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U.S. WOMEN'S OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP MEDIA DAY
May 19, 2008
RHONDA GLENN: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to media day for the 63rd Women's Open Championship. My name is Rhonda Glenn, and I'm the manager of communications for the United States Golf Association. I've been asked to say a few words about the history of the Women's Open.
It started in 1946, it was a creation of The Women's Professional Golf Association. Which was started by Hope Signais who was from North Carolina. And the first year was at Spokane Country Club, in Spokane, Washington. The prize money was an unheard of $19,700. At that time the women's professional golfers took two turns, two or three around the country and the prize money was more in the order of $3,000 per championship.
The proceeds of the Spokane Athletic Round Table slot machines provided the purse for the first Women's Open. It was always interesting to me that it got off to a rocky start and the clubhouse burned down the first week.
After that, the Women's Professional Golf Association continued the Women's Open for three years, but it was a floundering organization, and no longer could be supported. So the new LPGA began conducting the championship in 1949. Purses ran from about $5,600 to about $6,000. And then the LPGA could no longer afford to conduct the championship and asked the United States Golf Association to step in.
So the USGA has been conducting this championship since 1953, and we are the longest continuing sponsor of any tournament which includes LPGA players.
There have been many great players who won this championship. Mickey Wright won it four times, Betsy Rawls won it four times. Babe Zaharias won it four times. Susie Berning won it three times. Hollis Stacy and Annika Sorenstam also won it three times. It is considered by the players and by most of you in the press as the greatest women's golf championship in the world.
We conduct it as such, and we are so thrilled that our 2007 defending champion, Cristie Kerr, is with us today. And we're glad that you all came to hear what Cristie has to say.
I was also asked, I had the privilege of talking a little bit about Patty Berg. As you all know, Patricia James Berg, from Minneapolis, Minnesota had thousands of friends and I'm lucky enough to have been one of them. I was her speech writer from 1998 to 1995, the greatest pro privilege of my life, when she asked me to do it, I said I would do it for free, and she insisted that I charge her for her speeches. So I came up with a huge fee of $25 a speech. Just to satisfy Patty.
The last time I was at Interlachen was in 1988 when Patty brought me over here and gave me a golf lesson on the practice tee with Barbara McIntire and Judy Bell, and it was one of the highlights of my life in golf. Patty was my houseguest, and I was her houseguest, and we had a lot of wonderful times together.
As you know all the great stories about Patty. She was runner-up in the Women's Amateur twice. When she was runner-up here in Interlachen in 1935, she was only 16 years old, and she played against the great Glenna Collette Vare in the final. And Golf Magazine of 1935 said, believe it or not, they had 15,000 spectators following that match watching these two women play.
Glenna beat Patty and won her sixth and final U.S. Women's Amateur Championship. Two years later, Patty lost to Mrs. Page, and then in 1938, Patty won the Women's Amateur. She was on the Curtis Cup team twice, and also won the first United States Women's Open. So Patty has a long history with the USGA.
In 1995 we were celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Women's Open. We were trying to think of something special to do with that championship, which was in Colorado Springs. And I remember that Patty had conducted the Patty Berg Swing Parade on the LPGA Tour. And Patty would always get out all the players and hit balls and have her wonderful clinic, which was so full of fun, just to attract more spectators to the LPGA event.
So we decided to do that for the U.S. Women's Open. And we had every past champion, except Babe Zaharias, who was no longer with us, and Mickey Wright could not travel at that time. But Patty conducted a clinic with all the past champions out there, and we had about 800 people, and it was fantastic.
Patty remained in that role with the USGA, and until the end of her time where she could no longer do it. And every year we had the Patty Berg Swing Parade at the Women's Open. We're going to have it again this year. It's one of the great feature that's we do, and Kathy Whitworth will conduct that clinic as she has the past couple of years. And Sandra Haynie will also be doing it.
Thought I'd tell you two stories, little personal things that I observed about Patty that tell you about her character and will to win one day she was taking me to Cypress Country Club in Fort Myers where she lived. And the lobby was much like here, so many of her trophies and things. She was walking three steps ahead of me like a little locomotive. She charged down the end of the hall. And down the hall was a great big portrait of Patty that had been done when she was much younger, in her 30s, probably. She's about three feet ahead of me, and I could hear her as she approached the portrait. She looked at it, and said, "hello, dynamite".
Then a couple years later we were doing a series of films for the United States Golf Association, and I was there to interview her and her memories of the game. We did a nice interview in the clubhouse. Afterwards, of course, the film crew wanted some action footage. Now Patty was almost 80 years old there then, and had a number of infirmities over the year.
So they said we'll go out to this green near the clubhouse, and Patty, you can hit a putt for us. So they set up their camera and go out, and they have this putt. It's not just any putt. It's an uphill, side hill, right-to-left breaking 12-foot putt. And they asked Patty to make an attempt to make this putt. And she had on her famous red, white and blue Footjoy shoes. And she stood there and made a few little practice waggles and she stroked the putt and knocked it in the hole. And we went wow, that's so great.
And the film crews, you fellas know this, do it once more for the West coast, right? So Patty, would you do that again? And I thought, oh, mercy, another 12-footer, right to left, uphill, sidehill, breaking putt, she knocks it in again. And they said we'd like one more shot. And I said, oh, boy, they're really pressing their luck. She waggled that putter, she hit that putt, and it went right in the hole and she went, yeah, it was great.
That was Patty Berg. Many times I had to just transcribe a speech for her that I did not write. But it was one of the greatest speeches I've ever heard in my life. You can talk about political candidates or U.S. Army generals or any sports figure. But it was called, What it takes to become a champion, and Patty would stand up there and she would review the quality what she thought made up a champion, of course they apply to everyday life as well as to the golf course. And she would go over and simplify and elaborate on each of the qualities.
And I make light because I thought you might enjoy hearing what they are. The qualities of a champion: Desire, dedication, determination, the will to win, and not the wish to win, inspiration, never giving up, self-control, heart, striving for perfection, using your mind, and faith in God. Of course, there was all that. Then at the end of her speech she would always say God love you, God bless you, and God bless America. And would you feel like standing up and waving the flag.
