Solheim Cup, we're used to having a captain make decisions for us. But from Solheim Cups, we'll be pretty set there.
KRAIG KANN: I'm going to run through the format here. Three days of pool play where on each day each team will play two four-ball matches against one of the other teams in their pool. One day of singles then on Sunday where the top two teams from each pool after three days will qualify, plus one wild card team will advance after a sudden death four-ball playoff. That's how we'll get to five teams.
The team with the most points over the four days gets the crown. Two points for each victory in the matches, one point for a half. A sudden death singles playoff if we needed it on Sunday would break the tie and award the crown.
Here is pool A, over the first three days, similar to World Cup soccer where every team plays every other team over the first three days gaining points. The matchups, U.S. Thailand, Spain, Australia, the top two qualifying for Sunday play.
Let's take questions from the media.
Q. Karrie, did you ever in the past watch the Solheim Cup or even the Ryder Cup and feel like you were being cheated, didn't have an opportunity for a career experience?
KARRIE WEBB: It's never been something obviously that's been an offer for me. I have attended quite a few Solheim Cups.
I think when I'm there, the girls put on such a great show that I do miss not being a part of that. The atmosphere at the Solheim Cup is always tenfold compared to a regular tournament out here.
I guess I do feel like I miss that when I go to those events, but it's not something that I dwell on.
Obviously when the idea of the International Crown came up, I was excited that I could have an opportunity to play for Australia. I mean, the longevity of this event, the atmosphere might turn into something like the Solheim Cup. But to start with, I think it's just going to be great.
I know all four girls are very excited to represent Australia. We'll do our best to maybe ruffle a few feathers as the underdog.
KRAIG KANN: Karrie, there are no captains in this competition, but if there were any of the eight teams that seemed like it's a lock that somebody is going to take the leadership role on their team, Karrie, it would be you. Is being a leader something you will embrace and love having that opportunity?
KARRIE WEBB: We actually haven't talked about it as a team yet. I think it's only four girls. I don't think there's big decisions to be made. To me personally, I'd love to play with all three girls. We have three days to do that.
I don't think there's going to be a huge amount of strategy to it. But it will just be fun. Obviously I have the most experience as far as how long I've been out here and the career I've had. Hopefully that might trickle down and we all play really well that week.
Q. Obviously a lot of you have played in team competitions where you've had a non-playing captain who made decisions. You'll have to get that done by yourselves. Do you anticipate designating somebody? Is it arm wrestling at noon? What?
STACY LEWIS: I don't know. I mean, I think if there were more players, there would need to be kind of a leader roll, like Karrie said. I think with four, we all respect each other enough and we know each other's games well enough. I think the four of us on our team, we already know what we're going to do as far as pairings-wise.
I don't really see it being too much of a challenge. For us it will be a little bit more relaxed than a Solheim Cup would be.
BEATRIZ RECARI: I'm going to repeat what they said. The key is really we're only four players. To get to this qualifying, you have to play here for a few years. You know each other.
For us, I mean, we've played together since we're 10. I mean, we know each other like sisters almost. We've grown up playing amateur golf, then playing professional over here. This is my fifth year on the LPGA. It's been many years playing together.
Like Stacy said, from that point of view, and last year in Solheim, too, pretty much without talking we could almost decide who is going to play with who and agree. It's so easy when it's four. We have such a good atmosphere, so it's not going to be any hassle at all.
Q. Does that mean the four of you know who is going to play together and it's going to stay the same the whole time?
STACY LEWIS: I think it could change depending on maybe how people are playing or this or that. It's not alternate shot. It's best ball format. That frees things up. Certain people kind of play well with certain people.
I mean, it's getting people comfortable out there to go out and make some birdies. That's ultimately what you're trying to do in best ball. Maybe you have one person that bombs it, one person that's steady, you free them up to let it rip.
