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First title defense for Ko in Canada this week
August 21, 2013

The LPGA Tour heads north of the border for the second time this season for the CN Canadian Women’s Open where 16-year old amateur Lydia Ko will defend her first LPGA victory. Ko rewrote the Tour’s record books last year when she became the youngest winner in LPGA history at 15 years and four months old after a 13-under par performance in Vancouver. The New Zealand native will tee it up with 155 of the world’s best female golfers again, this time at Royal Mayfair Golf Club in Edmonton.

What pressure? The golf world was introduced to 17-year old Charley Hull last week at the Solheim Cup when she became the youngest competitor in the biennial event and had a show-stopping performance on Sunday when she trumped American stalwart Paula Creamer 5&4 in her singles match.

But it wasn’t only her stellar play that earned the respect of her teammates and fans. The laid-back Englishwoman received high marks from 11-year LPGA Tour veteran and European Solheim Cup teammate Suzann Pettersen.

“I'm really impressed with her as a person, as a player, the way she handles herself -- the way she handles herself on the golf course, off the golf course,” said Pettersen. “She's just one of a kind. I mean, she's very genuine, you know? It's fun to watch her; it's fun to listen to her. She brought a lot of good laughs to the team room just being herself, but also just being fearless and feisty and wanting to go out and win a point for the team.”

When the duo was asked whether the pressure that the Solheim Cup was different than stroke-play events on Tour, Pettersen deferred to Hull who notably said she didn’t feel any nerves on the first tee in Parker last week.

“Is the pressure different?” Pettersen recited. “I think maybe Charley should answer that, because I think she has a great answer.”

Hull responded with a smirk and two simple words that put her naïve and youthful demeanor on full display. “What pressure?”

Pettersen followed up by asking Hull if she ever felt nervous throughout any of the rounds. Hull’s response showed that the teenager already has a unique perspective on course management, even during one of women’s golf’s biggest events.

“When I really got nervous was on 17. I felt like on the first tee, it's match play, so if you hit a bad drive, you've got like one hole. But that on 17 was the turning point of the match, see, so I was a bit nervous about that.”

New face in the crowd: Charley Hull wasn’t known to many golf fans outside of Europe prior to last week’s Solheim Cup but the 17-year-old England native delivered her breakout moment on a big stage. Helping Team Europe to its first Solheim Cup win on U.S. soil, Hull endeared herself to many in the golf world as she became the youngest person ever to compete in the Solheim Cup.

“It was amazing, because you're always dreaming of being able to play, and getting to Solheim, especially with it being my first year on tour, it was just a dream come true,” said Hull. “I absolutely loved every moment of it.”

The Ladies European Tour rookie is in the field this week at the CN Canadian Women’s Open as a sponsor invite. It’s not the first time she’s competed in an LPGA Tour event in North America, as she competed in last year’s Kraft Nabisco Championship as an amateur where she finished T38. And American golf fans could be seeing much more of Hull next season.

Hull, who turns 18 on March 20 next year, petitioned LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan to be eligible for membership pursuant to the successful completion of the LPGA Qualifying Tournament and the Commissioner accepted her official request. Based on the entry criteria for the LPGA Qualifying Tournament, Hull will compete at Stage II to be held Tuesday, October 8 - Friday, October 11, 2013 at Plantation Golf and Country Club in Venice, Fla. Hull, who has posted four runner-up finishes on the LET this year, is looking forward to the opportunity to earn a spot on the LPGA Tour for the 2014 season.

“The LPGA Tour is where everyone wants to be,” Hull said. “The crowds are bigger, and everything is bigger and better. It's where the best players in the world are. So it's always been a dream of mine to be on the LPGA and get on it as soon as I can. So it's great that they're letting me come to the second stage. Just really looking forward to it. Playing all these different golf courses over here, it's rather nice.”