That was our friend, Patty Berg, and we are so honored to be here at Interlachen and remember her in a place she so dearly loved in her life.
Thank you for joining us here today. We have a number of exciting topics to talk about. Things relevant to Women's Golf Championship. I'd like to introduce you to you the president of the of United States Golf Association, Jim Vernon.
JIM VERNON: Thank you, Rhonda. May and June are always an exciting time for the United States Golf Association as we approach our championship season. This May and June is even a little more exciting for because we're about to open a new museum at the Arnold Palmer Center for History at the Farm Hills. It's been a major investment, but we thought it was important to serve the game by preserving its history.
I hope all of you at some point will get back and see the new museum. I had an interview a few weeks ago, and it's pretty exciting. It's a little different from our old museum in that the new one is center around our golf championships and our champions. That is we try to tell the story of golf in the United States through our championships and through our champions.
Of course, included in all of those displays that will be there are going to be any number of people from the state of Minnesota, championships won in Minnesota, and champions from Minnesota.
So today we are here to have available for the U.S. Women's Open, and tomorrow will actually be the first day we open the doors to the museum. We'll have the official ceremony on June 3rd, and Arnold Palmer will be there. But the doors will open officially tomorrow.
Minnesota is one of only two states in the nation who have hosted every one of our 13 championships. The other state is my home state, California. But Minnesota has bested California because Minnesota has also hosted our State Team Championships for both men and women which California has not.
We already heard about one champion from Minnesota, Patty Berg. But there are others, as well, Hilary Lunke. We have our former Women's Mid Am Champion around today, Alissa Herron. And Lester Boland, winner of the APL years ago. And, of course, in 1993, John Harris won our Amateur Championship. All those people are found in our new museum.
Two of my predecessors also came from Minnesota, Totton Heffelfinger from '52 and '53. And I hope many of you know Reed Mackenzie who was president of the USGA when I first came on the Executive Committee.
The U.S. Women's Open is indicative of the commitment of the United States Golf Association to women's golf. And we have a very long history in the commitment to women's golf. In fact, the Women's Amateur was one of our original three championships. Started the same year as the U.S. Open and the U.S. Amateur back in 1895. And the Women's Open has the largest purse in women's professional golf.
We also conduct two international competitions for women, the Curtis Cup, which will be in a week in St. Andrews. I will have the good fortune of traveling there next week for that. And we also participate in the Women's World Amateur Team Championship which will be conducted in Adelaide, Australia this year in October.
Our commitment is also evidenced by our grants program. I think most of you know that the USGA and its Foundation have a For the Good of the Game grants program that to date has officially awarded over $59 million, and with grants that will be announced in another week or so that will be well over $60 million, approaching 61 million dollars. And many of those grants go to programs that provide access and opportunities for women and young girls that they might not have otherwise gotten.
We also, separately, participate in the LPGA-USGA Girls Golf program which every year provides access for thousands of young girls to the game of golf. Women have been leaders in the USGA as well. We currently have four women on our executive committee. We have Judy Bell, our past president, who also runs our Grants program. And there are hundreds and hundreds of volunteers who serve on more than 30 USGA committees.
We have 13 women who have won our highest award, the Bob Jones Award founded in 1955. And I'm proud to say in our site selection when we decide to take one of our championships to a place like Interlachen, only those clubs that have open membership policies are available for our championship.
I'm glad you're all here. We have a lot more interesting people to hear from. From my experience in other media days, it is far more interesting to ask questions of Mike Davis and our defending champion, Cristie. So let me get off the stage. But first introduce our next speaker, Martha Lang. A former USGA champion, and a participant in seven U.S. Women's Opens. Martha?
MARTHA LANG: Thanks, I'm pinch hitting for Roberta Bolduc, the chairman of the women's committee. She left today to go to Scotland for the Curtis Cup matches.
I'd like to tell you a little about the women's committee and what we do at the Women's Open. We're a group of 15 volunteers from all over the country. We're the USGA volunteer component of the Women's Open. We help conduct the qualifiers. Then once we're at the Open, we serve as starters, scorers, and Rules officials for the open.
This past week we learned about Annika Sorenstam's retirement from competitive golf. Annika's played in 14 women's opens and has had three victories and made the cut 12 times. She played in her first Open in 1992 as an amateur and made the cut that year.
In 1995 she earned her first professional victory in the Women's Open at the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs. In '96, she won the Women's Open at Pine Needles, and she became the sixth golfer to win back-to-back Women's Opens (since then one other person has done it).
But she won the Open again in 2006 by defeating Pat Hurst in an 18-hole playoff at Newport Country Club. She's one of six players to have won the Open three times. She's also the all-time money winner in the U.S. Women's Open history.
We want to congratulate her on her retirement. But we also want to recognize that her retirement will be a huge loss to the game of women's competitive golf. We're sure her contributions to the game will continue for years. And the USGA wants to wish her all the best in her retirement.
I've been asked to share a few of my experiences of playing in the Women's Open. The first time I played in the open was in 1969. You simply entered the open by sending in an entry form. There was no qualifying. That year there were 99 players. 30 of them were amateurs, and the winner was Donna Caponi and she won $5,000.
I guess this says a lot about how the Women's Open has grown, or else it says a lot about my age. But I was 16 at the time. It really was a wonderful experience. In 1975 I played again, and we were up to 175 entries at this time. I had the delightful experience of playing the first two days with Patty Berg, though at this time Patty was near the end of her playing career, and she wasn't playing a lot. She was still a huge fan favorite.
It was fun for me to watch her react to the crowd, and the crowd just, you know, time she came up, she would receive applause, it really was so nice to see the interaction between her and the crowd. And she really was a true champion.
I think that personally the warmth and kindness she showed me was such an indication of her true character. That year I made the cut, and she truly seemed happy that I made the cut. And she had missed the cut by a couple of shots. But she was just such a genuine person.
I think I learned a lot about true sportsmanship during that open, and Patty was certainly a model for all golfers to emulate. Everyone who made the cut in 1975 received a two-year exemption from qualifying, because qualifying started the next year in 1976, and that was the first time we had qualifying before an Open.