There's a little bit of strategy there, but the four of us, we know each other's games. We know what everybody's strengths are. It's just putting the best two combinations together.
Q. If there's a playoff situation and you have to put a name in an envelope, how do you figure that one out?
STACY LEWIS: I think that's where it gets tricky. That's where I think you could have more drama than anything. I think everybody on the team would want to be that person. I think that's why we're professional golfers. We want the pressure. We want to be there.
That's going to be the trickiest part of this whole format.
KRAIG KANN: Moriya, I'm pretty sure you would play with your sister in this competition?
MORIYA JUTANUGARN: Yeah, I think for team Thailand is pretty much I going to play with my sister because we know each other, like we grow up together. We used to play the team together before. I know her game. She know what she have to do with me.
KRAIG KANN: Beatriz, can you give us some sense of what the team room atmosphere might be like for Team Spain?
BEATRIZ RECARI: We're going to be playing music. Carlota loves to decide all the songs. In Solheim she had the whole song list. She was ruling the D.J. part. We're just going to take it easy and have a good time. Just make sure we're nice and positive in the locker room.
KRAIG KANN: Let's move over to pool B. One thing to start off. As things changed at the last minute, suddenly three Asian countries are all in the same bracket. You were talking no drama. Candie, what will that be like? Is there a competitive situation there we don't know enough about?
CANDIE KUNG: Definitely there's going to be competition. We're playing against each other, playing against different countries, we want to beat each other up, and hopefully we're doing that on the golf course. It will be fun.
KRAIG KANN: NYC?
NA YEON CHOI: Actually we have a lot of experience, especially with Japan. Few years ago, Korea against the Japan, we had a team match in Korea or Japan every winter. We had a great experience from there.
Obviously we didn't play Solheim Cup. We never played. But we got some experience. So I think all the experience might help for us.
KRAIG KANN: Ai, another chance for you to talk about drama.
AI MIYAZATO: Thanks, Kraig.
No, it's going to be tough for sure against playing any other countries. Japan and Korea, we had so many tournaments between our countries, we had so many experience.
It's going to be new because we never played against Sweden or Chinese Taipei. That's a new experience for me, and you never know what's going to happen.
Like Candie said, we play for country. I'm sure we're all going to be tough, little bit different than usual tournament. Hopefully you can see new Ai Miyazato in this tournament.
KRAIG KANN: Pernilla, given how well Anna Nordqvist was playing, I guess you wish this was tomorrow?
PERNILLA LINDBERG: Why not? Having Caroline Headwall on the team, seeing what she has done in the last couple Solheim Cups, it will be pretty cool. Then Mikaela Parmlid and myself, we're going to try to learn the tips that Caroline has to give us on the whole match play thing and I think we'll be fine.
KRAIG KANN: Among the three Asian countries here, who is going to play the loudest music?
CANDIE KUNG: They better put our rooms all together next to each other and we'll see who has the loudest going on.
I'm not sure.
AI MIYAZATO: Japan. Because we have karaoke. We all can sing.
KRAIG KANN: When this event was launched to the media at the beginning of the 2013, I want to remind you how this has evolved. South Korea had a 24-point advantage as the top seed. Now it is the United States by that one slim point in the world rankings. This has been ongoing for the better part of almost a year and a half.
Any other questions from the media?
Q. Na Yeon, the other country players grew up together, well know each other. Is it an advantage to you?
KRAIG KANN: Is it an advantage that you all know each other so well?
NA YEON CHOI: Yeah. We actually grew up together. I'm oldest from team. We grew up together since when I was like 11 years old. We went to tournaments together. We know each other very well. We were Korean national team together.
I think we know each other very well. I think we listen from other players feeling or thinking, then make good, best teamwork and hopefully have good results over there.
KRAIG KANN: That will do it for today. We thank you all for coming today. A big round of applause for the players that will compete in July. Thank you for being here. We look forward to seeing you at the first-ever International Crown. Thank you so much.