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July 4, 2012

Joe Goode

Ben Kimball

Martha Lang


JOE GOODE:  Good morning, everyone.  And a very happy 4th of July.  My name is Joe Goode and I'm the managing director of communications for the United States Golf Association.  I would like to welcome you to Blackwolf Run here in Kohler, Wisconsin for the 67th U.S. Women's Open Championship.  It's been 14 years since the USGA last conducted a Woman's Open here at Blackwolf Run, and we're excited to be back.  All of us at the USGA take great pride in having the opportunity to welcome the golf industry, the players, the corporate partners, the media and fans from around the world this week.  We're proud to celebrate especially through the Women's Open the diversity of this great game, showcasing the beauty of the original championship course here at Kohler and witness the game's best players as they compete in golf's toughest test.
The U.S. Women's Open has been conducted annually since 1946.  And a list of champions is a veritable who's who of the names from around the world.  Since the first championship won by the great Patty Berg the USGA has fully embraced the Women's Open as an opportunity to make the game we all love more welcoming and more inclusive.  Over the course of this morning's news conference, we'll provide an update on the USGA's efforts to sustain the game.  Our preparations for the 2012 U.S. Women's Open and a review of some of the course features that are sure to challenge the field of 156 competitors.  It's now my pleasure to introduce Martha Lang, chairman of the USGA's women's committee.
MARTHA LANG:  Thanks, Joe.  Good morning, everyone.  It's a pleasure for the USGA to be back at Blackwolf Run for this Women's Open.  I'm just pleased to be joined by Ben Kimball, director of the Women's Open Championship.  Before I comment on the state of the women's game, I would like to make a few comments.  First, I would like to take this opportunity to remember a woman who was very special to the USGA and a passionate and tireless ambassador for women's golf, especially the Women's Open.  Barbara Douglas, my predecessor as Women's Committee Chairman, passed away in January after a long and valiant battle with cancer.  She refused to let her diagnosis get between her and the game that she loved so much.  She scheduled her treatments around her committee duties and not the other way around.  I was honored to call her my friend and she is greatly missed this year at the Women's Open.
I would also like to direct our thoughts and prayers to Colorado Springs, the site of last year's Women Open at The Broadmoor.  The region continues to battle fierce wildfires that have scorched homes and businesses and sent tens of thousands of people from Colorado Springs and other communities.  It's a very difficult time for the community and we want to acknowledge our support for them.
At the USGA our 2012 championship season kicked off in June with the 37th Curtis Cup match.  It was at Nairn Golf Club in Scotland, and we congratulate the team from Great Britain and Ireland for their spirited win, and we look forward to 2014 at the rematch at St. Louis Country Club.
Most recently we've added Webb Simpson as our U.S. Open champion and Kyung Kim as Women's Amateur Public Links Champion.  We look forward to adding to that roster this week at the Women's Open.  United States Golf Association has promoted women's golf since 1895 when it hosted the first U.S. Women's Amateur, one year after the association was founded.  Today this legacy supports remains strong with USGA conducting six championships especially for women, including the Women's Open, which set a new record for entries with 1364 this year.  The 2012 Women's Open field includes a long list of great players with widespread and diverse backgrounds from 13‑year‑old Angel Yin to 52‑year‑old Juli Inkster, who has won the championship twice and is competing in her 33rd championship.  This will tie her with Marlene Hagge for the most appearances in championship history.  Juli is also one of 27 USGA champions in the field.
We're excited to return to Blackwolf Run.  This was the site of one of our most dramatic championships in Women's Open history.  It took a grueling five days and 92 holes to crown the champion Se Ri Pak, capturing the championship over Jenny Chuasiriporn and forever changing the face of golf in America.  The globalization of women's‑‑ of the women's game particularly in Korea can be directly tied to Se Ri's victory here at Blackwolf Run.  In 1998 there were three Koreans in the field.  This year we have 28 Koreans competing for our championship.  Since 1998 there have also been four Women's Open champions from Korea, including our defending champion So Yeon Ryu.  Many of these talented women can identify July 6th, 1998 as the moment they realized that they had the chance to play golf in the United States.  The USGA is proud to be a part of that moment.  Today the Women's Open field reflects a more diverse game with players representing 25 countries, including a very talented roster from the United States.  Through the Women's Open, the USGA continues to commit to playing a meaningful role in promoting golf in and around the world.  As part of the five‑year strategic plan led by executive director Mike Davis and the USGA staff, we continue to work to make the game more welcoming to women, minorities and juniors.  As one example, we are actively supporting the games like Get Golf Ready, a grassroots partnership initiative with the PGA of America that teaches the basics that an individual needs to know to play golf in just a few short lessons.  The program has proven itself particularly successful in exposing women and minorities to the game with women totaling 60% of all the total program participants and ethnic diverse individuals making up 29%.
As further commitment to the opening of the game to new and emerging markets, our 2012 U.S. Open host championship site, the Olympic Club, will play co‑host to the U.S.‑China youth golf match.  This match which will be played in August is a collaborative effort by the United States Golf Association and the China Golf Association and reflects the USGA's mission to promote the game in a larger way.  We're also very proud of our partnership with the LPGA and the collective support for our LPGA‑USGA girls' golf program further exhibiting the USGA's longstanding dedication to introducing the game to young women.