But the time I played again which was 1989, there were 736 entries. About all I remember about this open is I was way out of my league. By now all of the players received courtesy cars. Of the locker rooms were full of power bars and candy bars and diet Cokes. But not only were there more players, the caliber of the competition was getting stronger every year. The strength of the field has continued to grow. Not only are the players much better, the depth of the field is just huge now.
There's one more story I'd like to share. In 1996 I was captain of the United States Curtis Cup team. At that time, the Curtis Cup team members were given exemptions into the Women's Open. That year the Women's Open was played at Pine Needles. So our entire Curtis Cup team played in the Open. But only one of my players made the cut that year, and she was 18 years old. She went on to be the low amateur that year. She had a 69 on that Sunday.
So last year when this same player returned to Pine Needles and she won the Women's Open, it was a personal pleasure for me to watch her play again. Cristie has worked extremely hard and has developed into a wonderful player and is a terrific U.S. Women's Open champion. It would be so exciting for me to watch her play this year as she defends her title. I want to personally wish her the best of luck.
Now I will turn it over to Betse Hamilton, who is the USGA Director of the Women's Open Championship.
BETSE HAMILTON: Good morning. In addition to having a great golf course, and the best women golfers in the world, there are many ingredients in the making of a successful national championship. To name a few: Volunteers, support from the corporate community, strong ticket sales, and a kids-friendly environment. Without volunteers, it would be very difficult for the USGA to put on our national championship.
For this year's Women's Open, a record 3,275 volunteers from 46 states and four countries outside of the United States have signed up for 35 different committees. Another ingredient for a successful championship is the support of the club members and staff.
I'd like to thank General Manager George Carroll, Master Golf Professional Jock Olson, course superintendent, Matt Rostal, and all the staff of Interlachen Country Club with their cooperative help.
To put on a national championship takes a lot of woman power and manpower. Both from the professional staffing standpoint as well as the volunteer standpoint. The USGA hired Bruno Event Team, a professional event management company whose home base is in Birmingham, Alabama, a little bit further south than where I am from, to run the day-to-day operations of the 2008 U.S. Women's Open.
Under the direction of Jeff Ewing, I think Jeff is peeking out of the doorway there, executive director. The 2008 U.S. Women's Open Championship staff is comprised of Beth Pinckney, volunteer and operations director, Laura Caleel, marketing and public directions director Amy Lillibridge, and operations manager, Danny Rogers.
Following this press conference all will be available to answer questions about their areas of responsibility.
The corporate community in the Metro Minneapolis St. Paul area has been very supportive due to the efforts of the Interlachen sales committee and the championship staff. A record number of corporate sales is expected.
Ticket sales are on track for this year's Women's Open to be the most successful ever. Tickets are selling at a brisk pace, and have been sold in 44 states and four countries outside of the United States. Capacity has been limited on the golf course to 22,500 paid attendees. Season and daily tickets currently may be bought online at www.2008uswomensopen.com by calling 877-281-OPEN or by going to any Cubs food store.
General spectator parking will be complimentary and will be conveniently located in the Southdale corridor off France Avenue and Valley View Road. Complimentary transportation will be provided to the championship from this location. Spectators are encouraged to take advantage of riding public transportation to the center. Additionally bike racks and walk-in gates will be provided for local residents.
For kids, the USGA has a Catch the Spirit program. All youth 17 and under are admitted complimentary with a ticketed adult. So, for example, a family with five children can bring all five of those children 17 and under. In fact, if anybody is brave enough, you may bring in nine children, all by yourself 17 and under. Usually we don't have a lot of takers on that, but it would be considered a group of 10 or more.
As part of the Catch the Spirit program, juniors receive at the USGA Catch the Spirit tent, a free meal coupon. So as you can tell, we're really trying to encourage families to come and make it very affordable for them to come.
They also receive a free golf cap, the opportunity to participate in golf sports tours, a golf scavenger hunt, and to play on the putting course set up especially for the kids. They'll have the best seats in the place. Every front row on every grandstand is reserved for kids only. So we really want kids to experience the game of golf and to get to see it up close and personal, because they are the future of our game.
We welcome families to the U.S. Women's Open. We want it to be affordable, educational, and also for it to be fun.
Included in the Catch the Spirit program is the senior poster contest. We're proud to announce today that this year's winner is (Ellis DeSante) of Minnesota, who is a fifth-grader at Jonathan Elementary. She'll receive a $5,000 scholarship from Target Corporation, and her poster will be used as our championship poster. It is displayed immediately outside the doors here.
Also, we have two special events during the championship week. On Monday, Dennis Walters will be conducting his special expedition on the practice range. He is a paraplegic golfer and gives a very inspirational clinic. That is at 1:00 p.m. Then already alluded to is our Patty Berg Swing Parade Tuesday at 1p.m. Joining Kathy Whitworth will be Patty Sheehan who was the Solheim Cup Captain in 2002 and a two-time U.S. Women's Open champion, as well as Peggy Kirk Bell.
Not only do we want the championship to have a kid-friendly environment, we also want to ensure that individuals with disabilities have a good experience. At the main admission gate, 85 complimentary Pride Mobility scooter carts are available for persons with disabilities. We'll also have a special viewing area set up for persons with disabilities at the 9th green, 18th green, and practice areas.
These efforts are concrete examples of the goal of the USGA to provide golf accessibility. The main championship goal is for players, spectators, volunteers, club members, and media members to have a great experience and to come away with winning many wonderful memories. With your help, we can have a successful championship. So thank you so much for your support.
Now I'd like to introduce Dave Mona, who is our General Co-Chairman of the 2008 U.S. Women's Open Championship. Along with Bob and Virginia Carlson, and his wife, Linda, Dave heads the volunteer organization of the championship and is liaison between Interlachen Country Club and the USGA. Among his many accomplishments for more than 25 years, Dave has co-hosted the sports huddle on WCCO radio. So he's one of you. And has served as a radio color ANALYST on the University of Minnesota football broadcast for the past decade.
