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July 6, 2011
COLORADO SPRINGS, COLORADO
RHONDA GLENN: Good morning, everyone. My name is Rhonda Glenn. I'm manager of communications for the USGA, and we'd like to welcome all of you to the annual U.S. Women's Open USGA news conference.
The USGA and the Broadmoor Golf Club have a rich history. The Broadmoor Golf Club has produced some great champions in the championships that they've held, and we'd like to mention a few of them.
In 1967, Bob Dickson won the U.S. Amateur here.
In 1959, the immortal Jack Nicklaus was the winner of the U.S. Amateur.
In 1962, the Curtis Cup match was held here, and the USA won by a record margin of 8 to 1.
In 1982, the U.S. Women's Open Amateur was played here, and Juli Inkster won one of her three straight Women's Amateur championships.
In 1995, the Broadmoor conducted its first U.S. Women's Open. And as you well know, Annika Sorenstam that week won her first professional event and her first U.S. Women's Open title.
And then in 2008, the U.S. Senior Open was conducted here, and Eduardo Romero was the champion.
As many of you know, the United States Golf Association and the R & A are partners in international governance of the game of golf, jointly administering the rules of golf, rules of amateur status, equipment standards, and the world amateur golf rankings.
The USGA's working jurisdiction comprises the United States, its territories, and the Mexico. The association annually conducts the U.S. Open, the U.S. Women's Open, the U.S. Senior Open, and 10 National Amateur Championships.
It also conducts two state team championships, and helps conduct the Walker Cup match, the Curtis Cup match, and the World Amateur Team Championships.
The USGA oversees course rating and handicap systems, conducts equipment testing, provides course maintenance consultation. And is since the year 1920, the USGA has been the global leader in the development and support of sustainable golf course management practices.
The USGA also serves as a primary steward for the game's history, and funds an ongoing, for-the-good-of-the-game grants program.
Complete information about the USGA can be found from any of the USGA communications staff workers or by checking the Internet at USGA.org. So we're very happy to be here and continue the good work of the association.
First let me introduce the president of the United States Golf Association, Jim Hyler. Jim?
JIM HYLER: Thank you, Rhonda, and good morning, everyone. Thank you all for being here for our press conference leading up to the Women's Open. It's a real pleasure for all of us, the USGA executive committee, the women's committee, and the staff, to be back once again at the Broadmoor as we continue our annual championship season.
Two weeks ago, we crowned our 111th U.S. Open champion at Congressional, and this weekend we will celebrate the accomplishments of the champion of the 66th Women's Open.
We know this will be a very exciting championship here at a really wonderful, wonderful venue.
Before we move into specifics of the championship, I have two things I'd like to make just very brief comments about. First, I'd like to be sure that you're all aware of a new national initiative that was launched in late May by the PGA of America with the support of the USGA. It's called Tee It Forward, and it's an effort to encourage golfers to play from the set of tees that's best suited for their abilities.
The idea is that golfers can potentially play faster and have more fun by using tees that provide the greatest play ability and enjoyment. What we're trying to do very simply is to change the mindset of golfers in a positive way to move up, play shorter tees, play faster, have more fun. And I, for one, have been doing that now for several months, and I like it. I encourage golfers to try it. I believe it will actually be very, very beneficial.
You might ask, Why is the USGA supporting this initiative? The answer is very simple. We believe that Tee It Forward directly speaks to the health of the game. We've heard from a number of our members and others who think that a round of golf simply takes too long. Tee It Forward can address that, it can add a new layer of fun that we believe can be healthy for the future of the game, as hopefully you play faster, you have more fun, and you'll want to play more.
The official Tee It Forward program began yesterday, July 5th, at golf facilities nationwide, and will conclude on July 17th. In fact, we have just over 1000 courses who have registered with the PGA of America to be official host for this Tee It Forward initiative.
We expect to hear from courses and individuals on their experiences of teeing it forward, and we look forward to sharing the results and feedback from this initiative as we go along.
The second topic to make a few comments about would be some words about the environmental considerations that are in place for this week's championship.
We're very pleased to be working with the Broadmoor team in this regard, as they are a great example of a facility that proactively addresses environmental issues as part of their ongoing maintenance programs.
Working very closely with the Broadmoor team, we have developed a water management plan that is judicious, relying on carefully-regulated hand watering and utilizing sustainable course-maintenance practices. The Broadmoor uses recycled water for irrigation of the golf courses and grounds.