Since 1989, this program has grown from 15 sites to more than 240 sites throughout the United States.  Girls‑only teaching environment allows girls age 7 to 17 play golf in a fun environment, build lasting friendships and prepare for a lifetime of enjoyment of the game.  We are proud to debut for you today a public service announcement in support of the LPGA‑USGA Girls Golf.  The two organizations have worked together to conceive and produce this PSA, which will subsequently be aired on the LPGA tournament broadcasts and be made available for other promotional uses following the USGA Women's Open broadcast debut on NBC and ESPN.  Let's watch this PSA.
(PSA Played in Media Center).
MARTHA LANG:  In addition to this new creation, we are pleased to have contributed $200,000 in 2012 to continue the success of girls' golf, which has reached more than 90,000 girls since its founding with approximately 10,000 girls participating this year.  Finally, we remain strongly committed to Tee It Forward, an initiative that was developed with support of the PGA of America.  After a successful pilot last summer, tens of thousands of golfers are now playing from tees more suited to the distance they actually drive the ball, saving time and making the game more fun.  Today we are promoting Tee It Forward year‑round.  USGA has begun to work with state and regional golf associations around the country to promote its use and effect a long‑term change in playing habits that will ultimately strengthen the game.  We are very thankful to the LPGA Tour and the players for their aid in promoting these initiatives that are vital to the USGA mission.
Paula Creamer, the 2010 Women's Open champion is a passionate ambassador of Tee It Forward, along with Dustin Johnson and Jack Nicklaus.  We are very pleased to have 2005 Women's Amateur Champion Morgan Pressel join our support of girl' golf as the national ambassador earlier this year.
In short, the USGA is devoted to sustaining the game we all love for current players and for future generations of golfers.  On behalf of the women's committee, I thank all of our associated organizations for their support.  Thank you very much.  At this time I would like to turn it over to Ben Kimball, the director of the Women's Open.
BEN KIMBALL:  Thank you very much, Martha.  Happy 4th of July to everyone.  We are indeed glad to be back at Blackwolf Run.  Wisconsin is certainly taking center stage in the golf community this week and the courses are a great part of that run.  Along with the two championships here at Blackwolf Run, Whistling Straits hosted the 2007 U.S. Senior Open as well as two PGA Championships in the last eight years and another up coming in 2015.  Combined with the 2020 Ryder Cup at the Straits as well as the 2015 U.S. Open and two past U.S. Championships at Erin Hills, it's a good time to visit the state of Wisconsin if you're a golf fan.
I have had several visits to Blackwolf Run and have worked very, very closely with Michael Lee, manager of golf course maintenance and his staff who have done a wonderful job in preparing this golf course for this national championship.
We see it as a very, very stern test for the very best with the game this week.  There are a few key areas that will be very interesting to follow during the competition of this year's Women's Open.  I would like to briefly describe some of those to you and give you an example of what we're looking for this week.
Designed by the legendary architect Pete Dye, the original championship golf course comprises what is now holes 10 through 18 of the Meadow Valleys course and holes 1 through 4 and 14 and 18 of the River Course.  Most of you have probably seen in the information surrounding you that the golf course itself will play the 6954 yards at a par‑72.  That's about 500 yards longer than it was back in 1998.  I'll briefly touch on where some of that length has been added for the 2012 championship.
The biggest change you'll see on the golf course is the 7th hole this year will be played as a par‑5 instead of a par‑4.  We're really, really excited about this change.  This hole back in 1998 ranked as the second hardest hole on the golf course during the championship and a lot of it had to do with the combination of it playing with a steady north wind for most of the championship week.  The green wasn't as receptive as we originally anticipated.  It was the second longest par‑4 in 1998 besides hole No. 18.  So a new teeing ground was built on this hole and added the total yardage is now 590 yards that from this teeing ground the players will be able to choose how aggressive they want to be with their tee shots.  They have to negotiate a very elevated ridge line on the right‑hand side at least to the fairway.  We feel that bringing this ridge line back into play was very, very important to us, posed quite a challenge for the players.  By giving them a shorter iron in for approach, it definitely sets itself up nicely as a par‑5.
Probably the most significant reason to see added length on the golf course since 1998 is to give us flexibility within teeing grounds out on the golf course.  Be able to mix and match as needed based upon what wind and weather conditions we do get during the course of the week.  We definitely like to have this flexibility built in on as many holes as we possibly can so that we can adjust as Mother Nature throws us some curve balls if she decides to do so.
People have been telling me this is the longest Women's Open golf course to be played at sea level.  I don't necessarily feel that length will be an issue.  It didn't seem to be an issue last year at The Broadmoor, even though we were playing at elevation.  I didn't hear much from the players in that regard.  But with that being said, I think it's important to realize that on any given day because of the flexibility that we do have with the teeing grounds, I don't think you'll see the golf course played close to the full length on any given day.
The front 9 and back 9 here at Blackwolf Run are quite balanced with a variety of long and short holes.  The front 9 starts with a difficult par‑4.  Properly named Quiver.  Not only is it the first hole of the national championship, but that uphill second shot tends to have people quite nervous.  It's a significant uphill approach into probably the smallest green on the actual championship routing.  Par here is going to be a wonderful score to start.
Another hole to talk about, the par‑4 fifth hole which played as the most difficult in 1998 requires players to position their drives on the left‑hand side of the fairway and be able to have the best angle into any hole location on this green.  That's one of the shorter par‑4s on the on the golf courses for the 2012 championship.  So it will be interesting to see if this plays as difficult as it did in 1998.
