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July 8, 2015

Ben Kimball

Diana Murphy

Matt Sawicki


ADAM BARR: Welcome, everyone, to the 70th U.S. Women's Open championship conducted by the USGA here at Lancaster Country Club. My name is Adam Barr, Senior Director of Communications for the USGA. Joined today on the dais by our Vice-President and Chairman of the Championship Committee Diana Murphy; to her left Championship Director, Ben Kimball; and to his left Championship Director, Matt Sawicki. We would like to recognize Women's Committee Chairman Stacy Collins, and all the members of our Women's Committee who have joined us today. Let's begin today with Diana Murphy.

DIANA MURPHY: Thank you, Adam, and thanks to all of you for being with us this week. It certainly is an exciting week. The entire USGA family is honored and thrilled to bring this national championship, the premiere event in women's golf, to Lancaster Country Club for the first time. It's a historic course that opened in 1900, created by the renowned architect, William Flynn. The 70th U.S. Women's Open represents what has become a truly global and growing game, as evidenced by, again, another record in our 1,873 entries this year that we received for the U.S. Women's Open. Again, that broke last year's record at Pinehurst, and we anticipate that being a trend that continues. We're seeing players from all over the world want to compete in this national championship, and this year are able to compete by either meeting one of our 17 exempt categories or by qualifying at one of our 25 sectional qualifying sites certainly in the United States, but also in England, in Japan, and the Republic of Korea and the People's Republic of China. Again, it's quite a diverse and international field. What is also pretty impressive about this field now of 156 players is that we have ten U.S. Women Open champions playing again this year, and of course led by our defending champion, Michelle Wie. We have representatives of 25 different countries. We have 25 amateurs competing, including 11 players in the top 50 of the Women's World Amateur Golf Ranking, and 52 players who are making their first appearance in this national championship. We also have some pretty diverse ages. We don't have a 11-year-old this year, but we do have ages from 14 to 51. We're also very proud to announce that this year, the championship purse will be $4.5 million. The championship is the pinnacle of women's golf around the world and we're quite proud to celebrate it with the players in this fashion. We're also pleased to welcome the global golf community to this charming picturesque Lancaster area as it hosts in Pennsylvania the 83rd USGA Championship. It takes its rightful place among the more of the more venerable names as Merion, Oakmont and Saucon Valley. History no doubt will be made among the rolling hills of this beautiful course this week. Today you may have noticed some pink flag sticks on our 18 holes, that's because the LPGA USGA Girls Golf Program has young girls from the Harrisburg and York Chapters on all of our greens welcoming the players today in their practice rounds. So if you're wondering who those young ladies were in their pink shirts, again, it's another initiative that we're quite proud of in working with the LPGA. We expect record crowds in excess of 20,000 to 25,000 this week, really the community has just turned out in a remarkable fashion to support this championship. And you probably have noticed, as the players have, they're feeling we're already on championship day -- day 1 or day 2, based on the crowds that they're seeing in the practice rounds. They're extremely excited about it and I think it's going to be a wonderful venue of spectator support while we watch these champions play, beginning tomorrow. We also are continuing with our championship this season, FOX and FOX Sports 1 will be airing 18 hours of live coverage. Additionally, the broadcast will be available in more than a hundred countries around the world bringing these elite players, this gem of a golf course to a mass audience globally. Obviously none of this could be accomplished without a terrific team and I'm honored to work with some great colleagues within the USGA, including certainly our championship directors, Matt Sawicki and Ben Kimball; our championship agronomist, Dan Brevard; and our assistants that keep us all out of the trouble most of the time, Carolyn Gulbin and Nancy Auerbacher. We really cannot overstate all the hard work that has been done by the members of this golf course. And we'd be remiss without certainly acknowledging everyone, but particularly the leadership, certainly the membership, needed to be supportive of this. But the leadership of this golf course has been exceptional in bringing The Open to this area, and I'd like to particularly recognize our general chairman, Jerry Hostetter; our championship director, Barry Deach; general manager, Scott Irwin; golf professional, Rick Gibson; and certainly most importantly, as we are all thrilled to see the condition of this golf course, the superintendent, Todd Bidlespacher; and equally as important, his secret bullet, which I think is his dog, Ben, who is with us every morning as we're waking up the golf course. We're also very excited about seeing the hard work that everyone has put into this to what we think will be beginning tomorrow an exceptional U.S. Women's Open. I know you're probably curious about some of the method behind the madness of what we're doing early in the morning, and so with that I'd like to turn over the comments to Ben Kimball, who will now share a little bit more details about our course and our course setup thinking for the rest of the week.