We're grateful for his help, and that of Bob, Virginia and Linda, thank you.
DAVE MONA: I heard those snickers. What a great country. A fifth grader gets the same amount of money for a poster design that the winner got 25 years ago. I think we've come a long way.
I want to start by saying thank you to a number of people. But first to Betse for the number of trips that you made in here. I think Betse's in line for an honorary Minnesota citizenship for the number of times she's come in. But when we accepted this assignment, we were told it would be a lot of fun and we were working with people who have done it before and were real true professionals.
And Betse, based on what's happened here the last four years, people who told us that certainly knew what they were talking about. I want to thank Cristie for coming back. Cristie was here for Solheim competition some six years ago.
I want to thank the media for the great job that you've done in advance of this. We appreciate it tremendously - the feature stories have been outstanding, and we look forward to working with you in the four weeks leading up to the tournament.
I want to thank Annika. We were sitting around saying what could we really do to boost attendance? And we said, Annika, it would be really helpful if you would announce about the same week that our advertise something going to break that you're going to be retiring and she was happy to -- no, this is a joke.
But I have to tell you, we do track ticket sales and they went just like that (motions upward) when Annika made her announcement. We know people will be here for a number of reasons, and that gives them one more to come here to Interlachen. I want to recognize Virginia Carlson, who had a funeral she needed to attend this morning. She'll be here later.
Bob Carlson, Bob, if you could wave there, and my wife, Linda, this has been a team effort. When we got involved we said this would be most fun if we could do this with our spouses, and we've greatly enjoyed the last four years.
On behalf of the Interlachen membership, I can tell you we're ready. The course is in phenomenal shape. You'll find that out a little after noon today when you go out and try it. We've been happy to help and sell the corporate hospitality, and help recruit the 3,275 volunteers, most of whom went through training over the last weekend.
It was a daunting number, but this is Minnesota. We've got experience with Super Bowls and Final Fours and previous golf championships. And when the call went out for volunteers, I think we were all just overwhelmed at the way people responded to this.
There is no one around here who remembers the Bobby Jones victory that you've heard about. But as you play today, if you want to turn back, if you're not familiar with Interlachen, that is the pond which is our signature. If you stand on the other side of the pond, if you look down there, there is a plate. That plate in the ground is as best they can recreate of photos of the time where Bobby Jones stood when he hit his famous Lilly pad shot.
Now we've not put the lily pads back in today to help you clear the pond. But you get a feel for it. That was the signature shot of the signature hole of Bobby Jones' victory here. We encourage you to take a look at that.
Also in reference of Patty Berg, for those of you toting cameras and looking for photo ops. There is a wonderful Patty Berg display down this corridor. Can you see the trophies she won and, the familiar Wilson golf bag and clubs. If you're looking for a great background for a photo, I would recommend that.
People here do avidly recall the Walker Cup that was here in 1993, and the Solheim that was here six years ago. And I firmly believe hosting the Solheim that whet the appetite of the championship here to take on an event as daunting as the U.S. Open.
You learn a few things in four years along the way. One of them is this is a championship, not a tournament. We fine each other every time somebody says the word tournament, this is a championship. As a championship approaches, we're getting more and more questions about things, many which Betse covered. About parking, about ticket availability, what golfers are going to be here which is a story that is playing out on the media on a regular basis. And how the course is going to play. I think you'll get a good feel on how the course will play, and Mike Davis will have some comments on that.
All the questions we've received, there are two that are my favorites. Number one, Cristie, you'll like this, are they going to use the women's tees? The answer is yes. But not the women's tees you might think of. As you play today, I assume most of you are right-handed. I invite you as you address the ball to look behind you at the net the area, because that's where they'll be playing. I won't steal Mike's thunder, but it's a long course. The longest they've played.
Upon hearing we were going to reverse 9 and 18, this is normally the pond hole is our 9th hole, but for the championship, that will be the 18th and finishing hole. When you look at it, I think you'll understand why. And we thought that went without explanation until two weeks ago when somebody was saying isn't it going to be slow? And we said, no, not particularly, why would you say that? Well, when you go from, you have to walk from 8 over to 18. We said no, we're reversing all nine of them. Not just 9 and 18.
So we invite you to enjoy the course today. I can tell you, Interlachen members are proud that it's consistently ranked as one of the top 100 golf courses in the United States, and we would expect the ratings to improve after golf fans get a chance to see what we believe to be one of the truly great golf courses in the United States.
Thanks to Betse and the USGA for selecting Interlachen. Thanks to Cristie and her fellow golfers for what we know will be a great week of golf. Rhonda, back to you.
RHONDA GLENN: Thanks very much, Dave. Those are the kind of people at Interlachen that have made us feel so welcome. Now we're going to talk to somebody who will tell us how the course is set up and how it will play during the championship. That is our own Mike Davis who is the senior director of rules and competitions. Mike Davis.
MIKE DAVIS: Thank you. Good morning, everybody. Wonderful to be here. Jim Vernon mentioned in his talk that Minnesota was one of two states to host all the USGA's national championships. I think this is my sixth championship I've done in Minnesota. And I will say without a doubt, this is one of the great states in the country to hold a national championship.
There's just something magical about doing an event in the upper Midwest. I know we've got some representatives from some adjoining states and we feel the same way there. But there is just something magical about Minnesota. Even though the golf season relative to certain other parts of the country is short, people are so enthusiastic up here. And maybe even more important, they really have a genuine sense of the history of the game. They respect the game. It's just wonderful for us to bring the national Women's Open Championship up here.
Rhonda mentioned I was asked to speak a little bit about Interlachen, and how it's going to be set up and played for the Women's Open. Dave mentioned that this will be our longest Women's Open in history. It's going to be 6,789 yards, which, if you look at the record books, that is about 50 yards longer than our 2005 site out at Cherry Hills in Denver.
But a couple things about that. First of all, while it is our longest, it is important to note that we're going to play it to a par 73. So for those of you who think the USGA is fixated on switching par 5s to 4s, we've got five par 5s this year.
It will be a wonderful test. Let's just talk about how that relates to other Women's Opens. It is the longest. Next year when we play it will actually be just slightly shorter, but it will be a par 71.