They also have a very up-to-date irrigation system in place that includes below-ground moisture and temperature sensors, and two on-site weather stations to aid in monitoring conditions on the golf course and improving irrigation decisions.
They also conduct regular irrigation audits to keep the irrigation system in its most efficient operating mode, and all that adds up to less water used in maintaining these golf courses.
Then finally, the Broadmoor is a fully-certified golf course in the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program. They have converted more than 50 acres of turf grass to native varieties of grasses and wild flowers, enhancing wildlife, habitat, and conserving natural resources.
Again, they are a great example of sustainable turf grass management practices, and we want to salute the team here for what they do.
If you would like some more information about this, please feel free to reach out to me or to visit our Web site. If you'd like to learn more about these types of efforts, including the USGA's long and ongoing support of turf grass research, water quality protection and on energy and water conservation issues.
Before I introduce Martha Lang, let me very quickly acknowledge that Mike Davis, our executive director, is here. Tom O'Toole, the chairman of our championship committee, and then in the back of the room is Tim Flaherty, who is the senior director of the Women's Open Championship. Mike and Tom and Tim will all be available for questions as appropriate as we wrap up our comments.
Now, it is my pleasure to introduce Martha Lang, chairman of the USGA women's committee. She has served the women's committee with distinction since 1999, and during her tenure has, among other activities, chaired the girls' junior committee and the women's international team selection committee.
She is currently a director of the Women's Southern Golf Association. She also has the distinction of being a USGA champion, having won the 1988 U.S. Women's Open Mid-Amateur Championship. She played on the 1992 Curtis Cup team, and captained the 1996 Curtis Cup team.
In addition, Martha has played in seven U.S. Women's Opens, making the cut twice. In 2009 she was inducted into the Birmingham Golf Association's Hall of Fame.
As you can see, Martha has quite a playing career in her own right.
Martha, thank you on behalf of the USGA for your many, many years of service. Now, I'd like to turn the program over to you.
MARTHA LANG: Thank you, Jim.
I'm delighted to be here at the Broadmoor. It's really a wonderful place, and we're looking forward to a great week. I think Colorado Springs has some of the greatest women golfers around.
You know, you start with Judy Bell, and she's just been the epitome of golf for the USGA. She started out on the girls junior committee. She was on the women's committee, and then was the first woman on the executive committee and also the first president.
Just as a sidenote, last night we had a great night with the LPGA USGA girls golf where she and Barbara McIntyre were recognized for their yours of service, and a perpetual trophy was unveiled in their name.
We will never forget the Broadmoor Women's Open here at the Broadmoor in '95 where Annika won her first championship and her first Women's Open. She was a young kid then, but that was her first entry into really winning, and she moved on for a great Hall of Fame career. So we're happy to have her with us this week.
Tell you a little bit about the women's committee. It's a group of 14 women that volunteer to come and help conduct the championship with the USGA staff. We also conduct the Women's Amateur and the Curtis Cup when it's in this country. Then we have people on our committee that chair the championship committees for our other women's championships.
We kicked off our USGA women's championship season this past week with the Women's Amateur publinks at Bandon Dunes where Brianna Do won on the 36th hole in a wonderful venue and a wonderful match.
You know, it's nice to be here at the Broadmoor. We've got the first time we've had a championship for the women that's been over 7,000 yards. We've got a great venue with the Donald Ross/Robert Trent Jones combination golf course with terrific greens that I think are going to challenge - I think Ben is going to agree with me - that are going to challenge the women. But we know we've had strong ticket sales, and we're looking forward to a great week.
Our field here this week includes a great list of players. We have a 13 year old, Mariel Galdiano from Hawaii, to 55-year-old Betsy King, who was a two-time champion. She went through 36 holes of qualifying and qualified, and is just delighted to be here. We're just so excited that she qualified.
We have 29 former USGA champions in the field - and I think that has to be a record - but we're really thrilled to have them here.
The USGA has conducted the Women's Open for 58 years. Some of the greatest players in the name of golf have won. Betsy King, Babe Zahairas, Louise Suggs, Patty Berg, Mickey Wright, Annika Sorenstam, just to name a few. I think with this history, and in this venue, we're looking forward to a wonderful week.
I'm happy to be able to introduce Ben Kimball, who is the new director of the Women's Open. We've had a wonderful time working with Ben. We're really excited. He's done a great job. He's going to tell you a little bit about inside the ropes.
