Manulife Financial LPGA Classic
Grey Silo Golf Course
Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday Pre-Tournament Notes
June 3, 2014
Rolex Rankings No. 23 Hee Young Park
Rolex Rankings No. 405 Jackie Stoelting
The LPGA returns to Waterloo, Ontario for the third time this week for the Manulife Financial LPGA Classic with many more to come as Manulife and the LPGA announced plans a month ago to extend the tournament through at least 2016. Hee Young Park returns as defending champion after making birdie on the 18th to force a playoff a year ago, then birdied the par-5 18th three consecutive times to edge Angela Stanford. Park’s 26-under four-day total tied the LPGA record.
Wild playoff finishes have become synonymous with this event so far. The inaugural event saw a spectacular four-player playoff between Brittany Lang, Chella Choi, Inbee Park and Hee Kyung Seo go three holes, but three straight birdies of the 18th sealed the victory up for Lang - her first win on tour. Both Park and Lang are in the field this week looking to become the first multiple winner of this event.
The Canadian fanbase has been extremely loyal to the LPGA since its inception with both years drawing over 60,000 fans to see the best in women’s golf.
WILL LYDIA KO MAKE A CHARGE AT STACY LEWIS FOR NO. 1?
Stacy Lewis met with the national media over conference call Tuesday to discuss her newly appointed title as the No. 1 ranked women’s player in the world in the Rolex Rankings, but if Lydia Ko has anything to do with it this weekend, Lewis will hold that title for just a week. Although Inbee Park is No. 2 in the Rolex Rankings, Ko didn’t turn professional until around a year and half ago so she has around 27 less events factoring into her Rolex Ranking than Park. Therefore, her finishes come with more weight attached to them and a win would actually push her to No. 1 if Lewis finishes worse than 7th.
Park, even with a win, cannot restake her claim to No. 1. Ko has already won twice in Canada at the 2012 and 2013 Canadian Women’s Open, and she’ll need another victory to have any shot at No. 1. Ko would be the youngest player ever to ascend to No. 1 in the world at 17 years, 1 month and 15 days.
THE FIRST RETURN
Although she has two LPGA Tour career wins to her name, Hee Young Park makes her first return as a defending champion on the same course she won on. Park’s first career victory came at the 2011 CME Group Titleholders when it was held at Grand Cypress Resort in Orlando and the event moved its home down south to Naples the following year.
“This is my second time visit Waterloo and then I won the Tour Championship which is CME Titleholders,” said Park. “But they change the golf course like my second time so it felt a lot different. But this time back to back, same golf course, I know what to do and I’m great feeling coming back, so very excited.”
Park clinched win No. 2 last year in Waterloo in dramatic fashion, outlasting American Angela Stanford in a three-hole sudden-death playoff. She said she ran into Stanford’s caddie at the course on Tuesday and said he couldn’t believe she ended up making a birdie on the par 3 17th to move into a share of the lead with Stanford at 25-under par. Park said the timely birdie will be one of the best memories she will ride on this week.
“This morning I met the Angela Stanford caddie last year,” said Park. “He said I cannot believe you made it close on 17 to the five footer and made a birdie, but I think that’s really good my memory also. No. 17, the par three, so I’m going to feel really good about that one.”
STOELTING’S BIG BREAK
Jackie Stoelting went home to Vero Beach, Fla., last week to get some practice in before her first LPGA appearance this week. It was her first time returning home since winning the Big Break and ittle did she know that she was now a hometown celebrity.
I think we went to three different places and every single place someone stopped me and I had no clue who they were. I do come from a small town, so I guess a lot of people watch it,” Stoelting said. “It’s just been a little crazy with people coming up to me and I haven’t quite registered all of it, but it’s been really positive."
The Big Break afforded her a sponsor exemption into this event, which will be her first LPGA event. She’s got conditional status on the LPGA Tour after a tied for 38th finish at Qualifying School, but chooses to stay out on the Symetra Tour to earn full status for the 2015 season. She currently ranks 7th on the Symetra Tour money list, which if the season ended now would guarantee her full status on the LPGA for 2015.