BEN KIMBALL: Thank you. Good morning, everyone. Thank you for being here. Certainly glad you're here for the 2015 U.S. Women's Open. We're going to take a few minutes of your time to talk a little bit about our golf course. Needless to say, I don't know how much time the golf course itself, those of you have been out on it at this point, speaks for itself. It's fantastic, it's ready to go. It's everything that we would want to help us determine a national champion. Preparing for this championship with the folks here at Lancaster has been energizing and rewarding, especially my time spend with Todd Bidlespacher, golf course superintendent, and his wonderful staff who have us very well positioned for a successful championship. I'm going to cover a variety of things here for everyone, specifically about the golf course. As Diana alluded to, this is a William Flynn design, opened in 1920. It's considered one of his most impressive designs by most golf course architecture experts that you speak to. This is one that he spent time at annually until his death in 1945. He was here for about 25 years, tinkering, making this place better and better. And obviously we can see that he succeeded. The result is a 6,483-yard golf course that will play to a par-70 for the championship. I think it's important to point out that that 6,483 number is a little deceiving given that half the tee shots on this course are hitting to upslopes. And obviously with Mother Nature leaving us with almost eight inches of rain in June, you're probably seeing that it's a relatively soft golf course, so to speak, so it's probably playing a little bit longer than that number reads. With that being said it's very, very unlikely that you will see the golf course play at its full yardage at any point during the championship. There's a solid variety of golf holes throughout the golf course. Players are going to have to work the ball in both directions. It's certainly going to test their physical abilities. We hope it tests their mental stability throughout the championship, as well. But, in essence, the golf course is very traditional. And Mr. Flynn's design will not only help us identify who has the best strategy to get around this place, but who can also execute that said strategy. A couple of comments about the putting greens. They were regrassed in 2011-2012 to an A1/A4 bentgrass mix, hybrid mix. I know you may not have been able to get too close to them at this point, but they are absolutely perfect. Only a couple of years old, they've matured, they are perfect. We're excited about where we are there. The average size for the putting greens is about 5,500 square feet, where the least amount of square footage is the 8th hole, which is slightly larger than the 4,800 square feet. The biggest green, as you probably have seen, you walk by it often, is the 18th green, slightly larger than 7,800 square feet. It's funny, it's the largest green, and probably has the fewest locations on it to putt a hole. If your spend much time on the setup in the morning, you'll see we spend a lot of time on the 18th green, largest green with the fewest amount of hole locations. But we're going to take good care, there. Putting green speed for the week, we're looking at about 11 and a half on the USGA Stimpmeter as an average for the putting greens. A lot of these greens are very severe, back to front, there are a lot of false fronts on them. Anything above a target range of about 11 and a half, you start to lose some quadrants of putting greens. We want to make sure we have those quadrants to run the championship, they strategically fit into our course strategy, so that's why we will settle into a range of 11 and a half on the Stimpmeter for putting green speeds. A couple of comments about setup philosophy. We intend this to be a comprehensive test of golf, not necessarily the hardest test of golf. We want to make sure that the player hits every golf club in their bag. We want to make sure that they can hit all shots. And as I mentioned before, we want to make sure that it tests not only their physical abilities but their mental stability, as well. I'd love to use the word at this point of firm and fast, but Mother Nature hasn't cooperated with us, so we're dealing with a slightly softer golf course than we would like. But kudos to the agronomic commitment