BEN KIMBALL: Thank you, Martha. Good morning to everybody. Great to be here with you. First off, I think it's extremely important to thank the people here at the Broadmoor, most importantly for me this week dealing with things inside the ropes.
Mr. Fred Dickman, the director of golf course maintenance, and Mr. Mike Sartori, who is the golf course superintendent for the east course. They have done a fantastic job in preparing for the 66th U.S. Women's Open Championship.
We look forward to a great week. We can't thank them enough for everything that they're doing.
The setup for this year's U.S. Women's Open, obviously we do - the USGA - does have an Open championship philosophy, and this year's setup remains just in line with that.
As Martha mentioned, the championship will play at 7,047 yards, par 71. That may be a little daunting to some of the folks here in this room, but I can guarantee you that the yardage is not going to be an issue this week.
The impact of the elevation - I know there is proper several players that have mentioned that already - I think with the hot and arid weather and conditions that we can get here, 7,047 is not going to be a whole lot for the best female players in the world.
I think it's important to know that on any given day during the championship week, that 7,047 number is going to vary, meaning we do have plans to look at some alternate teeing grounds and really make sure that it remains a stern but fair test for these players.
A couple of things. I know Martha already mentioned it, and I have spent most of my time here at the site at the Broadmoor on these putting greens.
As Martha mentioned, the lower holes, 1 through 6 and 16 through 18, were designed by Mr. Donald Ross, and the uppers as we're calling it, 7 through 15, were designed by Robert Trent Jones, Sr.
We can definitely see the differences from the upper to the lower. I'm sure the players have, as well. Mr. Ross did a fantastic job. Very scary on that lower half of the golf course. It's going to be important. Having local knowledge here, it will be extremely important. Keeping the golf ball below the hole on these greens and always know where the Rocky Mountains are is going to be extremely important.
I think this championship could be won or lost on the putting greens. They're very tricky. They're very, very difficult to read. I'm still finding myself looking at one direction to the next. Very interesting to figure out which way the ball is actually going. It will be a real test for these players, for sure.
As far as the rough, we do have our graduated-rough concept in place this week. I think you will find that on the shorter holes for the championship, we have our first cut of primary rough that sits at two and three quarter inches, where our harder, longer holes for the championship it sits at two and a half inches.
So it puts a premium on players driving the ball well. Accuracy is going to be rewarded, but we're finding that this graduated-rough concept works very, very well for the Women's Open Championship, and have continued in initiating that for this year's championship.
A couple other things just to mention. We are averaging currently green speeds of eleven and a half, which we feel is a comfortable speed for this year's championship. Obviously we're monitoring and watching that on a daily basis to get things consistent for the players. But.
I think it's important for everybody to realize that depending upon where you are on these putting greens, it makes a huge difference. One direction can be extremely fast, while the next direction can be extremely slow. That's why I keep mentioning, you know, where those Rocky Mountains are. That's going to make a huge difference in how the players get around the golf course.
Should be a great week for the USGA. I know that there are some alternate teeing grounds that we plan on using depending upon weather conditions. Obviously the weather is something that we always have in the back of our mind. That's obviously something we can't control: Mother Nature.
We're looking forward to a great week, and hope that the best players in the world really enjoy this firm but solid test of golf.
RHONDA GLENN: Thank you, Ben.
Now we'll take questions from any of you if you have one for Ben or Martha or Jim. Please, I'll monitor them, and if you'll wait for the microphone to arrive, then we'll take your questions.
Q. Ben, it's been 16 years since the Women's Open was here. I just wondered if you had a thought about, you know, how the changes in the game in that time have impacted how you set the golf course up.
BEN KIMBALL: Well, you know, I'm sure it's definitely impacted how we set the golf course up.
Obviously with the changes in equipment, that's probably made the biggest impact of how we set the golf course up.
You know, the Women's Open in 1995 I believe was set up for a little over 6,400 yards. But at the time, the par was a little bit different with the hole No. 3 actually being a par-4 instead of playing as a par-5, which it will this week.
But, you know, obviously these caliber players, they're hitting the golf ball much further than they were back in 1995. The equipment has gotten that much better, which obviously impacts the setup quite a bit.
But feel very, very comfortable with where we are, and think that it's going to be a good week for them.
RHONDA GLENN: Questions?
