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Ko takes narrow lead into final day in Phoenix
March 22, 2014

Lydia Ko, Rolex Rankings No. 4, -16
Jessica Korda, Rolex Rankings No. 27, -15
Michelle Wie, Rolex Rankings No. 46, -13
Stacy Lewis, Rolex Rankings No. 3, -12
Paula Creamer, Rolex Rankings No. 8, -12
Cristie Kerr, Rolex Rankings No. 14, -11

Founders Interview

Two-time LPGA Tour winner Lydia Ko will have an opportunity to capture her first LPGA victory as a member of the Tour on Sunday at the JTBC Founders Cup, but the rookie will need to beat out plenty of big names in order to do so.

Ko enters Sunday’s final round holding the outright lead at 16-under-par after shooting a 5-under 67 in the third round. But while Ko holds the lead through 54 holes, there are a number of other LPGA Tour winners within striking distance entering the final round.

“Obviously there’s going to be some nerves,” Ko said of taking the lead into the final round. “Of course, it’s always there any time. But it’s great that you’ve got a one-shot lead.

“I’ve just got to take the positive out of it and I’m just going to play my own game, if somebody goes crazy low like shooting 10-under, 9-under or whatever, it’s not something I can control. So I’m going to control to the most what I can do.”

Ten of the players in the top 12 players on the leaderboard have at least one LPGA victory on their resume. Among those players is 2014 Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic winner Jessica Korda who sits one shot back of Ko in a tie for second with rookie Mirim Lee.

Ko was paired with Lee in Saturday’s third round and outdueled her fellow rookie who is playing in just her third LPGA Tour event. Ko had struggled on the front nine throughout the week but managed to make the turn at 3-under on Saturday. Despite a bogey on the 12th, Ko made three more birdies on the back side en route to shooting 67.

There was plenty of low numbers to be found on “Moving Day” at the JTBC Founders Cup on Saturday. The scoring average for the day was 69.421, nearly a stroke lower than Friday’s average (71.392). Cristie Kerr, who finished right on the cut line at 2-under-par on Friday, took advantage of the early scoring conditions. Kerr tied the tournament course record with a 9-under 63 to jump from T67 into a tie for 12th at 11-under-par.

“I knew if I could get a low round -- they are probably going to shoot five or six today but they might not and I’ll have a chance,” said Kerr, who sits five shots back entering Sunday’s final round. “But I’ll be out early enough tomorrow, that, hey, if you do this again -- I’ll try not to have expectations. I literally just tried to play the shot in front of me today.”

Another American used a low round to get back into contention on Saturday. Recent HSBC Women’s Champions winner Paula Creamer fired a 64 to move into a tie for 10th at 12-under-par. Creamer is just four shots off the lead heading into Sunday’s final round.

Defending champion Stacy Lewis sits in a tie with Creamer at 12-under-par along with fellow American Morgan Pressel. Michelle Wie is among a group of five players at 13-under-par that includes Arizona State alum Azahara Munoz.

The social Scene
Two Founders and many Hall of Famers came together today to talk about the state of the game and their impact on the sport. The press conference created a classic photo opportunity that was then sent out across many social networks. Marilynn Smith, Shirley Spork, Betsy King, Nancy Lopez, Renee Powell, Kathy Whitworth, Pat Bradley and Patty Sheehan are pictured to the right. Check out the video on

On the bubble
There are a few International Crown teams that could potentially change prior to the field being set on Monday, March 31 at the Kraft Nabisco Championship.

South Korea will likely be one of the toughest teams for a player to make. Amy Yang is trying to move her way into the final spot currently occupied by I.K. Kim. Yang enters the final round of the JTBC Founders Cup tied for fifth.

For the U.S. Team, four players are battling it out for the final position on the team. Cristie Kerr’s sits in the final position and her strong showing thus far shows signs she will not relinquish that position. A win could propel Jessica Korda (-13) into contention for the final spot on the U.S. team, however, Korda is not in the field for next week’s Kia Classic.

Tournament Course record
In the third round today, Cristie Kerr shot a 63 (-9) which ties the tournament course record set by Ai Miyazato in the first round at last year’s event.

“Everything was clicking.” Kerr said. “I was super focused today I kept the momentum going and I was really reading the greens well.”

Kerr, who hasn’t won a tournament since the 2013 Kingsmill Championship, changed irons and noticed a big difference in her play.

“I put some new equipment in the bag.” Kerr said. “Some new Ping i25 irons and I am so much more consistent with them even the misses give me a chance to make birdie. I just knew it was a matter of time I would get a low round.”

Comfort out front
Tomorrow will mark the third time Lydia Ko will lead or co-lead after 54 holes at an LPGA event and the 16-year old said the more she’s in contention, the more she feels comfortable in the position. The past two times she held the third-round lead, Ko won (2012 CN Canadian Women’s Open) and finished third (2013 ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open). Already a two-time LPGA winner, Ko said it would be extra special to pick up her first win as an LPGA member in Phoenix this week.

“It would be pretty special, and especially at the Founders Cup,” said Ko. “The founders -- without the Founders, there would be no LPGA, and this has been my dream tour. So it would be very special to have my first win here, and like I said, I’m just going to have to play my own game, and wait for it tomorrow.”