Oh Canada! Rolex Rankings No. 2 Stacy Lewis has had plenty of success over the past two years in her ascent to the top of the Women’s World Golf Rankings. So it’s no surprise that The Woodlands, Texas native has delivered her share of top finishes in Canadian events over that time span.

“I don't know what it is,” said Lewis. “I've played well just in Canada in general in the last few years…I love hard golf courses. I love that there is a challenge there to it. So I don't know. I think I've had a couple of seconds, so hopefully I'll just keep knocking on that door.”

Lewis finished tied for second in 2011 at CN Canadian Women’s Open that was played outside Montreal and she finished T6 last year when the event was held Vancouver. Lewis enters this week’s event coming off a great performance at the LPGA Tour’s last stop, the RICOH Women’s British Open, where she won her second career major title. It was Lewis’ third victory of the 2013 season and her seventh in the last two years. But despite Lewis’ tremendous success recently, she still has been chasing Inbee Park for the top spot in the world rankings.

“Winning the major was huge for me, because Inbee winning three it felt like, gosh, I must be playing horrible or something,” Lewis said. “I think you just have to go out there day by day and just kind of take care of yourself and know that golf you get peaks and valleys, and you can only be on those peaks for so long.

“You have to keep taking care of yourself, do the best you can, and know that the best player usually wins every week. You're going to have bad weeks. Inbee's going to have bad weeks. I'm going to have bad weeks, and just to try to take advantage of that when she's not playing well.”

Quotables: “Before I played, my friend was like, ‘oh, can you get Paula Creamer's autograph, please?’ I was like I don't really like asking people for their autographs. So I thought at the end I was like I've got a good chance of getting it now, so I'll just get it.” Seventeen-year old Charley Hull on asking Paula Creamer for her autograph after she beat her 5&4 in singles at the Solheim Cup

“Well, it seems like longer than a year it's been. But the back nine that she played that day was unbelievable. Whether you're 15 or whether you're 30, it was unbelievable. So it just shows the talent that's there. She still needs time to mature and to play week-in and week-out, but it shows she can have those great weeks and she can win out here.” Stacy Lewis on playing with Lydia Ko in the final group last year when Ko became the youngest winner in LPGA Tour history

Ready to roll: Rolex Rankings No. 11 Paula Creamer will try to drain out the sting of losing last week in Parker, Colo. at the Solheim Cup with positive memories of an outstanding performance the last time the LPGA played at Royal Mayfair Golf Club in Edmonton in 2007. Creamer finished runner-up to Lorena Ochoa at the CN Canadian Women’s Open after rounds of 68-69-66-68 and finished at 13-under par. When asked if it was nostalgic stepping back onto a course she played so well at, Creamer said she remembers why she had such a good week.

“It was,” said Creamer. “This is such a great golf course. I remember why I think I played so well. It's my type of golf course, tree-lined, thick grass, tricky greens, got to put it in the right spots.”

Coming off a week playing at the Colorado Golf Club where the Solheim Cup players fought exceptionally quick greens all week, Creamer said Royal Mayfair’s are rolling at a similar speed.

“Coming off the greens last week, they were so fast,” said Creamer. “I wasn't really quite sure what to expect coming into the next tournament with greens, and these are just as fast as they were last week. So I kind of have that going for me, which is just visualizing pace, and breaking putts going in.”

Creamer has had four finishes in the top-11 in her last five starts including a runner-up finish at the Marathon Classic in Toledo, Ohio. She said the extra work trying to get her putter rolling has paid off.

“I didn't quite hit the ball as well as I wanted on Sunday at the Solheim, but I've been putting better and I've been making some more putts here and there,” said Creamer. “That is the biggest difference. I'm just really trusting what my coach David Whelan and I have been working on. Colin is very aware of all my swing changes and things like that and just really when we go to the range, we work on what we need to do and keep that going, keep my drills going, and really just doing it out when you have to in a tournament.”

Of Note…There are 20 Canadians in the field this week including University of Central Arkansas alum Nicole Forshner who earned a spot on Monday after shooting 71 at the qualifier.


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