to the folks at Lancaster for taking all the right steps to prepare us for a firm and fast golf course. It's just unfortunate that seven plus inches of rain in June and some in the early part of July are keeping us from what we'd like to see. It appears that Mother Nature is going to be handling all watering on the golf course for the rest of the week. We constantly evaluate the hole on its own merit. We think it's important to look at each individual hole as its own, make sure that we're setting it up in the best way possible for the championship. And that's how we get our overall yardage. We want to make sure that each individual hole is fair as we go around the golf course, it all fits into our course setup philosophy. We do plan on using several alternate teeing grounds during the championship based on weather, firmness, and just our strategy for the week, you will see in a variety of areas, several of the teeing grounds moved up on a variety of holes each day. Like I said earlier, you'll never see the golf course play at 6,483 yards during the championship. Average fairway widths is approximately 30 to 34 yards wide, it's relatively wide, for the best female players in the world. Certainly they want to hit fairways this week, for obvious reasons. And given the ryegrass rough, we'll be using a graduated height of cut of rough. Some specifics on that to share later on. At the end of 72 holes, if we do have a tie for the championship, we do -- the USGA in 2010 or '11 implemented a three-hole aggregate playoff for the U.S. Women's Open Championship. We've used it once since we implemented it back in 2011. If we have to go to a playoff here on Sunday, the holes that we'll be using for that are 12, 13 and 18. Great par-3, very solid par-5 and an unbelievable par-4 to finish with the 18th hole. A couple of things getting a little bit more details on specifics with the golf course. I mentioned we will be using a graduated rough. To give you a little idea of what that is, obviously fairway, there's a six-foot wide intermediate rough cut. It's cut at 800, slightly less than an inch. That's six feet along the fairways, approximately 24 inches wide around putting greens. That's cut daily, that intermediate rough. Outside of that we move to our primary rough, which is currently being cut at two and three-quarter inches. It's approximately 15 feet around all fairways. And that's being cut daily, as well. We're finding that in that primary rough players that are hitting it into that area, about seven out of ten balls in that rough are playable all the way to the green. It appears that they're sinking down more than they actually are. If you see a ball roll into the rough here, it looks like it's going away. Once you stand over the top of it, most players are going to see that they'll be able to advance that all the way to the green. That's our primary cut being cut daily at two and three-quarter inches. Outside of that, our secondary rough, also being cut daily, it's at three and three-quarter inches in height. That's the balance of the rough grass that you see out there. Most of the times it's running right underneath the rope line, it's adjacent to the primary cut. We'll cut that daily all the way through. Players that hit into that, you're likely to see three out of the ten balls get to the putting green. That's more of a rough that they have to play a little bit shorter shot out of it. They're going to have to think. Fairway is going to be important this week. We're hopeful we'll get some drying weather. The rough will dry out a little bit. I know that the rough is thick and wet at the current time. If we can get some drying weather, it will have a significant impact on the rough and its overall playability. A few comments on a few golf holes that I think will be of interest this week. There's no need for me to touch on all 18, but a couple on the front nine are worth mentioning. Hole 4, some of the most picturesque par-4s I think in all championship golf are right here at Lancaster Country Club. Probably some of the strongest par-4s in championship golf that I've seen are right here at Lancaster Country Club. But starting off with the par-4, 4th hole, as I already mentioned, one of the great -- probably one of the great short par-4s that I've ever come across. Approach shots into this long and narrow green may be easier for a player chooses to hit a tee shot that hugs the water hazard. Those that choose to avoid the water at all costs will have to overcome a slightly worse angle. That tee shot is pretty intimidating from the back tee on 4, where that creates hovering on the right-hand side. I think that is a golf hole you'll see the tee get moved around a little bit to bring the creek a little bit more into play, but one of the great holes on the front nine, and certainly in my view a hole where players are going to have an opportunity to score. Before I move on, I think you will find over the next four days that the front nine is where most of the scoring is going to take place. Some of the shorter par-4s are on the front nine. The par 5, 7th hole, relatively straightforward. I think all the scoring you're going to see is on the front nine. I think the averages will end up showing that at the end of the week. Moving along, hole No. 5, the par-4, 5th hole, is the only hole on the golf course where Mr. Flynn designed it where there's an elevated tee to an elevated landing area. Everything for the most part is an elevated tee to an upslope or an elevated tee to something below the level of the golfer. Very interesting dog leg. Most times you want to cut the corner off of a dog leg. This par 5, the further you play it out to the right, the flatter your lie gets. You may have a better opportunity to see the 5th green. It will be interesting to see how the players choose to play the 5th hole over the next couple of days. Certainly they have to get it up there far enough to be able to see the putting surface below. You move through the rest of the front nine, you get to hole No. 8. I think that's when the golf course really starts to dig in. The par-38th hole is going to play anywhere between 177 yards up to probably a little over 200 yards. Very, very difficult par-3. It annually plays as one of the most difficult here for the members at Lancaster Country Club. It's the beginning of a very long stretch of demanding holes heading into the back nine. As you over to the back nine, very difficult start tomorrow for the three women that have to tee off the back nine first thing in the morning the. The back nine is tough. It will be very tough. Come Saturday and Sunday, as the leaders move into that back nine, I think we're going to see a lot of interesting things happen. You need to hold on to a lead, protect a lead. There can be a variety of numbers that can be made on this back nine. It will be interesting to see what happens on these great par-4s. The only break, really, on the back nine, in my opinion, is hole 13, par 5, a little over 500 yards. Still requires two very good shots to get to a plateau to give you an opportunity to see the putting surface. But that may be about it. After 13, you turn to 14, where you're getting into an upslope, uphill second shot. 15, very demanding tee shot into another severely sloped putting green from back to front. And then you get to one of the more picturesque holes on the property, par-4, 16th hole. The final stretch of holes from 14 to 15, I think, once again, provide a lot of entertainment, a lot of drama down the stretch. We certainly think 16 is going to be a big part of that. And certainly as you reach the tee on the par-4, 18th hole, which the players are probably thinking that it's a par-4 and a half, very, very demanding finishing hole, very strong. I think it's certainly going to help us identify who our national champion is. This is also a hole that given weather conditions and wind will probably play forward a couple of times. Can't go much more forward than what the players are seeing it at. But it's a phenomenal finish coming up the hill looking at the clubhouse in the background, just a beautiful look. So all in all, we're very excited with where we are with conditions for the golf course. We need Mother Nature to help us a little bit, dry things out over the next couple of days. We're really excited with the comments that we're hearing back from the players, the caddies, those of you in this room. This is a fabulous venue, certainly glad that the USGA has chosen to be here for the 2015 U.S. Women's Open Championship and certainly hope that you all enjoy your time here and the wonderful play and we'll see the next couple of days.

ADAM BARR: We'll entertain questions. Please wait to begin your question until they reach you with a microphone.

Q. We're probably going to get some thunderstorms maybe Thursday, Friday. How late will you play till? Do you have a set time? It starts getting dark at 8:30 right now, shortening up the days. Have you thought about that?
BEN KIMBALL: How late will we go if we have thunderstorms during the day? We'll go until dark. Certainly we want to get this championship concluded on Sunday for everybody, the players, our television partners and FOX. Because we have so much light on the back end of the day, we'll go into it's too hard to see.

Q. You'll make that determination on that at that time?
BEN KIMBALL: Yes. We certainly have to evaluate how long we're delayed, how much golf we have left. There's a variety of factors that go into the decision making there. But if the golf course is playable and there's no threat of weather we'll certainly go until it's certainly hard to see.

Q. I was wondering with all the weather, what do you expect the greens to be running?
BEN KIMBALL: The greens are staying true to our average right now. They're actually pretty tight. We want them to be consistent for the players. We were looking at them yesterday in our daily meeting with the grounds staff, and they're in about a seven-to-eight-inch range from fastest green to slowest green, which is really, really tight when you talk about what we do for a living. They're averaging right at 11 and a half. I think we can still get there if we do have a lot of weather. But you almost have to tell us what's going to happen and then we can kind of give you an answer to that question.

Q. The incident yesterday with the caddie, you guys have been -- you've done a lot of stuff over the years. Have you ever seen anything remotely like that? And tell us a little bit about the process that you went through to figure out how to deal with it.
DIANA MURPHY: Let me start with that and, Matt, if you want to join in. You're right, we probably haven't seen anything quite like that before. And quite simply, as you all know, golf is a game of honor and integrity. And unfortunately we found a caddie who was attempting to get some information that would benefit his player and not the whole field. And there was just no question in our mind that we needed to prevent that from happening to protect the total field this week. So it was a terribly poor judgment on his part. I've seen some reports that are not accurate in how we handled it. We certainly took the time to explain it to the player and to make sure she understood why this was a violation of our policy, why the caddie wasn't allowed in the rules trailer to begin with, certainly not allowed to take pictures of the information that he was taking pictures of for he and his player's benefit. And expedited his exit from the course, and the player was able to find a replacement caddie quite quickly.

Q. Another question on the length of the course. Is that going to play about 6,200 yards, then?
BEN KIMBALL: I don't know that I can -- in a general range, yeah, it will probably be in between 6,200 and 6,350, somewhere in there. Once you do the calculations from where the actual tee markers are to the flag stick, it will probably end up being right around there. We can't get too far ahead of ourselves, we do have to wait and see what Mother Nature does. It may do something that requires us to go even less than that. As of right now, I would say it's staying put, in that average. But if Mother Nature decides to do something different this afternoon or tomorrow morning, we will adjust. That's what we have to do.

Q. When you do get the downpours and the rain and everything, your rough will grow real fast. Will you come out there with mowers again, or are you just going to let it go for that day and a half or day?
BEN KIMBALL: Very good question. We've had some good practice with rain and then having to mow the rough. Certainly the rough is growing crazy, hence the reason we are cutting it daily and will continue to cut it daily. But what it's going to grow in a 12-, 16-hour period is not going to make that much difference. It may look a little untidy, but it's not going to have a huge impact on playability, if we do have to skip a day due to weather. That's a conversation we have daily in our 2:30 meetings with the golf course superintendent. For some reason if it's going to cause more damage to the golf course to mow rough, we'll stay away from it. Ultimately the fairways will be cut daily and it will be easy on the players if they manage to hit it right on a straight line.

Q. One question I had as it relates to spectators, a specific area on the golf course, at the top of the hill behind 10 green, 18 tee, 14 tee, 17 green, it appears that with large spectator numbers that are predicted that that's an area where there could be some congestion. Has there been given any thought or is there a plan in place to either an extra number of marshals in that area or kind of a redesign of the freeway system up there, if you will. Just curious what your guys' thoughts or plans are with this.
MATT SAWICKI: That's a great question. We're always cognizant of the spectator experience, and looking to provide the best experience, not only to the spectators but for the volunteers and the players on the golf course. That area is a fun area. And I smiled when you brought it up. I think one of the highlights of that area is actually the players standing on 17 green can look across AT 13. The players on 18 tee can look straight back and see their fellow competitors. They're going to hear a lot of roars in that area. As far as the rope lines, themselves, you know, we look at the rope lines on a daily basis. And we're constantly out there checking and watching, making sure that spectator flow is the way we want it to go. Our volunteer numbers will increase over the weekend and those increase as the crowds increase. So what you've seen out here on Monday and Tuesday, it's practice rounds for all of us. We're trying to make adjustments and make sure we've got it right. We've been planning for five years, and some of those plans have come to fruition perfectly, and others we continue to adjust to get it right. It's an area we'll watch. I think overall it's going to be a very fun, loud, festive and real championship atmosphere back in that area.

Q. What are your thoughts about hosting the men and the women together at the same venue, the likelihood that we'll see that again?
DIANA MURPHY: I'll start with that. Obviously we could not have been more delighted with the experience last year at Pinehurst, and particularly what we learned about the Women's Open and the women's players, and how to even more appropriately do setup to accommodate their length and making sure -- as you know, we tried to make sure that they were hitting similar shots into the green. So it was a great learning curve for us that we've certainly applied this year and will going forward. As you can imagine, the logistics of doing back-to-back championships is not the easiest thing to do for a venue, much less for us. But it's certainly not something that we will rule out. Based on our current schedule, we don't have anything planned at the moment. But I think that we are all very enthusiastic about embracing that as a possibility going forward.

Q. I just wanted to ask you guys what the process was in creating this Junior Day, and if it's a way to promote the game to a younger demographic?
DIANA MURPHY: Absolutely. We have championships, both the U.S. Junior and U.S. Girls Junior as our national championships, so that's a part of our core DNA, if you will, to begin with. And then to be able to broaden our partnerships with other organizations like the LPGA or the AJGA or other groups, the PGA of America, for that matter, we're extremely focused on trying to help selectively as a team to continue to expose young people to the game, first of all. And then once they're exposed to it hopefully get excited enough to want to play or volunteer, even. And then through volunteerism, perhaps get the bug to play the game. Today is a great example of that. The kids that are out here are as excited as they could be. But more importantly the players are pretty excited about being met off the green with some of those young boys and girls. Great question, thank you.

MATT SAWICKI: I just echo Diana's comments with regard to growing the game. But I think we were looking to be innovative here as far as doing something else. And that's where working with our partners at the LPGA, we brainstormed and we talked about this idea of actually placing girls on the putting greens, tending the flag sticks, giving them direct interaction, and actually putting them in the places that many of these girls aspire to be at one time. The other thing we did is we took areas where we thought, you know what, maybe we can put the kids inside the ropes so, again, they can get that firsthand experience. The neat part about golf and spectating at a golf event is that anybody can buy a general admission ticket, and especially here where we have a junior, kids in free policy. They can sit in the front row and reach out and be right there. You don't get that at other sporting events. There aren't too many kids on the front row at the baseline of an NBA game. To be able to put them inside the ropes and put them even closer than we would normally I think has been a great experience for a lot of kids out there today.

Q. Just back to the caddie quickly. If he was bound for the week that would seem to suggest that the USGA thought he was doing this maliciously. Do you know that to be the case or do you accept that this could be some kind of misunderstanding?
MATT SAWICKI: I think in our discussions amongst our staff and discussions with the player and the caddie, himself, we decided that the caddie not being able to caddie for the week was the right course of action.

Q. You were talking about the ropes behind 18 and 17. Has there been any other challenges of finding spectators on the course, as they don't lend themselves to spectators.
MATT SAWICKI: As much as Ben and Diana love the William Flynn design, for those of us who work outside the rope, it presents its own challenges. You think of the 15th and 11th holes. We had allowed spectators to walk between those holes. We watched on the practice round, it's an example of our inside the ropes and outside the ropes teams working together, while they're watching the holes, watching how the ball bounces. We realized we were too close to a landing area in a place balls could end up. That night we added a couple of crosswalks and made an adjustment to the rope line. As much as Ben and I could work hand in hand and make adjustments, there's some challenges. But I think overall, at the end of the day, it's a great experience for the spectators and I think they're going to have a great time out here.

DIANA MURPHY: Obviously we put bleachers where we could, to get them more horizontal to accommodate some of that, too. We'll see as the week moves on.

ADAM BARR: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much. We appreciate your coverage of the 78th U.S. Women's Open Championship. Everyone have a great week.
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