Ko has embraced the role of being an LPGA Tour rookie and said meeting the founders and pioneers this week has been a great experience. She even made a point to take selfies with both founders who are onsite this week.

“Selfie with Marilynn and Shirley, it’s always a good sign,” said Ko.

Show your colors
Saturday was College Day at the JTBC Founders Cup and a group of players had a little bit extra to be proud about their alma maters this week. Six players who made the cut in Phoenix are alumni of schools who were still alive in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship on Saturday.

Michelle Wie T5 (-13): Stanford University

Erica Popson T34, (-7): University of Tennessee

Sandra Gal T42, (-6): University of Florida

Tiffany Joh T42, (-6) & Mo Martin T34, (-7): UCLA

Alison Walshe T70, (-2): University of Arizona

Quote of the Day
“To be a member then, you just filled out an application and sent in 25 bucks and you were in. They needed warm bodies and I was one of them.”
- World Golf Hall of Fame Member Kathy Whitworth describing how she started with the LPGA. Whitworth has 88 career LPGA wins, which is the most tour victories for men or women.

Scenarios for No. 1
Suzann Pettersen has an opportunity to become No. 1 in the world this week at JTBC Founders Cup but she must win the event to do so.

If Pettersen wins the JTBC Founders Cup and Inbee Park finishes third or worse (without any ties), Pettersen would take over the No. 1 spot in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings. Pettersen could also take over the top spot if she wins and Park finishes tied for second with at least three other players.

Park enters the final round of play tied for 13th, while Pettersen sits in a tie for 42nd.

Eagles for a cause
“Wounded Warrior Project® Weekends” is a season-long charity program that will be tied into the Race to the CME Globe. Each Saturday and Sunday at LPGA tournaments, CME Group will donate $1,000 to Wounded Warrior Project® for each eagle that is recorded. This amount will increase to $5,000 for each eagle during the weekend of the CME Group Tour Championship and a formal check will be presented to the Wounded Warrior Project® during the trophy ceremony at the CME Group Tour Championship.

Today, 11 different players recorded eagles and both their name and the holes are listed below. Through the first four tournaments a total of $52,000 has been raised with $11,000 more raised today.

Player Hole
Katie Futcher 15
Moriya Jutanugarn 5
Cristie Kerr 15
Caroline Masson 15
Jeong Jang 15
Hannah Jun Medlock 15
Candie Kung 5
Laura Davies 15
Line Vedel 15
Lydia Ko 5
Chella Choi 18



Stacy Lewis, Rolex Rankings No. 3, -12

Q. You shot 67 in the third round, coming to the final hole with three straight birdies, bogey on the 18th, you have to be pretty pleased with how you're going into the final round tomorrow?
STACY LEWIS: Actually, probably the opposite. Pretty disappointing. I left a ton of shots out there today. Just the greens were a bit softer and I just didn't quite adjust to it. Speed was a little bit different, and just didn't make the adjustments.

Q. Going into tomorrow, a lot of low scores today, what do you think is going to needed to be done tomorrow to come out on top?
STACY LEWIS: It's going to have to be super-low at this point. I needed something today. Just watching the leaderboard, watching the scores early, I knew I needed a low one just to get close to the lead.

But you know, anything can happen. I'm going to go try to make as many birdies as I can but I would have liked to have got a little bit closer today.

Q. You're right in the mix. Has it crossed your mind about how special it would be for you to defend here and defend your title?
STACY LEWIS: It would be awesome to win here again. I've said over and over again, this is my favorite tournament and I love the concept of the entire event. Just to win here, having the founders here, to win in front of them, it means a lot.

Lydia Ko, Rolex Rankings No. 4, -16

THE MODERATOR: We are joined by Lydia Ko here in the interview room here at the JCB Founders Cup. Lydia turned in a 67 today in the third round, very solid in a day that saw a lot of low numbers. Tell us about your solid round today.
LYDIA KO: Before I went out, I looked at the scores and I noticed that there were way more birdies on the front nine than the other days. The pin positions were out and I treat them -- it's not like it's gotten a whole lot easier, maybe everyone is getting used to the course or something. But yeah, I personally played much better on the front nine so I was really happy with that.

THE MODERATOR: Going into tomorrow with a one-shot lead, is that something you're starting to feel much more comfortable with, do you feel nervous when you're going into final rounds anymore, or is that something that you say, I've got this now.
LYDIA KO: Obviously there's going to be some nerves. Of course, it's always there any time. But it's great that you've got a one-shot lead.

I've just got to take the positive out of it and I'm just going to play my own game, if somebody goes crazy low like shooting 10-under, 9-under or whatever, it's not something I can control. So I'm going to control to the most what I can do.

THE MODERATOR: You might be paired with Jessica again tomorrow. How much does that play a role in being comfortable and having a good time? She was just in saying you have an awesome time on the course and she treats you like a little sister; does that come into play at all playing in a final round in a high-pressure situation?
LYDIA KO: It's great. When I saw her, she was next, and she's obviously a great player and it's always cool to play with her and I played with her the last two days. So it's going to be cool to play with her and I guess against her. It was also really good to kind of play with Mirim today. It's the first time I met her so I kind of got to know her. So I know more of her right now than I did on the first tee.