I already touched on how the par‑5 7th will play different this year.  We're anxious to see how the strategy of the players will use there.  The par‑3 6th hole I envision probably at times could play as the hardest par‑3 on the golf course.  Of course, I've heard some conversation from some players that think 13 is a little more difficult than hole No. 6.  The 6th hole this is a hole we will definitely mix and match some teeing grounds on due to the difficulty.  Players will have little room for error on this tee shot.
I find that Blackwolf Run is, as you can see, there are very, very wide fairways out here.  I feel it's a second‑shot golf course.  One bad swing on the second shot could lead to some trouble for most of these players.  The back 9 presents some good opportunities for players and us championship week as well.  I strongly believe most players will be able to find some scoring chances on the great back 9.
The par‑5 10th hole which usually benefits from the prevailing wind coming from the south, southwest will likely look to move that teeing ground up into a position where players can possibly get home in 2, depending upon what wind we are getting that day.  The stretch of holes 13 through 15 played as the easiest in 1998.  With no major changes to yardages there, I wouldn't be surprised if there's some scoring opportunities in those areas as well.
Who could forget the memorable par‑4 18th hole where Se Ri delivered some wonderful drama to all of us watching here and at home with a wonderful recovery shot she hit to continue the playoff that led to her second major championship victory.
So a lot of great things going on on the golf course.  A couple of holes to watch possibly during the championship.  Obviously, the 6th hole, the par‑3, I mentioned that before with the forward teeing ground, but a tucked hole location on the left‑hand side may be something that could potentially come up.
The par‑4 14th hole provides a drivable par‑4 option for us with the teeing ground placed anywhere in between 275, 285 yards.  That could be a very good option for us down the stretch, especially with the water hazard lurking down the right‑hand side.
As well as the 17th hole, which I think the players are‑‑ excuse me, the 16th hole first.  I think players are still trying to figure out what's the best way to play that hole.  I think we're going to try and change their strategy on it on a daily basis to make sure they're using the mental aspect of the game as part of their daily round.
And last, coming to a venue that's previously hosted a Women's Open is definitely a positive for us.  We get the opportunity to review old notes, watch the television footage to find out with a works, what doesn't work.  We definitely tried to take a hard look at each individual hole to see what can be done to make it more challenging but at the same time keep all the great architectural features in each of play for the world's best players.
Just a couple of things more specific to the golf course itself.  Right now we envision the putting green speeds tomorrow to average right around 12 or slightly over.  They are putting beautifully.  I think we'll see folks make a lot of putts; very, very smooth.  Speed is good.  We're really excited where we are in the putting greens.  And just more of a note, similar to what we've done in years past with the Women's Open championship, we do have the graduated rough and more significant first cut of primary rough at three on holes that have short approaches, examples being holes 1, 2, 4 and 7.  And a less significant first cut of primary rough on the holes that have longer approaches at 2‑1/2 inches.  So the long par‑4s like 3 and 12, you'll see a significantly less high cut of primary rough at 2‑1/2 inches.
Let me just say again how excited we are about this year's Women's Open.  Being back in Wisconsin, a state known for having great golf fans, only makes it even more special to be here.  We're thrilled with where the golf course is at the current time and look forward to actually getting play started tomorrow.
At this point, I would like to leave the golf course for a few minutes and comment on our ongoing efforts to best meet and hopefully surpass the expectations of all of our constituencies, players, spectators, fans and the community.  For the first time at the Women's Open, the USGA is allowing spectators to bring cellphones into the championship.  We recognize that cellphone usage is an every‑day practical convenience and we're happy to allow the spectators to use technology while on‑site.  Anyone who needs to make a call must do so away from competition to be courteous of their fellow spectators as well as the players when using their cell phones.  We ask all of you to help in spreading awareness of our cellphone policy which is available in both the spectator guide and print and at uswomensopen.com.  For those golf fans who wish to enjoy the Women's Open from afar and on the go we continue to make improvements in delivering an integrated view of our championship coverage.
At uswomensopen.com fans get the very latest information, concerning championship, play schedules, real‑time scoring, social media feeds through our @usopengolf Twitter handle and much more.
Beyond our digital channels, our television broadcast continues to be increasingly successful platform for sharing the excitement and the drama that will unfold this year at the Women's Open Championship.  This year ESPN and NBC will air 14 hours of live U.S. Women's Open coverage helping the USGA to reach millions of people with this wonderful game of golf.
Now I would just like to take a moment to express our gratitude to our partners here at Blackwolf Run.  This is a wonderful, wonderful golf facility with an exemplary group of individuals supporting its operation.  In this period leading up to the championship we have benefited greatly from their expertise and dedication, and on behalf of the USGA I would like to thank all the leadership and staff for your professionalism and your passion.
I would like to particularly recognize Mr. Herb Kohler, the chairman and CEO of Kohler Incorporated, general and chairman and director of golf Jim Richerson and Kohler's championship director Barry Deach for all of their efforts.  And a very special thanks to manager of Golf Maintenance Mike Lee, along with his staff of Jeff Wilson and Ron Bierwith and their entire crew for their outstanding efforts on preparing this wonderful golf course.
JOE GOODE:  Ben, Martha, thank you.  I want to open things up to questions now.  Who would like to get us started?