“I think I would have gotten into two events so far and I would have been alternate a couple times, first alternate on site. Both those times if I would have gotten in, but I would have gotten in last minute and I would have had to risk not playing a Symetra Tour event,” she said. “Because I’ve been playing so well, obviously the Top 10 at the end of the year get full status out here and actually that status is better than Q School status. So I just thought I won’t get in enough events out here that could change how I play, or I guess my status for next year. So also I thought that it would be kind of neat as this is my debut for this year.”
This won’t be her first exposure to the highest level in women’s golf, though, as she also competed in the 2013 US Women’s Open, making the cut and finishing in a tie for 68th.
“Well, it’s a huge confidence boost. Since I’ve been playing on the Symetra Tour I currently am in the Top 10 out there. I’m working my way to be full time out here,” she said. “I have confidence with that in my game. I’m not going to worry about anybody but myself out there, but just play the golf course.”
PLAYING AT HOME
Eight Canadian players will tee it up when the first round begins on Thursday. The highest ranked Canadian player in the field is Rebecca Lee-Bentham, who is ranked No. 224 in the Rolex Rankings.
However, by far the most promising Canadian in the field is 16-year-old Brooke Henderson, who checks in at No. 3 in the World Amateur Rankings and already has made two cuts in LPGA majors - The 2014 Kraft Nabisco Championship and the 2013 US Women’s Open. She finished tied for 26th at the Kraft Nabisco and T59 at the US Women’s Open. This week’s event will already be her sixth LPGA Tour event.
The Canadians dominated the qualifier on Monday taking both the spots in the field. Canadians Erica Rivard, a Symetra tour member, and Nicole Vandermade both fired a 1-over-par 72 and emerged in a three-way playoff for two spots in their home country.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“Yes, I root for the Blackhawks. They played so good and I also excited to watch. But they lost three days ago, a little bit disappointed, but still I’m watching the hockey games.”
-Hee Young Park on whether she’ll be watching the Stanley Cup playoffs. The South Korean surprised media members last year in Canada when she admitted she is a huge hockey fan.
|Wednesday, June 4|
|9:30 a.m.||Brooke Henderson Press Conference||Media Center|
|10:30 a.m.||Stacy Lewis Press Conference||Media Center|
|1:00 p.m.||Inbee Park Press Conference||Media Center|
MEGHAN FLANAGAN: Well, it's my pleasure to welcome in the defending champion here at the Manulife Financial LPGA Classic, Hee Young Park. Hee Young, how does it feel to be back on site? This was the site of your second LPGA win. Talk about what it felt like to come back here.
HEE YOUNG PARK: This is my second time visit Waterloo and then I won the Tour (indiscernible) which is CME Titleholders. But they change the golf course like my second time so it felt a lot different. But this time back to back, same golf course, I know what to do and I'm great feeling coming back, so very excited.
MEGHAN FLANAGAN: I was going to say, the first time you got your win you went back as defending champ, totally different golf course, you felt this isn't my turf. How comfortable do you feel playing on this golf course this week?
HEE YOUNG PARK: Actually this golf course is in perfect shape everything and I know how I was feeling and green conditions pretty much perfect, so easy to get used to it. Today and yesterday was rain here so it got more softer, which is I can hit more play aggressive, which is good.
MEGHAN FLANAGAN: Talk about your season so far this year. You've been very consistent, you've been in a lot of top 20 finishes. How do you feel about your game and what are you working on to hopefully break into maybe a Top 10 or hopefully another win?
HEE YOUNG PARK: I played a few good rounds and a few bad rounds, but lot of good things already came and I feel close to play better and just to play all four rounds get together. And then also few months ago I had a little bit my wrist injured so I couldn't do much practice like before, so this is first time that I injured my wrist but now it feels a lot better and I'm back to pretty much normal, I can play.
MEGHAN FLANAGAN: Was that the first time you've ever been really injured in your career?
HEE YOUNG PARK: Yeah, I never done before this much long time and then not bother me so I couldn't practice at all.
MEGHAN FLANAGAN: How was dealing with that? Was that hard?