THE MODERATOR: Tell us one thing about Mirim that we might not have known before today.
LYDIA KO: We like this Korean actor and she's like, he's my guy. So I was like, oh, okay. So we like the same guy (laughing).

THE MODERATOR: You take Adam Scott and she takes the Korean actor, does that work?
LYDIA KO: Yeah, if Adam Scott says okay.

THE MODERATOR: What's his name?
LYDIA KO: Suji-so (ph).

THE MODERATOR: You guys spoke in Korean on the course?
LYDIA KO: Yeah, I said English is more comfortable for me, but we're both, our backgrounds are Korean so probably better to speak Korean.

Q. There are 11 golfers within four shots of the lead, and as you saw today, the course gave up a lot of low scores. What do you think it's going to take score-wise tomorrow, given how accessible the course seems to be?
LYDIA KO: I'm not sure. I didn't play the years before, so I can't really compare the scores. It was crazy low scores last year I noticed, and Stacy, she was three shots behind and she won three shots.

So you really don't know. There are obviously going to be some really low scores, like Paula shooting 8-under, and I think Cristie did, also. So I think there are going to be some low scores up there, and that's why you just got to concentrate the whole way, and you never know until the last hole, last putt.

THE MODERATOR: Take us through the details on your eagle on the front nine.
LYDIA KO: I hit my driver really nice and I hit a 5-wood and I thought it was going a little left of where I wanted to go. But it obviously ended up really well, nearly made an albatross, and that would be the first.

But I really wanted to make that putt, not because it's great for my scoreboard, but obviously for the Wounded Warriors project. I said, oh my God, I'm going to do this for them, and luckily I did.

THE MODERATOR: Get to sign another flag.

Q. You've obviously won before, but how special would it be to win your first tournament as an LPGA pro?
LYDIA KO: It would be pretty special, and especially at the Founders Cup. The founders -- without the Founders, there would be no LPGA, and this has been my dream tour.

So it would be very special to have my first win here, and like I said, I'm just going to have to play my own game, and wait for it tomorrow.

THE MODERATOR: You took a selfie with Marilynn Smith, and I'm sure she would be the first one to congratulate you.
LYDIA KO: Selfie with Marilynn and Shirley, it's always a good sign.

Paula Creamer, Rolex Rankings No. 8, -12

THE MODERATOR: Like to welcome Paula Creamer into the interview room. Congratulations, a great 8-under par round today. Moving day seemed to be really good to you. Kind of what was your outlook heading into the round and what seemed to be working well for you to be able to shoot so low today.
PAULA CREAMER: I have hit the ball great this week. I've given myself so many opportunities it's kind of ridiculous. I just didn't put my best the last two days, and then today, I still -- first five holes, I gave myself plenty of opportunities and then I started to kind of feel it get a rhythm with my putting and then I seem to make those 9-, 10-footers.

I gave myself so many opportunities, but they are in that range of, you know, from 8 to 12 feet and you just -- it's hard to make all of those, and then when you are constantly giving them, you tend to kind of try to change things, and I really just tried to stick to what Colin and I worked on last night after I finished playing. I 3-putted the hole yesterday on 18 from about six feet and that just did not settle well with me and I wanted to come out and play well today.

The MODERATOR: During that stretch, it seemed like every time I refreshed the scoreboard there was another birdie. When you get into that sort of streak, what is the mentality? Are you just feeding off that previous birdie.
PAULA CREAMER: Yeah, I played well enough to shoot 59 today easy, and it's one of those things that I didn't but it was out there and wasn't just making long putts or anything like that and I was just making 6- or 7-footers and giving myself chances. But I like this golf course, and I've always played pretty well here. If you get hot out here, you can keep it going. There's some good holes that you just have to par and you have to take advantage of the shorter holes on the par 5s to make birdies.

Q. (Inaudible.)
PAULA CREAMER: Maybe somewhere early in the front nine, I was getting really handsy with my putter and I needed to use my big muscles, I was popping hitting it instead of using my -- I always try to putt with it locked in one place like a triangle. I lost that the last two days.

So it was just a constant reminder to keep my hands forward and be more solid and roll the ball and keep the ball rolling, because it was pretty bad the last few days, it was hopping around and that was just something that we found that clicked and it worked.

Q. Were the pin placements easier today? Why the low scores?
PAULA CREAMER: Just putts and making birdies. The golf course has played different than what it has in the past. I don't think the greens have been quite the same. The last couple years they have been sharp and fast, and now you have to give them a bit more of a hit and desert golf, you don't normally do that. I think we've been kind of thrown off.

It took till Saturday to I think realize that unfortunately. You're just giving yourself opportunities, and when you're starting the day at minus four and the leader is at minus 13, you have nothing to lose.

Q. When you are six, seven, eight back, do you try to be aggressive --
PAULA CREAMER: Both, either way, you just stick to your game plan, but in this situation, you have to be more aggressive or else you're just going to be in the middle of the pack, and that's not what this -- this golf course has always been low numbers and you have to know that's the one you don't make those birdies and you have those opportunities, you feel like you're giving shots back to the field on this golf course in this case.