Q.  Just maybe a point of clarification on the setup.  Juli Inkster had recalled that maybe the rough was a little higher back in '98.  I'm wondering if that is indeed the case, if anybody can answer that, and if some of that may be a product of the weather.
BEN KIMBALL:  I'm not exactly sure what the final height of cut on the final day of the 1998 U.S. Women's Open rough was.  I'm willing to bet ‑‑ the setup philosophy from '98 to 2012 was changed significantly.  I say that in where I talked about the varying teeing grounds.  It seemed like in 1998 we were more along the lines of this is where the tee sign is.  We're going to play here from all week and just let things completely grow.  But obviously with our executive director Mike Davis taking the lead, we've thought a little bit harder on how best to determine our national champion, and we feel that the graduated rough concept we have in place is probably the best thing to determine this national champion.  That doesn't mean that come Sunday this week the rough may be a little bit higher than what they are seeing right now.  But it's only Wednesday.

Q.  Ms. Lang, can you talk about what you are most proud of in the diversity factor trying to get more diverse participation in golf?  And where do you think it falls short?  What more would you like to do?
MARTHA LANG:  I think that our programs with girls' golf, with trying to include women and minorities, I think we're making great strides.  It's not to say that we're there, but we're certainly trying to improve.  I think we've done a very good job.  And I think as we start with the young players, that that's where we'll grow.

Q.  Ben, just wondering given the forecast this week and the number of people on the golf course, what provisions are being made for spectators in regard to the heat and advice and cautions and have there been any problems this week?
BEN KIMBALL:  You know, I'm not aware of any issues, Gary, that have come up to this point.  But obviously even for everybody in this room, we have to make sure we all are taking care of ourselves while we're out in the heat.  Passed the same message along to even my staff last night as we were having a meeting about it.
The weather forecast itself actually before I walked in here to visit with all of you, I was able to catch up with our meteorologist.  Thursday, Friday, Saturday, they are going to be warm days.  I think come Sunday it's going to get a little bit cooler.  That Lake Michigan air is going to start to blow from the east come Sunday, so things will cool down.
I know our operations team and staff here have taken some precautions, added some additional seating areas and some shaded areas, particularly more in between holes 13 and 14 to take care of our spectators while they're here.  But hopefully people know to drink a lot of fluids and stop and take rest when needed.  We want to make sure we have a safe championship for everybody that's involved.

Q.  Ben, just a follow‑up on the cellphone issue.  It's such a hot button issue in golf right now.  When did you come to this decision and what does it mean going forward with other championships?
BEN KIMBALL:  It's a great question.  This is a very manageable environment for us to be able to test out this policy.  We're excited of having this opportunity at the Women's Open.  Obviously it's something that's regularly seen week to week on the LPGA Tour.  I'm not necessarily privy to all the conversations about how this week and the use of the policy this week will go on to other championships moving forward, but we feel that it's important because cellphones are in every‑day use by all of us in this room to bring our spectators and fans a little bit closer to the game.  So we're excited to see how it's going to turn out.  It's going to be a new experience for all of us, including our rules officials.  But we hope it's going to be a pleasant one and get better and something that the folks, the leadership at Golf Haus will continue to talk about and maybe down the road discuss for other events.

Q.  Back to the course, do you know what the greens are running early week and what you might expect them to get to by the weekend?
BEN KIMBALL:  Obviously, with the excessive heat that this part of the country has had over the past couple of weeks, or some folks in the room may even say months, it would be silly on our part to push it too much early on in the week, the golf course itself, simply because the sustaining a golf course in heat for seven days is very difficult to do, especially when dealing with large fairways like they have here.  And a lot of what we do at this point in the championship is all hand‑watering, meaning we have individuals out there doing it.  We're not using overhead irrigation.  It's very difficult to keep up with a lot of the watering.  We felt it was smarter on our part to ramp up as the week goes on as opposed to start at a certain level.
So green speeds at the beginning of the week on Monday were averaging in the middle 11, 11‑1/2.  And we're slowly creeping up now to where we're at 12, 12 and one inch is kind of the average.  It will continue to stay right around there.  It will probably plateau at 12‑1/2.  Won't get much higher than that.  That's about what the greens can do.  That's probably all we're going to let them do.  You'll see a slight increase from day‑to‑day.  But probably not more than a couple of inches, which even to the greatest players in the world is hardly noticeable.
JOE GOODE:  Time for one more question.  Thanks very much for joining us today.  And enjoy the week.

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