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March 31, 2015

Seiji Kondo

Takashi Shiki

Lexi Thompson

Mike Whan


THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everybody. Thank you so much for being here in Rancho Mirage, California. Hard to believe, but the first major of the year in golf is upon us, and we thank you very much for being a part of this week, and the ANA Inspiration, newly named, and a great tradition. My name is Kraig Kann. We want to welcome you here. This is a new chapter to an event with long-standing tradition that is now in its 44th year. It is born again this week. There are a lot of folks here standing on this stage in just a few moments and who will be around this golf course this week who, very, very proud to say, that are here with smiles on our face this week. A fantastic defending champion, the best field in women's golf, and a whole lot to play for, including that trophy and something that we'll talk about as well here in just a moment that is right behind me. With this new tradition, comes a tradition that you'll be a part of here in just a few moments, and we're pretty excited about that as well. This tradition celebrates new beginnings, and that is what this event really is here this week. Let me first introduce the folks who will join me on stage. I begin with the Executive Vice President, Takashi Shiki, Marketing and Sales for ANA. Seiji Kondo for Imabari Towel is here as well. Thank you very much for being here. I think you know this next young lady. Dry for now, but wet a year ago and wearing a very special robe, the defending champion of the ANA Inspiration, please welcome, Lexi Thompson. Without a partner like ANA this tournament doesn't happen. Without history it is not as great as it is. Without a tournament director, we don't go anywhere either, and we have one of the very best in the business. Please say hello to Gabe Codding. It also gives me great pleasure to welcome the Commissioner of the LPGA. Please say hello to Mike Whan. So I mentioned the ceremony that's going to take place. You're looking at it right in front of all these folks here. Exciting times. This ceremony is known as Kagami-biraki. It is a ceremony performed at celebratory events in which the lid of a saki barrel is broken open by a wooden mallet right there. Kagami refers to the lid of the saki barrel, and biraki means to open. So Kagami-biraki literally means opening the lid. Now because of the lid's round shape, the Kagami is a symbol of harmony. The Kagami-biraki therefore represents an opening to harmony and good fortune symbolizing a new era for the championship with a new sponsor, a new journey for ANA, together with the LPGA. Are you all good, Mr. Commissioner? A new tradition is born here today. Yet this event is all about tradition. To talk about that a little bit more, please let me bring back up the Commissioner of the LPGA, Mr. Mike Whan. I wasn't expecting to get wet during the ceremony, that was an additional bonus. Last night we had the past champions dinner at the Ritz, and we celebrated this incredible tradition with many of the past champions from this event. I talked about last night, and I want to tell you that the first time I met ANA I knew we had the right partner, because what they asked me is how can we build on the traditions that already exist? A lot of partners will ask how do we create new traditions, but few ask how do we build on the traditions that already exist? Well, it was November, so we knew we were on tight timing for 2015. I asked them for two things. No. 1, Dinah Shore, let's play for the Dinah Shore Trophy, let's play on the Dinah Shore Championship course, let's play on Dinah Shore Drive, let's continue to play with and for Dinah Shore. That was about a 30-second conversation when they said we completely agree. I knew we were onto something special. The second thing we challenged them with is the robe. We really feel like the robe, just like the leap in Poppie's Pond has become something truly special. And we wanted the robe to continue to grow just like the tradition of the leap. From there, the ANA executives said we've got it. Let us take it from there and take this tradition to a whole new level. Once you get to know ANA, and I think we all will over the decades to come. You'll realize their attention to detail is truly special. And you'll see what they've done in just a few short months to take the robe to a whole other level. You'll be as overwhelmed as we were. Let's take a look at the short trophy of what's happening to the robe with the ANA Inspiration. [Video playing.] So today, with Kagami-biraki we've started the new tradition. We've respected the Dinah Shore tradition, but we're also going to elevate a current tradition to a whole new level. So, Executive Vice President Shiki, Chairman Kondo, ANA flight crew, can you help unveil the 2015 ANA Inspiration robe? Lexi, you've done a marvelous job not touching the trophy or the robe so far. Well done. At the LPGA, we look for business partners we can be in business with for a long time. People that not only respect women's sport, respect women's golf, but also are willing to not only accept traditions, but take them to a whole new level. And on behalf of all of us at the LPGA, our players, our staff, our media partners and our global fans, Executive Vice President Shiki, thank you very much for what you've done for the women's game, and now the stage is yours to talk to us about ANA. Thank you very much.