Q. What happened on 16?
PAULA CREAMER: Bogey on 16, for some reason I just keep hitting it right in that right bunker. It's a 7-wood off of a tee. It's one of the easiest holes on this golf course and I chunked it out into the other bunker and it was a very, very hard bunker shot to a back right pin. I just hit it down the ridge and 2-putted for bogey, so it was the tee shot into the right bunker and I did it yesterday, too.

Q. What do you expect to be leading at the end of the day?
PAULA CREAMER: I have no idea. I haven't even -- how many holes have they played? Maybe 18, 19. I'm going to have to play good tomorrow, too, to give it a shot but you never know what happens.

Cristie Kerr, Rolex Rankings No. 14, -9

CRISTIE KERR: I even had a 3-putt.

Q. Was that 14?
CRISTIE KERR: Yeah, I hit the first one, under-read it a hair and hit it a little hard, and hit a second putt hit a great putt and it was under read again. It was like, okay, don't do anything wrong and you walk off with a bogey, just the way it is. But when you make a lot of birdies, I guess it doesn't matter.

Q. And the eagle?
CRISTIE KERR: Yeah, I guess they made a donation for the Wounded Warrior project, $1,000, that's really cool.

Q. What worked today that had not worked the last two days?
CRISTIE KERR: Honestly I kind of changed up my putting routine a little bit. I was struggling so much with reading the greens and then with that comes kind of the speed is a little off.

So I kind of got over it and felt a little bit more what it was going to do and that kind of gave me a sense of what it was going to do and even the speed before I started reading it, and I read them so much better today. I don't even think -- maybe my caddie, I had one putt he read with me and just really made things click.

I switched to PING irons this week. I had been playing with PING wedges since the beginning of the year and everything is just so much more consistent. Even the misses on the irons are just so much better. I had a chip-in today on a very difficult chip on 12 down the left slope, I chipped in. I was close to chipping it in all week so ironic that it's on the most difficult one, that's me for you.

I felt great mentally, just stayed very steady today and it was good to keep the momentum going.

Q. What did you do on 15, your approach?
CRISTIE KERR: I hit driver in the right side of the fairway and hit 5-wood to about 18 feet maybe, 20 feet.

Q. And then 17, the last birdie, how close was that?
CRISTIE KERR: Maybe 15 feet just short, right on the ridge, maybe a little closer. If you want exact ones, you can get my caddie.

Q. Yesterday the birdie on 8, as you finish your round, you needed that to make the cut?
CRISTIE KERR: Yeah and I 3-putted on 6, I hit a great shot above the hole and just had a mind cramp and got really mad and I was like, especially when you're home, not missing this cut, because you know there are low rounds if the weather is good. So you just have to hang in there and play the weekend.

Q. Going out early, greens perfect?
CRISTIE KERR: Yeah, everything was great. A little bit windy but nothing major, pretty light wind. I was due for a good round. I had been hitting these irons so good, these new PING i 25s, and I'm glad that I had the courage to switch because I'm just so much more consistent now, like even the misses are better.

Q. After the bogey, are you particularly fired up on the next hole?
CRISTIE KERR: Honestly I really didn't feel like I did much wrong on 14. It's just about as a little off as it could get. I just kind of set, it's going to happen, just kind of move on and I played the last four holes great. Even my tee shot on the last hole, it missed carrying the bunker by like half a foot. Happy with where everything is at and happy with my new equipment.

Q. Did the child make the round?
CRISTIE KERR: He's just a little too young. I'm afraid he's going to squeak or laugh when somebody is over a shot, and then what do you do. And it's really sunny out here and you can't put sunscreen on them yet because they are too young.

Q. How has that changed your approach to golf and how you practice?
CRISTIE KERR: I do the same. My husband helps out a ton. We have some family friends helping us out this year and I'm sure we'll use the LPGA day care. So I mean, he's such a blessing. You know, yesterday, I came home and I was changing his diaper and I was like, mommy had a good day and he's squeaking and laughing at me and smiling and it makes it that much better.

Q. Now you took him overseas, right?

Q. But you went overseas and played how many tournaments?
CRISTIE KERR: Two. I played two over there. I had a horrible balance striking week with my irons, and I had been trying to switch clubs, and honestly I've been trying to switch to a set of PING irons for the last seven years. I go to the test center and I just didn't find the right shaft. I'm playing a Nippon shaft that's an in between flex SR -- everything is falling into place, and I'm just really happy. I was just like, I hit one club -- well, I called Paul, the LPGA club repair technician, and I said: I am just really struggling and it doesn't feel like all me, and I'm tired of it, I'm sick of it, like I can't do this anymore. What's the shaft that you recommend?

And he said, try this Nippon shaft, and I hit it in a 7-iron at PING -- I had been to PING like five times this year. Went to PING and tried it in the 7-iron and I was like -- this was Wednesday of last week and I said, please build them up for me like right now.

So then I started playing with them and it was like, it was just so nice to confirm that it wasn't 100 percent me; yeah, you're going to miss shots, you're going to hit some a little right or a little left, but as bad as I was hitting it, it was time to switch.