So my sense is while Interlachen will certainly not play short, it's not going to play over-the-top long either unless we get heavy rains that just makes the course play longer. It's about 250 yards longer than what we played in Solheim. So for those players here for the Solheim, there are some differences. Most of the holes were a little longer here and there. There are a couple that probably make a little bit more difference.
What is interesting, I went back and looked at the record books. In 1930 -- which by the way, this is the fifth national championship that Interlachen's going to host. They did the U.S. Open in 1930, which Bobby Jones won. And that was the third leg of the Grand Slam in 1930.
We also had the 1935 Women's Amateur, and we had a Senior Amateur in the mid '80s, and the Walker Cup Match in 1993. Anyway, back to 1930, it was kind of interesting, because the course back then played 6,672. So how about that? The women are playing Interlachen longer than the men. Take that Bobby Jones, Walter Hagen and Harry Cooper.
Anyway, Dave mentioned we are flipping the nines. We did that, folks, just for logistical reasons. We just had much more room for the club's ninth hole to set up as the 18th hole. And if you think about it, most of the holes on the club's back nine are across the road. But really for logistical reasons that's why we did it. It was also played that way for the Solheim in '02.
So when I refer to holes today, just take note that I am referring to the holes as we'll play them in the championship, not as you will perhaps see in the scorecard today.
As far as the nature of the test, Interlachen was just, Dave mentioned it, but it is one of the great golf courses and great clubs in the United States. There is a reason it's considered a top 100, because it is. It is a Donald Ross design, which really is for those in the room that are really architecture aficionados. This is a really pretty true Donald Ross course.
The bunkering was recently restored to that same type of Donald Ross look. 16 of the 18 greens you play are very much Donald Ross greens. There were a couple greens that were moved. The championship 10, and championship 12 that were redone in the 50's or 60's by Robert Trent Jones Sr., and those have a slightly different look to them. But you're seeing really a Donald Ross course.
What is so magnificent about it, it is such a natural golf course. I think what you see out there, basically is what I'm sure Ross saw and the architect saw, and the people that built the course when it was built. In that they moved very little dirt. You can tell this.
When you're on the fairways, there are wonderful undulations to the fairways. Lot of movement. And I think as far as the test of golf, you're going to see downhill shots, uphill shots, and Cristie would even agree there aren't a lot of flat lies at Interlachen. And even for the world's best golfers, it's a harder shot with the side hill lie, to the downhill lie. It's a wonderful balance to the course, too.
As far as what to watch for, the par 3s at Interlachen are all very different, but you that to me is really going to be one of the places that is going to significantly challenge players.
Again, they're different, but they're four tough holes. Championship four, the downhill par 3 will probably be a 6-iron for the players. But it's so downhill that clubbing yourself is difficult, and then it's got a green that runs away from you. So it falls from the front to the back, so tough there.
The eighth hole, which is club 17, we'll play from both 200, and 227 yards. This is going to be a very long par 3. But it's open in front. And if you look at it, it was designed for a long shot. Looking back in the records from the 1930 open, we played it at 262 yards. So they no longer have that tee there. I think they've got some trees in that area, probably after that event, the players planted them. But anyway.
The 12th hole has got water on the left side and behind it. So the player on that hole is really trying to avoid water. Then the 14th hole is slightly downhill, but it plays to one of those classic Ross greens that are perched up with kind of a crowned top. So great blend.
Then on the par 4s, what you have is really a great ebb and flow. You have some easier holes where birdie is a definite possibility if you keep it in play. I think when I looked at the scorecard, there are five holes that are 360 yards or less. That means a driver wouldn't necessarily be necessary off the tee, and probably shorter shots into the green. But there are some wonderful green complexes with those shorter holes that certainly offer up a good challenge.
Then on the par 5s, this is, in my opinion, since there are five par 5s, this is where the players are really going to make up. There are three of those par 5s, that I think that if we get regular weather conditions, whereby it's not overly wet, I think a fair number of players in the field can actually reach those in two. Those are holes, 2, 10, and 18. We may even mix the tee up the grounds on some of those holes from day-to-day to offer up a little Morris being reward.
Par 3s will be pretty tough. Par 4s, nice balance with them. And par 5s is truly where the players can make up a little bit on par.
So along with the golf course setup, the greens we're going to set at 11.5 on the Stimpmeter. That will be plenty of speed. The greens aren't close to 11.5 yet. But they've got wonderful undulation to them.
They're fairly typical Donald Ross greens. They're relatively small. A lot of them sit up in the air. So if you miss the greens and up-and-downs pretty hard. Then every single one of them has pretty good pitch to them. We looked at it, did an analysis, talked to people who know this golf course well from the club here, and feel that that speed is about right.
We were out yesterday doing some preliminary work on hole locations, and I can tell you, you just do not have flat putts at Interlachen. Every putt has something going on with it. So they're fascinating.
Fairways, what you see out there is what the players will get. They range from 24 yards to 33 yards. And I think what's interesting, there are a lot of doglegs at Interlachen. Doglegs not only challenge the middle handicap player, but they challenge the world's best. Because in a lot of cases they have to pick a particular distance with a particular angle rather than just bombing straightaway on a straightaway hole.
The rough once again will be the third year for the Women's Open, just like the U.S. Open that we are going to graduate the rough. And at this point really can't give you heights, but we're going to go into it the week prior. And as I said, we're going to step cut. But we're doing this and we found that what we want to do is better equate the shot the player, in this case, missed because she didn't hit the fairway with how badly she missed it. So the farther off you go, the higher the rough's going to be.
My guess is we're probably going to end up somewhere in the 2 to 3 and a half inches for the first cut, lower cut. Then the higher stuff will be up to 4 to 6 inches. That all depends on density, folks. What's interesting is those heights are actually higher than the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines this year, but it's a completely different type of grass.
What we want to do is just take the spin off the ball, but allow the players to show their skills. That is the intent. If you hit it off the beaten path, you'll get into what you normally think of as that awful U.S. Open rough that you're probably pitching out.