HEE YOUNG PARK: More afraid about like next events but I don't want to skip it because I kind of ‑‑ my swing felt pretty good and I felt really up there, so I wanted just to rest.
MEGHAN FLANAGAN: Kind of play through it a little bit?
HEE YOUNG PARK: Um‑hmm. And then (inaudible) like last few weeks I played pretty good, so I think it's ready.
MEGHAN FLANAGAN: Questions for Hee Young?
Q. Last year when you played it was pretty much very calm conditions the whole week and obviously that reflected in a very low winning score. The last couple days I've been here it's really windy out, so I was wondering how much different will this golf course be and how much harder will it be if it remains windy?
HEE YOUNG PARK: I remember last year the green condition was very firm and the fairways really firm, so that distance ‑‑ than normal golf distance, which is driver distance, but this year more lot softer, so will be more longer second shot. And greens a bit more softer, so I need more like working on middle long putt distance putting practice.
Q. But have you noticed it's a lot windier?
HEE YOUNG PARK: Yeah, I heard some local people say usually really windy and weather changes in this area, so I expect and I like to play under the wind, like rain condition, I played pretty good British. I played so windy, rain (inaudible.)
MEGHAN FLANAGAN: So you like the tough conditions?
HEE YOUNG PARK: Um‑hmm.
MEGHAN FLANAGAN: I have a question about last year. I think you caught us all by surprise when you said you're a huge hockey fan, you won over a lot of people here and they said oh, wow, they kind of were surprised. Stanley Cup playoffs are coming up. Are you rooting for anybody, going to watch at all?
HEE YOUNG PARK: Yes, I root for the Blackhawks. They played so good and I also excited to watch. But they lost three days ago, a little bit disappointed, but still I'm watching like hockey game.
MEGHAN FLANAGAN: What are you looking forward to the most this week? Are you going to put any extra pressure on yourself knowing how well you played here or are you looking just to play your game?
HEE YOUNG PARK: I've got little good memories out there compared to other players but this is just new week and I'm going to play one shot and try do my best and this is just a new tournament so I'm not going to put pressure or anything special.
MEGHAN FLANAGAN: What was your favorite memory from last year? Is there any one specific moment that you are thinking back to?
HEE YOUNG PARK: This morning I met the Angela Stanford caddie last year. He say I cannot believe you made it close to the five‑footer and made a birdie, but I think that's really good my memory also. No. 7, the par three, so I'm going to be (indiscernible.)
MEGHAN FLANAGAN: That was probably not his favorite memory but that's okay, we'll let him have that. All right. Anything this week game wise, anything you're going to try to really concentrate on?
HEE YOUNG PARK: I played with Lexi last week, but last week golf course green condition and this week completely different, which is I need to work on more putting speed, that's all I need working on, so I'm going to focus on distance putting.
MEGHAN FLANAGAN: Okay. What about if you were to play well here, what would that mean for your season so far? Like you say you, you've been trying to break into a really good finish. What would that mean for your momentum going into the rest of the season?
HEE YOUNG PARK: I play good until third round and then (inaudible) final round and finished around 25th. But this week good for momentum in between (indiscernible) because good memories have lot of confidence here and I was too much worry about (indiscernible,) so should be this week will be like really good turning point like my 2014 season.
MEGHAN FLANAGAN: Now, you took yesterday off. You traveled up here from ShopRite and you said you got a little bit of touristy action in Toronto with your friend there. Tell us about your day off and what you guys did.
HEE YOUNG PARK: I got here yesterday morning and I've got my best friend in Toronto. She was rooting for me last year whole week. She's working obviously but she take off whole week and also this year she has week off and then (indiscernible)for me. So yesterday, my friend and I did tour in Toronto and hang out and have some good Korean food, Korean barbecue yesterday. So I got a lot of (indiscernible) going on.
MEGHAN FLANAGAN: So you like being in Canada. Any other questions? Thank you for coming in. Good luck this week.
HEE YOUNG PARK: Thank you.
MODERATOR: You just won the Big Break a little over 2 weeks ago, what’s the last couple of weeks been like for you?
JACKIE STOELTING: Well, I have full status on the Symetra Tour but conditional status on the LPGA, but I started my year out pretty well so I've been staying out there. Been playing well. But honestly, it's been a little crazy with the show and golf has kind of been my escape. On the golf course I can just play golf, I don't have to worry about anything else, so it kind of actually helps my game.
MODERATOR: And you made the cut last year at the U.S. Open. This is your first LPGA event. What does that do for you?
JACKIE STOELTING: Well, it's a huge confidence boost. Since I've been playing on the Symetra Tour I currently am in the Top 10 out there. I'm working my way to be full time out here. I have confidence with that in my game. I'm not going to worry about anybody but myself out there, but just play the golf course.
MODERATOR: Just how tough is it to make it out here? You've been playing the mini tours for a couple years. What does the Big Break do for you and how tough is it to make it out here?
JACKIE STOELTING: Yeah, the Big Break, it's opened up a lot of doors for me. It's been a great exposure for my career. Obviously how I played on the show really helped my golf game and helping my nerves. Nothing ‑‑ I mean, a lot of the girls on the Symetra Tour have been on the Big Break and they say oh, it's the most nerve wracking thing, there's no way. I played in the Open, and on the show it is much more nerve wracking than playing in the Open. Even if I'm paired with the No. 1 person in the world this week, then I'll be okay. I mean, I'm just going to play golf.
MODERATOR: I'd like to open it up for questions.
Q. What's the objective this week?
JACKIE STOELTING: I mean, obviously I wouldn't be here if I don't want to win, so I'm just going to play golf, hit golf shots, hit fairways, hit greens, make putts. I mean, obviously I would say I don't have any expectations, but I'm here to play golf just like everyone else.
Q. Nothing to it?
JACKIE STOELTING: Yeah. The ball doesn't know my name.
Q. Talk a little bit about your thought process and the decision making process of not playing really on the LPGA when you could get in and sticking to the Symetra. I know that was probably a difficult decision. How did you go about that?
JACKIE STOELTING: Yeah. I think I would have gone into two events so far and I would have been alternate a couple times, first alternate on site. Both those times if I would have gotten in, I would have gotten in last minute and I would have had to risk not playing a Symetra Tour event. Because I've been playing so well, obviously the Top 10 at the end of the year get full status out here and actually that status is better than Q School status. So I just thought I won't get in enough events out here that could change how I play, or I guess my status for next year. So also I thought that it would be kind of neat as this is my debut for this year.
MODERATOR: 2013 was a big year for you. You made the U.S. Open cut and started the Big Break. What kind of changed in your game that year?
JACKIE STOELTING: Got married, too. I guess I was just really happy. I don't know. I think with a lot of girls, some years it clicks, and for me it's been quite a long journey to make it this far. I've never been a standout, I never won a college tournament. Just worked really hard on my game and made my way up. I don't know what happened last year that kind of boosted me, but I don't know, I can't explain it. I guess just being in a good place with my life and just being happy.
MODERATOR: Talk about your thoughts going into this event this week.
JACKIE STOELTING: Like I said, you know, I'm just going to play golf like I normally would. Obviously a little nervous but I'm a little nervous in Symetra Tour events. If you're not nervous, it's probably not a good thing. I know there's going to be some fans out there that I'm sure will come out and it will be great support. My mom will be here, my aunt is coming, so that will be nice. Just play golf like I normally would.
MODERATOR: How often have you been recognized since the show?
JACKIE STOELTING: Actually it was funny because my husband and I, we were home last week and I think we went to three different places and every single place someone stopped me and I had no clue who they were. I do come from a small town, so I guess a lot of people watch it. It's just been a little crazy with people coming up to me and I haven't quite registered all of it, but it's been really positive.
Q. Travis is here with you this week. This is a big deal, he's going to be on the bag. Talk about your guys' relationship on the course versus off the course.
JACKIE STOELTING: Okay. My husband's here. We've been together for a little over five years. We got married last May and we have a really good relationship as a caddie‑player. He is my swing instructor as well, he's an assistant pro, so he knows my game the best out of anybody. And he knows on the course that I'm the boss.
MODERATOR: Thanks, Jackie, for coming in.
JACKIE STOELTING: Thank you.