Q. Did you think when you teed off you had a chance to be this close to the lead?
CRISTIE KERR: Yeah, I knew if I could get a low round -- they are probably going to shoot five or six today but they might not and I'll have a chance but I'll be out early enough tomorrow, that, hey, if you do this again -- I'll try not to have expectations. I literally just tried to play the shot in front of me today.

Q. How difficult was the good-bye, that first trip away?
CRISTIE KERR: I kind of did a quick good-bye because I didn't want to let it linger. The first week was okay, focus on your week and then the second week I was away, it was just a hurricane of bad stuff.

Jessica Korda, Rolex Rankings No. 27, -15

THE MODERATOR: I am now joined by Jessica Korda, shot a 66 today, really solid round, second straight day without any bogeys, talk about your consistency this week and how you've been able to stay out of trouble.
JESSICA KORDA: You know, the golf course is just set up so beautifully, so as long as you hit fairways and greens, you're just fine. The greens, certain greens are faster than others, depending on if you're downgrain or into the grain. Golf course is just beautiful, so it's a pleasure to play.

THE MODERATOR: A lot of low scores, were you looking at leaderboards before you headed out.

THE MODERATOR: Is that any type of mentality where you say, I have to go out and be aggressive; did that turn you onto say, let's get things going early.
JESSICA KORDA: I think I saw Cristie shot 9-under and Paula was 8 and I was like, wow, that's serious scoring right there.

But the greens are a little bit bouncier in the afternoon and you can kind of see where people have walked and some donuts around the holes. But in the morning, it must have been really nice. But yeah, definitely was a little bit more aggressive, but kind of take whatever you can get out here.

THE MODERATOR: Very solid birdie, birdie finish. You said you changed balls towards the end, and your caddie said you're a little superstitious. With the ball change, do you think that really helped?
JESSICA KORDA: Well, I changed my ball after -- on 15, I flared it out to the right and on 16 I flared it out to the right and after I made par on 16, I was like, right, this ball is not being nice to me, so we are just going to grab a different one, so I went birdie, birdie with that one.

Q. Given the scores, do you have to keep the aggressive mentality, you have to go low tomorrow to win?
JESSICA KORDA: That's between the mentality every day. Weather's been beautiful, not too windy, gorgeous, sun is out all day. It's perfect scoring conditions I think. So as long as you can keep hitting good shots and giving yourself opportunities, you're going to drop a couple but definitely a low score is going to take it tomorrow.

THE MODERATOR: Two rookies at the top with you, do you think experience will help going into tomorrow's round? Obviously you're only 21, and I say you're the one with the experience, but do you think that will help out a little more rather than having two rookies up at the top.
JESSICA KORDA: Well, can you really call them rookies? Lydia has been out here since she was, what, 15, 14? And Mirim played on the KLPGA. So I'm sure she has plenty of experience and knows how to win. She may be a rookie on this tour but she's no rookie.

Q. Looked like you two were chatty the first two days.
JESSICA KORDA: I have a 15-year-old sister at home and looking at Lydia is 16, I'm like, you guys are way more mature than you should be.

I look at her like a little sister. I was there when she won her first tournament on the ALPG TOUR and kind of been there after that. So she's a great girl and we do have a really good time on the course.

THE MODERATOR: You already have a win this season. What were your goals coming in early on? Did you foresee any of this solid play early on, did you think, let me get two wins within my first four shots, did any of that go through your mind starting the season.
JESSICA KORDA: No, I went through a massive swing change so I really didn't think I need to win but I definitely went into the season wanting to win. I was so fortunate to do it in the Bahamas but I'm kind of ready to win on home soil, too.

Michelle Wie, Rolex Rankings No. 46, -13

Q. Michelle, you just shot 67 here in the third round, great round today, a lot of low numbers went out in the morning today; did you come into this round thinking, let's be aggressive, I have to go low?
MICHELLE WIE: Yeah, for sure, I came out the afternoon looking at the leaderboard and saw a lot of 9-unders, a lot of 8-unders and was kind of like, I have to get moving today. Just one of those days I couldn't get anything to the hole but scrimmaged and shot 5-under and really happy to be in the position that I am right now and I'm just really excited for tomorrow.

Q. You looked very confident over your putts, a lot of long putts, you were getting very, very close. How did you stay confident and try to not get too far ahead of yourself without those dropping?
MICHELLE WIE: Well, I made a bomb on the first hole, and I think I just gained a lot of confidence from there. You know, I had a lot of chances. I didn't really put anything close to the hole today so I had a lot of 40-footers today unfortunately. So I guess I just got used to it.

Q. Now you said you feel so comfortable with your game, your goal is to be consistent and you're doing just that, how do you feel being in contention for Sunday, what's the goal for tomorrow?
MICHELLE WIE: I'm excited. I'm just so excited to be in this position that I have a chance. It's just fun being in contention so I'm just going to make the most of it tomorrow and go out there and enjoy myself.

Founders Interview

THE MODERATOR: It is my absolute pleasure to welcome probably the greatest group I have had to probably interview in my entire life, I'm feeling a little inadequate with this group. I would like to thank all of you for coming in, what a special week, to my immediate front here, our founder this is week, Marilynn Smith and Shirley Spork.

In the back, Patty Sheehan, Pat Bradley, Kathy Whitworth, Renee Powell, Nancy Lopez and Betsy King, thank you for also joining us, our pioneers and Hall of Famers this week, thank you.