And bunkers from what you see today, they're probably a little firmer than what you'll see. We purposely, unlike the men on the PGA Tour, we do try to fluff up the bunkers a little bit so they don't spin as much. Players may take offense to that, but we still think the hazards are something you want to avoid.
So that is pretty much preparation on the golf course. I will mention that those of you who live in the upper Midwest know this is a tough winner. So when you're out there, according to the superintendent a few weeks behind. So you haven't seen much growth on the golf course yet.
We did have three greens that experienced some winter damage, and feel confident that five weeks from now that most of the scars will have healed. The first green, the 11th green, and 16th green. You'll see some winter damage on there. Assuming we should get some warmth here, we'll be fine.
With that we often times get the questions, listen, what do you think is going to win this Women's Open? And with the par it was 292 this year. Is it going to be under par, over par? The answer is we have no idea. If you can tell us what the weather's going to be like the week before and the week of, we can give you a better sense. But so much is going to depend on is it going to be a firm golf course or wet? A wet golf course makes it longer. But on the flip side, the players can be more aggressive with their approach shots. And obviously, wind makes it harder for any level of player.
So what we really want to do and the philosophy for the Women's Open, just like it is the U.S. Open, the Girls' Junior, or the U.S. Amateur, we want to make it a firm but fair task. Ideally we want this to be the hardest test of the year. But at the same time we want to make sure that good shots are rewarded and bad shots are penalized.
We want to test all aspects of the game, which include the course management side, the mental side of the game. Everything from driving to approach shots to recovery shots to the short game.
With that, one thing I'll mention when I was going hole by hole on the par 4s is when you get out and see this seventh hole today. You know, that's another one that's 316 yards, pretty hard dogleg left.
And I mentioned that we're going to be moving around some teeing grounds. But that happens to be one hole that probably for one or two days we've looked at it and may move it up to that 249 tee to have a driving par 4. So if you look at it from that teeing ground, it's a wonderful shot in the sense that the player has to work her ball or curve her ball right to left. If she misses it in the wrong place, there is a lot of risk to that. But we could see a player or two hitting it on the green, perhaps making an eagle. Should be very exciting.
Cristie, use your high driver with a draw, and you'll do just fine on that. Thanks very much for all the support. This should be a wonderful women's national championship, and with that, I'm going to turn it over to Rhonda Glenn who will introduce our defending champ.
RHONDA GLENN: Thanks very much. I'd also like to make note that Minnesota's own Irv Fish, a member of the USGA Executive Committee, has joined us up here. And Irv will be happy to talk to any of you following our presentation today.
In 2007 we were at another Donald Ross course, Pine Needles Golf Club. It was a very severe test that demanded like every Women's Open demands, long, powerful, accurate driving, sharp iron play, tremendous putting, whether it's from lag putting or those four and five footers for pars. It also demanded the great sense to have the serenity to play the game and to have the will to win.
There was one person who prevailed through a very difficult week. We had a number of rain delays and thunderstorms and lightning and all of that. One person stood tall at the end of the greatest championship in women's golf, and that is our honored guests today, the defending champion, Cristie Kerr.
CRISTIE KERR: I think I remember the lightning. The golf course was closed and I saw a driving range, and a large bucket of ball was 7 bucks. So I went and I hit some of the lightning was cracking behind me, and my coach was going, really do we have to be out here? And I said yes. I didn't get to hit balls today. I didn't get to practice. I need to do something. I'm going crazy. I'm going out of my mind if I don't do something.
But it is just a pleasure to be here at Interlachen country club. So much history to this golf course. Jock Olson is a personal friend of mine. Met him here at the Solheim Cup many years ago. I'm just honored to be back. I wanted to thank the USGA for welcoming me here today and thank the media for showing up.
There are so many stories behind the U.S. Women's Open, and behind the USGA. There are too many to tell at this point. But it's a pleasure hearing Rhonda tell some of the stories about Patty Berg.
My first U.S. Women's Open was at the Broadmoor Club in Colorado Springs. Many one of the first times I had seen bent greens in my life because I'm from Miami, Florida. And they scared the bejeesus out of me. And they're very difficult to read.
But anyways, Patty was there and I did the Swing Parade. You know, I went and I watched and I got a chance to talk to her. I said, you know, Patty, what makes a champion? And she went through the list that Rhonda had said. I just fell in love with the USGA and this championship.
Since I was a little girl, I always wanted to win. I was practicing putts at my course in Miami, you know, different distances. Imagining that I might get that opportunity one day. And it was pretty special. You know, when I was young, getting the chance to meet Patty Berg was phenomenal. Just listening to her speak and how graceful she was, and how much she gave back to the game really was one of the things that motivated me ton only become the golfer that I have, but to aspire to win the championships. Because she just loved it. She gave so much back to the game. I felt like I wanted to do that some day. She's a pretty good role model to have.
You know, people had asked me, well, actually, not too many people asked me why I wore red white and blue on Sunday last year, and that was to honor her. So that's why I did that.
You know, I said, hey, Patty, I feel like I want to win this championship one day. Do you think I'm good enough? And she said, well, Cristie, you know, you just have to bleed red, white, and blue. You have to have the heart, and you have the game you can do it. And she watched me hit balls and she said I think you're good enough. I think you're good enough to do it, and that was Patty. So that was pretty cool.
You know, my first Open Championship that I played in Colorado Springs was won by Annika Sorenstam. And, you know, I think I was 11 over. I don't know how old I was then. But I was 11 over for the two days, and I think I had 11 three-putts. That was welcome to USGA golf for me. I better sharpen the putting up to be able to compete.
As far as Annika's retirement go, from a person that's competed with her for many, many years, I think I've only beaten her head-to-head once but very rewarding, nonetheless. I've finished second to her seven or eight times in my career.
I want to say it was a pleasure to have been able to play with her and watch and learn from her all these years. And I wish her the very best in years to come. She's a pretty amazing athlete and person. I'm fortunate that I've become friends along the way. She's had a great career, and whatever she does in the future I'm sure she'll do it with all the heart she plays the game with.
You know, Martha (Lang) here, my Curtis Cup Captain, we shared many memories that week. And she was a terrific captain in the Curtis Cup. You know, one of my only chances to play team competition other than the Solheim Cup. It was a very fun week for me.
I got to play with Carol Semple Thompson almost every match. Somebody I had played a lot of competitive golf with. And you just wondered how she could do it year in and year out. You know, even getting in an accident on the horse and still out there beating everybody. I learned a lot from her.
So the USGA in the many tournaments I played in, I actually never played in the U.S. Amateur, if can you believe that. I thought I'd go to college for four years and have opportunities there. But not to be.
The many USGA championships I played, whether it be the Women's Open, the Women's Amateur Public Links, to the USGA Girls Juniors, this is as good as it gets in the game. And the USGA does a fantastic job in fostering the game with young kids to doing really fun things at events to foster the game for many years to come.
So I want to thank everybody for having me here today. It's going to be a great championship here at Interlachen.
RHONDA GLENN: If we have any questions for the media for Cristie or any of the people up here, let's raise your hand and get started.
Q. What do you need to do to get ready for the Women's Open?
CRISTIE KERR: You try to do all the things necessary to peak at the right time. Last year that was the case for me. This year it's shaping up. But it might be the case for me again. I feel like I've played very well. But haven't quite come to the pinnacle of my game, which is not necessarily a bad thing when you still have the U.S. Women's Open on the docket.
For the U.S. Women's Open in particular, all areas of your game have to be sound. Your short game, especially, has to be phenomenal. You have to be able to turn a bogey into a par, which is as good as making a birdie if not more valuable sometimes as far as momentum goes. You have to hit a lot of fairways because the rough is penalizing. You have to be a very good putter. I think you'd be hard pressed to find on the list of USGA champions a player that doesn't have all of those things in total.
So you have to just continually work on your game, and just really hit the short game hard. You know, a couple of weeks before.
Q. What in particular do you work on?
CRISTIE KERR: Sure, like I said, I feel like last year before the Women's Open, my swing was okay, but needed work. There were some things that technically I needed to work o which got a lot better leading up to the U.S. Women's Open.
But my short game and putting were the things that really sustained me during the week at Pine Needle.
In particularly, I can remember the third hole, hitting a really bad iron on the edge of the bunker. Had it gotten to the bunker t would have been a lot easier, and it didn't. It made it to the upgrade and went on to carry me through. So that just shows you the importance of having the short game, and everything there for you during the week of the U.S. Women's Open.
You know, this year I feel like my swing is a lot better. I feel like there were some things last year in my short game that really needed to be cleaned up. And, you know, this year I feel like I'm a lot more consistent and a lot better with those things. I've been working on the mental aspect of it also. I feel like my game is at a point now where I can win again. And where I can be consistent on a week-to-week basis.
Last year was inconsistent for me. But I peaked at the right time, which is why I'm here. So I'm looking for that consistency again in my golf game to be able to hit so many fairways, so many greens, have so many putts per round, get up-and-down a lot.
So I feel like I'm kind of on the cusp of being able to do that week in and week out now, which is good considering I still have a month to prepare.
Q. How do you think the course will play compared to in 2002 for the Solheim Cup?
CRISTIE KERR: They'll probably be similar, they might be a little longer.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about Interlachen, and what you remember from the 2002 Solheim Cup?
CRISTIE KERR: First of all, this is one of my favorite golf courses. I said to my caddie last year, if I'm going to win an open, I'm going to win at Pine Needles or Interlachen or both. So I've got the first part of that.
But there's not a bad golf hole on this course. I love Donald Ross. He's probably my favorite course designer. This is a Donald Ross course. And he's always incorporated a very good mix of holes, but the shorter par 3s, the greens are more difficult. There are very interesting par 3s on this course which will challenge us.
And, again, those can be holes where if you do make a par, you might have a -- either a reachable par 4 or somewhat of a short hole following after. If you can look at those holes, momentum is the name of the game. There's going to be a lot of time during the US Open that there's going to be a lot of momentum change.
Q. Does it feel any different coming to the Women's Open this year, as the defending champion?
CRISTIE KERR: It's different, for sure. But I have that feeling in my belly, which I had last year, which is not a bad thing. I've always loved this golf course. I've always loved Pine Needles.
To me they're a similar feel to how, I think, the course will play very long and difficult, and demanding. You've got to have every shot in the bag. You know, I'm going to just try not to put too much pressure on my self. I'm going to try to take care of the things I know how to take care of.
I am defending, yes, but it's a brand-new championship this year, and everybody's up for it. So I've got to approach it just like I did last year.
Q. What do you think about how well Lorena has been playing this year?
CRISTIE KERR: Yeah, it's pretty amazing. Couldn't happen to a nicer person. Yes, she's very dominant. She's hitting it longer this year than she did last year. She's more consistent talk about winning a lot of tournaments, she's won a lot of tournaments over the last couple of years and qualified for the LPGA Hall of Fame now.
The confidence she has is pretty amazing to watch, and to play with her just as playing with Annika in the past, you can learn a lot from them. I'd like to be like her one day. All the things need to fall into place. After you get one or two tournaments you think, hey, nothing is impossible.
Golf is a game where if you put limits on yourself, it's limiting. But if you are open and open to the challenge, and open to saying, hey, let's see how good we can get and what we can do with it. That's what's going on with her now. She's pretty amazing.
Q. How does Annika's retirement affect you, if it does at all?
CRISTIE KERR: No, it doesn't really affect me too much. Other than the 7 or 8 seconds that I've had maybe in the next 7 or 8 years may not happen. But we have Lorena now so. No, it doesn't really affect me too much.
Q. Do you prepare specifically for the Women's Open?
CRISTIE KERR: I do, actually. You know, Jim McClain, my long time mentor, and my coach, Bryan Lebedevitch, we've always talked about winning Opens. That's why we play the game, to win Opens. And we've always kind of developed my game for that. You know, pretty straight off the tee, good iron play, good putter, great short game. That's what I've always tried to do.