TAKASHI SHIKI: Thank you, Mike. It's a pleasure to be here at Mission Hills Country Club for the ANA Inspiration. On behalf of All Nippon Airways, we are excited to unveil the new champions robe. It was important to carry on the tradition drying off the champion after her historic jump into Poppie's Pond. We are proud to have a new high-quality, Imabari robe, inspired by Japanese tradition. If you are familiar with ANA, we are a global airline known as the inspiration of Japan. ANA is known for its award winning service, and we hope to breathe that spirit of life at the ANA Inspiration. As the official airline of the LPGA Tour, we share the LPGA's mission to grow globally. We look forward into inspiring the future generations of women's golf by hosting this event. We'd like to wish all of the players the best of luck this week. Thank you very much.

THE MODERATOR: Mike, let's talk a little about the word upgrade, if we can use that based on our airline partner, because that is what this event is really all about this week and the robe is part of that.

COMMISSIONER WHAN: Yeah, anybody who flies for a living like we do appreciates the word upgrade. It is the quickest way to get a smile on your face. That is really what this has been. It's been a respect of current traditions and an upgrade to the ones we have. Which, exciting to me, not only about the robe is we kind of have it in the corner there, but even the way the robe will be displayed this week will be different. I call it the glass closet will be on the first tee. It's lit from the inside. On the 18th green on Sunday you'll see the glass closet on the 18th green. When the champion wins, we'll actually open the closet and reach in to get the robe, it already feels more special to me. I think the fact that you brought some traditions from Japan, you married it with some traditions here in the desert, and you made it an upgrade for the LPGA. That's exactly what partnership is all about. So this is another case where upgrade makes me smile, so I think this is going to be fun. From the minute a fan, a player, a caddie, or somebody from the media walks on the first tee and sees it behind the glass on Thursday, I think you'll realize that we're playing for the trophy. We're playing for history, but we're also playing for this new robe.

THE MODERATOR: Lexi, I know you have a press conference coming up in a few moments. But let's talk about the robe and what it meant to slip that on last year, and now you're looking at this one which you haven't touched, correct?

LEXI THOMPSON: No, I have not touched it.

THE MODERATOR: The commissioner touched it. Your thoughts on what it meant to slip it on last year?

LEXI THOMPSON: Well, it meant the world to me. To put on that robe after jumping into Poppie's Pond, that's always been a dream of mine that I've always seen myself do. Just now seeing the upgrade with the new robe, it's always a tradition at this tournament to put that robe on after jumping into Poppie's Pond. But to see the new upgrade, it's incredible. This tournament is just upgrading every year with ANA helping out now.

THE MODERATOR: From what I understand the quality of this robe, if you jumped into Poppie's Pond and put that on, you'd be dry in 12 seconds.

LEXI THOMPSON: That's what I hear. Hopefully I'll be finding out.

THE MODERATOR: We'll talk about your golf in a little bit, but talk about what you felt when we talk about the term upgrade. You were here at media day just a couple weeks ago. You talked about the importance of the majors for you and for your career. What does it mean to have ANA, and how they may inspire you to play big in majors?

LEXI THOMPSON: Once we heard we might be losing this tournament is going to be very sad for a lot of us, but once we heard ANA is coming in to sponsor the new event it was just a relief. This is such an amazing event with the tradition and the history behind the tournament. To have this new sponsorship with ANA, it means the world to us that we keep this event strong here and keep on upgrading with our traditions. You know, it's a very inspirational event. I've always looked up to the past champions of this tournament, and they've been huge role models to me. So hopefully we'll keep that tradition going and inspire others.