Q. Just wondering if you could give us any specifics on the alternate teeing grounds.
BEN KIMBALL: You know, there's a few holes out there, obviously depending upon wind and weather, that we're looking to move around. It's pretty obvious out there that, you know, the possibility of a couple of par-5s that we could move up to make a little bit more risk-reward.
Obviously the wind has to be in our favor in order to do that. I think hole No. 9 is a possibility to where we could see some action a little bit later in the week.
Also, you know, the par-3, No. 12, we do plan on using a variety of the teeing grounds that are set up there, but obviously that's based upon weather conditions and firmness of greens. We want to make sure that we're setting it up appropriately for the shot that the players are hitting into those areas.
There's a few more that we have. Once again, it's all based upon weather conditions. Obviously, you know, we have to watch the weather. We don't want to push something up and it be - or moving a tee around - and it be soft and not accomplish what we're really wanting it to accomplish.
So as the week progresses, I think we'll kind of monitor what Mother Nature is giving to us, and you may see a few more things happen on the golf course.
RHONDA GLENN: Questions?
Q. Whoever is most comfortable addressing this, but how much have you looked at the Rolex Women's World Rankings as far as using that as a gauge here? Can you just evaluate how close you might be to using that, if you are close?
JIM HYLER: I think that's a Mike Davis question.
RHONDA GLENN: Mike Davis, our executive director.
MIKE DAVIS: Very good question. It is our hope long-term to utilize the women's rankings. Because I think as the years go on, just like it was or is with the men, trying to evaluate one tour to another tour to another has become more and more difficult for the USGA.
So we haven't done it yet simply because we wanted to get more comfortable with the Rolex Women's Rankings. I think that the four major tours involved with that, those rankings, are in the midst of continuing to review them.
I think that you're going to probably see us in the next year to two to three years when we get comfortable enough that they are legitimately representative of who the best players in the world are. We probably will go to that.
That way, it becomes far less political for us of how many exemptions one tour gets versus another tour versus another tour versus the other one.
But good question.
RHONDA GLENN: Thank you. Questions?
Q. Again, this is to setup, but I wondered if you learned things from the Senior Open that apply here this week. I was here for it, and as I recall the greens were especially fast at times. I don't know how that is relative to this week.
BEN KIMBALL: It's a great question. You know, we'd be silly if we didn't look back to 2008 and evaluate how the setup was for that championship as we apply it to this one.
I think, you know, for us, the things that we're really focused on is firmness more than anything else.
Obviously the men have the ability to hit the golf ball a little bit higher than the women do, so we know we have to work with the firmness to allow some of these greens to be very, very receptive to the shot that these women are hitting in. Hole 11 and 12 being perfect examples of that.
We did learn quite a bit about putting green speeds as well. Obviously with the hot and low humidity conditions here in Colorado, things can dry up and change rapidly on you. That's something that we're very aware of as far as our maintenance and water management practices on the evening and morning.
We're trying to stay pretty true to putting down what we need to make sure that we can get through each day without things tending to get a little away from us.
But, you know, it would be really silly if we didn't look at 2008 and really take something from it and try and improve on it in 2011. I think all the staff that's involved from a rules and competition standpoint - and also with our USGA greens section - are very aware of kind of some things that happened in 2008, and we're being proactive in trying to avoid any of those things for 2011.
Q. The players come in and they talk a lot about how difficult it is to adjust with club selection. From a setup point, if it's difficult for the players, is it difficult for the people setting up the golf course to try to project or speculate how certain shots are going to play and things like that?
BEN KIMBALL: You know, it's very interesting. The comments from the players, those are things that we're always wanting to hear and review. I think the only way we can get better at what we're doing in our golf course setup is have an open ear to what the players are saying.
I had the ability to review some of the other comments from players that were in here with you all, and I think everything's falling right into line with what we want.
There are certain things that we're going to agree with; there are certain things we're going to disagree with. Being our national championship, obviously we want to make sure that there is the ultimate test.
I think, you know, for the most part, we're well in tune with kind of what they're saying, and we want to make sure that even though everywhere you go you're going to hear a little complaining or whining about certain things out there, I think the setup is very fair.
And from the players that I have had the ability to speak with, they realize that this is the U.S. Women's Open, and that they've got quite the test, the battle, in front of them, and are ready to accept the challenge that we've laid out for them.
RHONDA GLENN: If you need any additional information, you can check with the USGA communications staff.
Meanwhile, we hope all of you have a great week at this Women's Open. We're sure looking forward to it.
Thanks for being with us.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports