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Tour heads back to Asia this week for Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship
October 23, 2012

The LPGA Tour heads to Taiwan this week for the third event of the Tour’s fall Asian swing, the Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship. The Sunrise Golf & Country Club will host a field of 78 players, 74 professionals and 4 amateurs in the second year of the no-cut event. Players will be competing for a $2 million purse and a $300,000 first-place prize.

Rolex Rankings No. 1 Yani Tseng returns home to Taiwan in hopes of defending her title. Last year, Tseng captured a five-stroke, runaway victory at the inaugural Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship in her home country. It was the seventh and final LPGA victory for Tseng during her dominant 2011 season in which she captured Rolex Player of the Year honor and the Vare Trophy for lowest scoring average.

The LPGA was welcomed back to Taiwan on a grand stage for the second year of the Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship. On Tuesday afternoon, Rolex Rankings No. 1 Yani Tseng, Paula Creamer, Michelle Wie and Sandra Gal gathered at the National Palace Museum, one of Taipei’s most iconic landmarks, to celebrate the return of this event.

Speaking before a large media contingent of nearly 100 reporters, the players all spoke of how excited they were to be in Taiwan and to hopefully see a repeat of the large crowds that packed the Sunrise Golf & Country last year during the inaugural event. Michelle Wie, who is making her first ever trip to Taiwan, took the opportunity to greet the throng of media in attendance with a few words in Mandarin Chinese which elicited a huge round of applause.

“I’m really looking forward to all of the Taiwanese fans. I hear a lot of people come to the event,” Wie said. “I’m looking forward to seeing all of the fans at the course. More importantly I’m excited for all of the yummy foods here. So I’m excited for this week.”

As they gathered at one of the world’s largest art museums, the players were taught the art of traditional Chinese calligraphy. The four LPGA players along with LPGA Commissioner Michael Whan, Sunrise Chairman Tien-Ya Hsu, Audi Taiwan President Daniel Khoo and IMG Golf co-managing global director Robbie Henchman helped to spell out the Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship.

Yani Tseng has said that one of the keys to her victory in Taiwan last year was the local knowledge she gained from having grown up playing this golf course. But of course, she also credited her ability of knowing how to manage the breezy conditions that are frequently found at the Sunrise Golf & Country Club and the wind will likely be a factor once again at this year’s event.

As players headed out on the course Tuesday for their practice rounds, the winds picked up and provided a glimpse at the test that they could face during the four days of the 72-hole event.

“I think it’s all about the wind here this week, having a good trajectory in the wind and being consistent,” said Sandra Gal, who is playing in the event for the second time. “I think putting is a big deal as well because the winds are very strong and it’s kind of hilly. So just kind of adjusting to that and I think you’ll be good.”

Yani Tseng ‘s personal motto has always been to “keep smile” when she’s on the golf course. Now the No. 1 player in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings is trying to give fans in her native Taiwan a glimpse into her life behind that smile and her rise into taking over the top spot in women’s golf.

On Monday in Taipei, Tseng helped kick off the start of the Yani’s Smile and Courage Exhibition. The event, which is taking place in a local mall, features some of her personal writings including a diary she kept during the 2010 RICOH Women’s British Open; yardage books with her own handwritten notes; photos and other personal artifacts in an “18-hole” style format. The exhibition runs Oct. 22-Nov. 4 in Taipei.

“I think it’s very cool,” Tseng said of the exhibition. “I think my team and all my staff are doing a great job putting this all together. It kind of reminded me, wow this is how much I’ve been through these past few years with my golf professional life. I was really happy to see it. I hope that we can use this exhibition to inspire more people to dream big because you never know if one day it will happen, just like me.

“I want to let people know more about golf because you always see it from the outside and not inside into what we are thinking. What we are trying to do with a yardage book. It’s kind of special because I never show any people that, my yardage book. I think it’s a great opportunity for people to see it. I really want to thank my team because they did a good job on that exhibition because they’ve been working on it 3-4 months, I think it came out perfect.”

The press conference also helped mark the launch of Tseng’s international fan club. And as part of the festivities, Tseng was joined at the kick-off of her exhibition by Taiwanese taekwondo athlete Tseng Li-cheng, who won a bronze medal at the London Olympics.

Monday’s event was meant to be a celebration of Tseng’s return to Taiwan but the day also became emotional for the 23-year-old. Her eyes filled with tears as she recounted the ups and downs she has faced since becoming the women’s world No. 1 golfer.

“I just want to let people know this is not easy but I’m still working really hard and doing my best to keep world No. 1 and to really enjoy the life,” Tseng said. “It’s very hard for me the past 3-4 months and now it’s getting better. I wish the fans keep supporting me no matter how I play.”

Tseng won 12 championships in 2011, including seven LPGA Tour titles. She got off to a hot start again this season, winning three of the LPGA’s first five events in 2012 but her season started to take a downturn back in June. She went a stretch of 11 consecutive tournaments without a top-10 finish, which included three missed cuts, until she finally broke through with a third-place finish at last week’s LPGA KEB·HanaBank Championship.

“Hopefully pretty close. It’s been kind of an up-and-down year but the last few months have been a lot more solid for me. I’m just enjoying myself out on the golf course and working very hard. It’s only a matter of time and just hopefully I can put together four good days of golf here.” – Rolex Rankings No. 10 Paula Creamer when asked how close she is to capturing her 10th career LPGA victory.

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