Q. We've seen tournaments where new sponsors have come in and traditions have gone by the wayside or courses and stuff like that. You talked about keeping the traditions. Was that a requirement of you for the sponsor, or were you saying the sponsor wanted to keep them anyway?
COMMISSIONER WHAN: Yeah, luckily we never had to get to the term requirements. The very first meeting I was a part of was in New York. I know they had a meeting the week before in Japan. They said, How can we help? And I said the two things I said here. I said, help us remember Dinah Shore. At one time the tournament carried her name, and at this point players from around the world play for her trophy, they play on her course, and they play on her drive. The fact that that was done, absolutely, I agree with that. You can see the trophy. The trophy was a great start. I think the bottom line is the more you get to know ANA, you the more you get to realize it was the tradition of this event that enticed them. Obviously, they like the LPGA. We're global, they're global. Golf is borderless, and crosses gender and so does ANA. But their understanding of our traditions, all the way to the CEO level, people that have been here, played it, seen it, it was -- I hate to use the term -- but it was inspiring to sit across the table from people that knew the tradition. Their first question was how do we grow on it. So I never felt the need to require anything because they were already there.

Q. Not to be crass, but how much would one of those robes cost at retail?
SEIJI KONDO: Hundred-thousand yen.

COMMISSIONER WHAN: That's 14 years of a commission ear's salary. How much is hundred-thousand yen? $1,000 U.S., but they're not for sale.

Q. This is an ANA question. Curious in terms of the Olympics coming to Japan, how much of that played a part in becoming a partner with the LPGA?
TAKASHI SHIKI: There wasn't a direct relation with the Olympics coming to Japan. However, we've been operating with the United States for 30 years now. Unfortunately, ANA is not popular and not very famous yet, and that's why we want to use this opportunity here for this wonderful tournament so that people can get to know more about us and our wonderful company. And we definitely hope that in the course of that, our members here in the U.S., will also be supporting us as we continue on into 2020 as well.

THE MODERATOR: Commissioner, a question about last night's champions dinner. For those in the room who couldn't experience something like that and see just how special it was to have everybody come back. I know we've talked about the importance of tradition, and that robe being there last night and to listen to the buzz amongst those players, what does that mean for this organization?

COMMISSIONER WHAN: We've talked before, I think in media settings and in player meetings about how majors are career defining. Wins are important. I think wins are exciting. But a lot of times when the career is over people wrap your career many times on major wins. And to hear so many different women talk last night about how this major changed their lives. How this major moment is something that they'll always remember. And there is a sorority that was there last night. There was only one way to get a ticket, be a commissioner or communications officer or win something in the desert. But it was pretty impressive. At every table we had one or two champions, and every champion was inspired by -- Nancy Lopez said to me last night as Lexi walked by, she didn't hear it or see it, but she said I'm inspired by her. I think it's neat the inspiration goes back and forth. I want to thank Rolex for making last night major. I mean, this event started Monday night for a lot of us, and the flight path just keeps getting better every day. It felt great. I think if you weren't in that room, you want to be in that room. And if you are in that room, you've never felt more proud to be there. So this is a special, special thing. I told the audience last night the most memorable moment in my career as commissioner in six years was sitting here in the desert when a sponsor told me that 2014 was going to be their last year. It's funny how all the good stuff you do, you remember the one bad conversation. We've said many times let's not be the team that stops this tradition. So I'm grateful. I'm honored, and I'm so excited that the next generations of young women, some that are playing in this event, and some that will be watching it on TV all around the world, can not only have this dream, but know the dream will still be there for them. So on behalf of all of us, thank you very much for keeping this dream alive.

THE MODERATOR: Kagami-biraki means opening the lid. You were all part of that tradition just a few moments ago. I want to thank each and every one of you for being up here on the stage. On behalf of the LPGA and Commissioner Mike Whan, harmony was a word we talked about. Inspiration is something you'll hear a lot about this week. This is an exciting new time not only for the Women's Championship, but also for women's golf. We appreciate each and every one of you being here today. Most of all we thank you at ANA for being part of this championship, for being part of women's golf, and for upgrading this championship over the next many decades. Thank you very much for being here. Thank you everybody.
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