So I will get started. Marilynn, let's start off with you, right here in front. You've seen this event from its very infant stages, from the beginning and then you're here in the fourth year, what is most impressed you out of the past four years of this very special event?
MARILYNN SMITH: This tournament, I think the thing is the girls all approved of it after the first year. Some of them really didn't understand it and didn't want to play in it and now they are all for it. It's a sensational tournament and to have all these girls here, it's special, and to honor the founders, we have a lot of good founders.

Unfortunately Louise is not well enough to be with us and Marlene is busy moving and we send our best to them, we miss them.

SHIRLEY SPORK: The two of us are the tail end of the dog. We were very fortunate to get together in the beginning and we had a tremendous desire to compete but we didn't have anywhere to compete.

Through the efforts of friends that were financially able to putt up prize money, we were able to play tournaments, and because of the Babe and her talent, she really didn't have anywhere to play, and it's through her efforts, really, she wanted a tour so she could compete.

So because of her she got the ball rolling, and we came along as her other pigeons and followed her. In the beginning it was somewhat difficult to convince the public, actually, that women had that great of talent in golf. They had observed amateur players and a lot of your Hall of Famers played great amateur golf. I think Marilynn came out of the college system where you were not supposed to compete as an individual in our era. In the 50s, schools wanted intramural play. They did not want individual sports. So we were an oddity and had to fight to say that an individual sport was important.

THE MODERATOR: I watched you speak with the documentary group; what do you think that movie will hopefully do in terms of spreading the word of how special of a journey you guys have had?
MARILYNN SMITH: Well, it's chronicling the history and people 50 and a hundred years from now will know what happened and that's wonderful. They have interviewed Marlene and they are going to interview Louise, too. I think they are going to try to get a few other people to interview. It's really a wonderful thing and they are doing a great job for us.

THE MODERATOR: Betsy in terms of seeing the Tour evolve since when you played up until now, what has most stuck out to you in terms of tournaments, players, anything that has really evolved into what the Tour has turned into today?
BETSY KING: I feel very fortunate because when we came out, the founders were still competing a little bit. I know Patty Berg played and Louise Suggs played in several event that I played in; so we have that connection with the founders that we actually know them, and yet the Tour had already grown at that point.

So obviously what it is today is just so different, the world aspect of the LPGA is probably the biggest change and it's even changed since I retired in 2005.

So with the tour playing so many events outside the United States right now, but obviously it's the persistence that the founders had; that they never gave up; that even though they had to do all aspects of a tournament from handing out the checks and setting up the golf course and making the rulings, really, somebody asked me during the filming of the documentary, what do you think motivated them to keep at it, and I think it was two things, probably the love of the game that they had at the time, and they really were like a family. And they cared about one another and so they were in this together to make it succeed.

So I'm thankful that they preceded me and gave all of us that are sitting here on this second row, the opportunity to play and compete at something that we love to do. Obviously we were rewarded a lot more financially than they ever were. So I just am honored and thankful to be here today.

THE MODERATOR: What does it say to have the top five players committed to being spokes women to grow the game? In how good of hands is the current game in terms of growing it?
NANCY LOPEZ: It's important for every player, not just the five ladies that are ambassadors to promote the game and help the young generation care about the LPGA Tour.

As I watched the trailer that they showed me about -- I was crying, of course I'm a cry baby, but only cry when it means something. But I think that this story should have been told a long time ago. It's a shame that it has not been -- these ladies and the founders that were alive before so many times together and there should have been something done at that time.

Because for them to do what they did for us, and we were even further down the road, I'm very grateful to them, because they did love the game; because I stopped and thought, I would have done that if I would have been in their shoes at that time. I hope that I would have, because I love golf that much.

But I think that it's important for all our players to always give back and not be selfish, and not think it's just all about them; but to always know that there's no reason for anyone to have a golf tournament for us, really.

If they really stop and think about it, all these people work all year long to put together an event for them when these ladies had to putt an event on for themselves; and to sign autographs and give back 100 percent and be good to the sponsors and be good to the press; it's their place to do that. It's a job and it's a great job -- and I say job, because it's really more of a fun job, I know that it was for me.

All of our players need to always do that and I look at the players up here who I totally respect because they were great ambassadors for the LPGA Tour and what they did, and the competition and the way they were on the golf course, they were all professional whether they won or loss, they always acted like true women, and true competitors, and I'm very proud to be a part of the LPGA.

THE MODERATOR: Renee, what was your initial reaction when you got the phone call that you would be honored as a founder and pioneer of the LPGA, what was your reaction?
RENEE POWELL: It was something that was very, very special. I didn't see it coming, and very pleased to be a part of this. I think I was very fortunate to know 11 of the 13 founders and first new about the LPGA when I was 12 years old. Didn't realize that there was such a thing as lady professional golfers. First met Marilynn Smith back in the 1950s before some people were probably born but back in the late 1950s, so to be, to, have met Marilynn then and Shirley later on; but to have met her then and now to be sitting on stage with her to be a part of all this, to be recognized as one of those who fell in line behind them, because they were so amazing and we owe them all such a great deal of thanks, because that's the reason we are all able to putt LPGA behind our name.

And you know, so often, people think that they acquire and do things on their own, but every one of us stands on the shoulders of those who came before us, and those 13 ladies; and we are very, very fortunate to be in the presence of two right now.

So when I received that call, I was very surprised. I was very much in awe. You don't think of yourself as a pioneer. You just do. And especially if you love the game of golf and if you have a passion for it, you do what you do, and you try to make everything better. These women definitely tried to make it better, and they loved it and we are all so much better for it. So it was indeed something that was very special and I'm very happy to be here and like to just really thank Marilynn and Shirley both for all that you have done and also Marlene and Louise and the other ladies that are probably all looking down on us and cheering this tour on.

THE MODERATOR: Kathy just the other day at breakfast we were speaking about junior Solheim Cup, and you were captain this past summer. Let's talk about the Junior and amateur ranks that you have obviously been able to see firsthand and just the talent pool that will probably hopefully be coming up for American golf, the Americans have been fighting their way back, and to being up on top of the leaderboards into the winner's circle, where do you see the future that's hopefully going to be coming up for USA golf?
KATHY WHITWORTH: Well, that's pretty obvious I think because they are everywhere. I just finished a junior tournament in Fort Worth that turned into -- has evolved into a really nice event, and Paula Creamer has come through there, Christina Kim, Brittany Lang, so we see a lot of the players coming through that event.

And then to be with the Junior Solheim this last year; but I think it's pretty obvious that junior golf is where our future has always been and there's more and more programs and opportunity for young people to play and thanks to the LPGA and started to over the years and continue to; and opportunity has all been the thing I think for anybody and whether it's golf or whatever it is, and if they just have that opportunity and the chance to see. Of course, this is what I've always felt that way about our founders, I was able to meet almost all of them except Babe.

So I came along at a very opportune time to meet these ladies, but always eternally grateful to them because they are the ones that gave me the opportunity. For junior golf, though, gosh, the teaching and what they are able to, the access to good instruction and gosh, what they can do now, you think about when I first started and I know with Renee -- and I have to say this. When I found out Renee was going to be honored, as well, that is just so great. This woman, she truly might not be a founder but in a way she is a founder and she's just -- she paved the way and opened a lot of doors, and we could have been in a world of hurt. But we weren't because of Renee and Althea. And I have to say I'm just really proud that Renee is here, and we are going to be recognized together tonight. So that's a big plus, besides getting to see Marilynn and Shirley.

And I was there, not at the very beginning, but I was close, and I remember some of those meetings we used to have and some of these -- yeah, you know, it got pretty wild. The fun part of this, Nancy writing a book, so it's probably going to be X-Rated, we'll have to, she said her publisher has been having a hard time.

But anyway, the fun part about being a -- I mean, the fun times that we did, but any time we would have a meeting, and these women were the leaders and Marilynn was president when I came on the Tour, and so she was terrific.

Well, they all were terrific to me, and so it was -- and of course, then to be a member then, you just filled out an application and sent in 25 bucks and you were in. They needed warm bodies and I was one of them.

But they were terrific but what I remember about the early meetings, of course, was that eventually everybody, because these were very strong personalities, they had already in their own right had developed their own career, and so when they came together as a group, it was -- you got 13 women that are just, they are all bosses, and they have all had their own career, it was pretty exciting.

But the decisions they made was always for the better of the group and I think that's one ever the reasons it continued to be successful, and everybody was still trying to pull together and make it happen, and I was just really -- I think back on those days, and I can't help but smile every time because it just brings back great memories, and I'm just happy I came along when I did. It's great to see where the LPGA is today, and the future looks great, playing all over the world. It's just -- and you've got great leadership I think, and it's on its way. So it's great fun to watch.

Q. Pat, would you guys ever have dreamed of the dynamic of the Tour of what it is today in terms of globe decision, the number of countries represented, all the different backgrounds these girls come from? Would you guys ever have dreamed of that?
PAT BRADLEY: I know when I joined the Tour, my first trip overseas was back in December 1975 in Melbourne, Australia. I had to go to a globe and find out exactly where Australia was.

But yes, it's an amazing journey, and we were all part of our own little journey and to see the game of golf become global, that's probably, you know, what it was, the very least, you know, in our day, we thought global was going from Arizona to California, but it is global and that's the great thing about this game, the parameters are not within a certain, you know, area or dynamic. It's throughout the world.

I can only imagine the reception that our players get when they travel overseas; when we used to go to Japan, my first Japanese player that I met and knew and played against was Chako Higuchi and when we would go over there, it was unbelievable. She had to eat in a separate dining room because she was such a rock star, and Ayako Okamoto was the same way.

So it is amazing, but I have to tell you, I started this game at 11, and I was an old lady, basically, compared to our young little girls today picking the game up. But being a professional golfer and being a part of the LPGA Tour, I have to honestly admit, it was my father's dream; my father was an avid golfer, he wasn't a great golfer. He caddied as a youngster with his brothers.

But, my dad knew the Marilynn Smiths, the Patty Bergs, the Babe Zahariases, the Louise Suggs; he knew all those great women and he wanted his daughter to try to aspire to walk the fairways with these great women.