And, you know, Payne Stewart who was a friend of mine who passed away a while back, he had always said he knows the value of a par. And I've always felt like a par is a good score. And the USGA and the U.S. Women's Open, the value of a par, a par is a good score. You know, you should be rewarded as much for a par as a birdie sometimes. And that is how the courses are set up, and that's how I've modeled my game and tried to fit, mold, and be mentally tough.
My game has just developed into a game where it can win Opens. That's what I've always wanted to do, and I've always felt like these are the kind of courses and under the circumstances where I've always done the best, because I don't feel like I have to make 100 birdies. Par is a good score. And that's, you know, I think what the USGA has tried to do with the championship and the game of golf is to have it be a firm but fair test, and that's what I've always been comfortable playing on.
Q. 6,700 yards, more than that. That's a very long golf course. Does that give you any pause when you hear the total yardage for this?
CRISTIE KERR: No, I've got a new driver that I hit a little farther. I've heard it's going to be long. But I was playing with a rapture driver last year. And I always launch every driver pretty high. But the one that I've been playing for the last year and a half, I hit very straight, but it always spun a lot. So I was carrying 235, 240 off the tee, and it would stop.
The driver I have now is a Ping G10, and I probably carry it the same distance, but it rolls. You and get on a launch monitor at any testing center to see how your driver matches up to the new ones. And it was just time to find something that, you know, into the wind it didn't balloon. So I have a driver I hit 15 yards longer, so I think that will probably be a good thing here.
Q. How often do you play a course with five par 5s?
CRISTIE KERR: I don't think we play them that often the courses where we have five par 5s. Usually again, you see with the USGA, because they're not afraid to shape and mold the course and the par to how they feel the course is going to play.
So if we see those conditions are usually in U.S. Open, kind of going back to the days in Scotland where par for the course changed when the conditions changed. It might have been a par 70 on a day where there was no wind. But it might have been a par 80 on a day where it was rainy and cold and windy. So they have the mindset where they want to adjust that, and keep the purity of golf and keep everything fair but tough.
Q. Does it tempt you to be more aggressive?
CRISTIE KERR: That's what I was going to say. You can be aggressive, but you have to know when to do it and not to do it. Because if you're trying to be aggressive and get to a par 5 in two, and you hit it in the rough, instead of a reachable par 5, it boxes a very long par 5, because you have to chip out and you have the long club in the green.
So hitting it into the fairway is great and open. Whether you can get to a par 5 or not. The thing about an open is strategy, where you're going to have your approach shots come together greens from. So you have the most opportunities for birdie and easy pars, because those are low-stress situations. And the more low-stress situations you have in the Open at the end of the day, that's what it's all about.
Strategy is rewarded over being aggressive, because the best score that you can make over the 72-hole championship is inevitably going to be the winner. Not always the flashy, not always the most aggressive. So there is a time to be aggressive shall and not. You have to know yourself when to do that and when not to do that.
On 10 last year in the final round at Pine Needles, I hit it left into that bunker and I was on the hill, and I was kind off antsy, I hadn't made too many birdies. I was trying to get something going. And I pulled out my 7-wood to get the short club into the green. And I was thinking to myself in the pit of my stomach, this is probably not a good idea.
And later found out that my coach was telling my husband on the sidelines, Cristie, put that wood away. That's not how you win Opens. So that is a classic story of risk versus reward. And the great thing about the USGA is the way they set the courses up and championships and venues that we play on, there's a lot of risk-reward to it.
Q. Given that you will be playing the course with five par 5s, are you worried about pace of play?
MIKE DAVIS: When we set the golf course up, we set it up to truly look at each hole for what it is. And while it is wonderful to get that balance between long-short risk-reward, and so on. I think generally speaking we look to the architect to do that.
In the case of Interlachen, I think we just looked at each of these holes and said, listen, it works the way it is right now. So is pace of play a concern? Absolutely. That's all we're reading about right now in golf periodicals.
But I think any time you have a situation of an incredibly difficult par 3, a reachable par 4, or a par 5 that can be reached in two shots, that in and of itself will slow down play.
Having said that, I think that Cristie could probably speak to pace of play on the LPGA tour this year and how it's improved. That is something that we're working at very hard at our three open championships and all of our amateur events also. So we do think about that. But we try to set the holes up for the best test we can.
CRISTIE KERR: You also have to realize how many people are in the field, 150?
MIKE DAVIS: 156.
CRISTIE KERR: Generally that's 10 to 12 more people we have every week on the LPGA tour. That's going to slow play down in itself. There is a pace of play for every golf course. That is taken into consideration.
Having five par 5s is also a good thing, because people don't feel -- if you have a very difficult par 4 with difficult hole locations, that can close things down as much as anything else. So having a par 5, may give the liberty to somebody to lay up and then keep play moving. So it is going to be interest to go see how it all plays out.
Q. How close are you to the maximum ticket sales of 22,500 per day?
BETSE HAMILTON: I'll respond to that. Based on past Women's Opens, we are certainly well ahead of the pace and currently at this point we've more than half way reached that point. For Women's Opens, the majority of the tickets are sold within the last six weeks, and so we're ahead of the pace with other championships, and we're already more than 50% there, so I think we have a good opportunity on competition days.
CRISTIE KERR: Yeah, I don't think you're going to have to worry about getting people out here. At the Solheim Cup when we had it here six years ago, it was ridiculous how many people were here. You know, that had beaten any of the crowds I had seen, including the U.S. Open. So I think this U.S. Open could very well break attendance.
RHONDA GLENN: Thank you, so much.
Q. Who do you compete against the most out there, yourself, the golf course or the other golfers?
CRISTIE KERR: Oh, yourself, by far. I mean, you talk about somebody that likes to hit a little white ball around for the last 23 years. The only person you have to talk to about it is yourself. You spend a lot of time, you know, practicing by yourself. Playing with your caddie. Your own self is the most challenging thing that you have.
Obviously, the course that you're playing, but that changes the way you are within yourself. So winning that battle within yourself is inevitably the person that wins almost every week.
RHONDA GLENN: Thanks so much, Cristie. Well, we're fortunate we have a very gracious Women's Open Champion and that's what we have. Thank you for being here, Cristie.
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