So being a country bumpkin from Massachusetts, our season was about that long, but I went to school down in Miami. I went to a junior college, Miami Dade North and then I transferred to Florida International University, graduated.

But the first two pros that I ever met, one was Marilynn Smith, I met her at a barbeque at my coach's home, and I think you were just playing around the corner at Berdine's (ph), and I was just a little freshman college player, didn't know much about anything.

And then Patty Berg came and spoke at a tournament dinner and from that moment on when I met these two great women, I said, you know, I want to, they have made me want to aspire to follow in their footsteps. I can't be in their footsteps because you just don't do that; but to follow their footsteps.

And I thank them, because what they did for the game of golf, you know, my father got in it and my father passed it onto me and it became my dream. I am very, very fortunate to have had the career that I have had and it's because of these women who really, you know, had the blood, sweat and tears. There was not a lot of fanfare or balloons going off or fireworks going off when they did anything, and so I am a very lucky woman to have had the moment I have in the game. And of course now I'm watching my nephew do his thing and having a ball watching him.

Q. Our big theme the past couple years, what do you see within the next five years, or what do you hope to see in terms of the state of the LPGA, whether it be tournaments, purses, what do you think need to be done or should be done in terms of making it healthier or bigger in terms of exposure?
PATTY SHEEHAN: I can't even remember what that question was.

I think that in the next five years, what I would like to see is purses going up dramatically so that we could start to see maybe getting closer to equality with the men's tour.

You know, these ladies are out there working just as hard as the guys do. They spend as much time as the guys do out there. They spend probably as much money, if not more, trying to get to where they need to get. You know, they worked very, very hard and I just don't see that the purses are increasing anywhere near where they should be.

So, that being said, I'm just thrilled to be here. I'm thrilled that they would invite me here. I always am very in awe of the ladies that started this tour, and the guts and fortitude and passion that they showed in making the LPGA Tour happen.

These are great ladies, and I can't even believe that I did as well as I did in the LPGA Tour and I'm looking up to these ladies and they showed me, you know, wonderful ways to be. They showed me how to be a lady and they showed me how to be gracious, and not that I was every single time, but I tried my best.

I want to thank them from the bottom of my heart, because originally, when I was a little kid, and I started playing golf around my house at 3, I never knew there was an LPGA Tour, all I knew was that there was Olympics and so when I was little, I thought I would be an Olympic ski racer, but as I grew older and started getting better at golf, then I paid more attention to the LPGA Tour and learned about these ladies and they truly are an inspiration to me as well as all of these ladies here that are sitting up here.

I'm always just so in awe of the gang that I get to be shoulder to shoulder with. So again, thank you, and I'm going to pass this Mike on.

MARILYNN SMITH: I'd like to tell a story about Althea Gibson. She was the first black American to play on our tour and a great golfer, she didn't start golf until they was about 40. As you know, she was a great tennis player and I used to play some golf rounds with her and she was quite a nice person.

But there was a tournament in Texas, I won't mention the name of the city, that would not allow her to go into the clubhouse. Lenny Wirtz was our tournament director at the time, and we all decided to move the tournament to a different venue and that's what's always been a class of the LPGA; that you remember, the men, didn't they have something in there, that only Caucasians to play, until 1960-something.

So we are so thrilled that Althea came and played and Renee and I met her at the tournament; like you say, she was following us, and I happened to say hi to her and we became friends ever since. And she's done a remarkable job for the LPGA. She's a fantastic person. That's the story about Althea.

SHIRLEY SPORK: I'd like to comment as an officer and as being president, I think Kathy being president of the LPGA, we had to do -- you two had to do all the financial decisions. You had to gain press approval and when we would travel, we had to wine and dine the press when we didn't have much money to wine and dine the press.

And we had -- we'd have a press meeting and hopefully one or two showed up, as we gather a little more money, we could have a little more gifts to give out. So we became more known. Marilynn Smith and I used to go to radio stations and go to circuses. We've gone to baseball -- boxing matches.

MARILYNN SMITH: Can I tell a story about the boxing match? It's in my book. Buy my book and read it.

When Babe passed away in 1956, public relations became very important to keep our tour together, so I would hit golf balls in Major League ballparks like St. Louis, Cincinnati and Washington, D.C. and hit the ball from home plate to center field and get on the mic and ask the people to come out and watch us play.

Well, Shirley and I were going to a boxing match in land over, Maryland and this one fella was just pulverizing the other fella, it was just awful. Well, I got squeezy and I couldn't go under the rope if she paid me $1 million, but Shirley, she got right through there, crossed through the rope and got the microphone and talked about our tour and you'd better come out and see us play.

We did that all around the country -- we didn't go to boxing matches thank goodness but we did a lot of public relations work to try to get people aware of the golf and how well the girls played.

SHIRLEY SPORK: Because we wanted to promote our group, we all contributed. We didn't have cell phones and so at the end of the tournament, on Sunday we are getting ready to travel to the next stop. We'd have to stop at a pay phone and call AP and Golf World and give them the results of the tournament. Someone had to keep the mail in a little box and if you didn't play that week, we took the box to the next tournament and then got your mail. It was like the little circus going down the road.

We are very honored to have Kathy Whitworth win 88 golf tournaments.


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