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Park Looks Forward to Next Year's International Crown
Inbee Park and all of her fellow South Korean touring professionals were forced to sit on the sidelines last weekend as the Americans and Europeans battled it out in the 13th Solheim Cup at Colorado Golf Club.
But Park, the unquestioned No. 1-ranked player in women's golf, won't be a non-participant next year as she will be able to compete in the new International Crown tournament July 21-27, 2014, at Caves Valley Golf Club in Owings Mill, Md. The 2016 event is slated to be held at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, Ill.
Like the Solheim Cup, the event will be held biennially in a match-play format. It will feature four-player teams from eight countries, with the winning entry, according to the LPGA Tour's website, being "crowned" the world's best golf nation.
Park, who's won six times this year - including the first three major championships of 2013, is excited about the International Crown. "I think it's going to be very huge, especially over in Asia," she told reporters Tuesday from the site of this week's Canadian Women's Open, Royal Mayfair Golf Club in Edmonton.
"It's going to get a lot of big impact on women's golf. A lot of people back in Korea asked me why we weren't playing Solheim, so we expect to see you playing, what type of format it was and what type of players was playing on it. They were saying like all the Korean people who were watching TV and following me, they were like, oh, it's not fun this week because you are not playing. So I told them next year that we have something similar like that, a team play where we can play. Yeah, it'll be nice."
The LPGA Tour announced the International Crown concept in January at the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando. It will be the women's equivalent to the men's matches, the Ryder Cup (USA vs. Europeans) and Presidents Cup (USA vs. Internationals), which take place in the odd years from each other.
"It's something that we spent three years developing," tournament director Rich Thomas said. "Really wanted to get it right. Everybody always asks us, 'Why don't you have a Presidents Cup-style event - USA versus the rest of the world that's as global as our tour?
"We wanted to expand on it further and it became country versus country because, while it's great how the Ryder Cup is set up and the Solheim Cup is set up, there's something to be said about carrying your own flag and a bag with your country flag on it and not a bag that says, 'the rest of the world.' We took a lot of time and put a lot of effort into getting it right and making it feel special for the Australians, the Koreans and a lot of the different Asian countries."
"Our Tour is so global and we need this type of event," said Stacy Lewis, currently ranked No. 2 behind Park. "People always want to know why golfers from Asia are so good. Well, now we can see how all the countries stack up. The more we can showcase our Tour around the world, the better. Representing your country is the ultimate thing. Getting announced on the first tee when you are representing the USA, it doesn't get any better than that. It's a goal of mine to be in the event."
"It's like preparing for the Olympics," said erstwhile No. 1 Yani Tseng of Taiwan. "In Taiwan and in Asia, we don't have a team event like this. This is a good opportunity for us to play for our countries. It's really going to be awesome. Right now, we have three Taiwanese players that play fulltime on the LPGA Tour. Hopefully in the next two years, we can improve our junior program and get more Taiwanese players on the LPGA. This tournament will really help us with that goal."
Australian pro Sarah Jane Smith noted that players from her country felt like they were on the outside looking in at the recent Solheim Cup. "To be honest, I've been a little jealous of Solheim," she said. "It's something that I always thought would be so great to be a part of, and I just think it's such an amazing experience to have something where I can represent my country as a professional. This is such a unique experience that I really hope I'll be a part of it."
Park, who finished as the runner-up by three strokes last year in the Canadian Women's Open to teenage amateur sensation Lydia Ko at Vancouver Golf Club, discussed the International Crown team competition and other subjects during her sit-down session with reporters at Royal Mayfair. Here's what the 25-year-old from Seoul had to say.
MODERATOR: I would like to welcome in Rolex Rankings No.1 Inbee Park to the media center. Thanks for coming in. Last time we saw you, you were at the Women's British Open going for that fourth consecutive major. Came up a little short, but you got some well deserved time off, went back to Korea. Take us through the last two weeks. Did you get any rest? What have you been doing?
INBEE PARK: When I was in Korea I obviously met up with my family and friends and I did some charity work. I did some stuff for sponsors. Everything kept me really busy. Yeah, I really enjoyed my time there. I feel like I'm more refreshed, feel like I'm ready to go again.
MODERATOR: What was the charity work?
INBEE PARK: Well, I'm an ambassador in Korea for Make A Wish Foundation, and one of the kids' wishes were playing golf with me, so I did their wish and spent some time with them. Yeah, I went to a hospital for heart disease with my sponsor.
INBEE PARK: Well, yeah, I knew that I played this golf course, but I saw the golf course and it looked pretty new to me. The course is very challenging, I think, very narrow fairways and fast greens. The greens are rolling so pure. I love greens like this. The last couple weeks, last month actually, we didn't get this kind of speed yet, so I'm really excited to play fast greens and pure greens again. Yeah, I love the golf course here, yeah.
MODERATOR: Lydia was just in here a few hours ago and she obviously won this event. You were runner up, but you got the first place check. But she said she saw you on the practice green and she was taking notes on your putting. Were you trying not to give her too many pointers because she might be gunning for you again?
INBEE PARK: No, not at all. I saw her actually on Sunday when I came out here and practiced on the greens. Looks like she played the course before me. Yeah, I could give her advice, but I don't think she really needs advice. She's a good enough player, I think. I mean, she's a very talented player. Last year I had a good memory of Canadian Open where I finished second but got a first place check. It would be nice if I could actually get the trophy and the first place check this time. But yeah, I'll try my best this week and just see what happens.
MODERATOR: Now, I asked Lydia, as well, big week in women's golf last week. You said you watched the Solheim Cup last week. What did you take away from that event and the competition and the spectacle? It put a really good spotlight on women's golf. What did you make of it?
INBEE PARK: Yeah, I watched a little bit, and looks like every - I think it looked really good as a friendship for all the players. Obviously a lot of people watched Solheim Cup, and it's very exciting. It's a different kind of format where you don't play by yourself but you play with your team. That's not something that we always do here. It's nice to see very good competition like that and everybody really wants to win for their team. Yeah, especially when we have International Crown next year, I want to be part of it. This time, Solheim, I'm not European or American, so I couldn't be part of it. But next year we get some similar opportunity like that, so it'll be nice to compete in that and be part of it, yeah.
MODERATOR: Yeah, a lot of people said where are the Asians this week, where are the Australians, and maybe people aren't necessarily too familiar with that event. How big do you think that event will be, being able to showcase how global this Tour is?
INBEE PARK: I think it's going to be very huge, especially over in Asia. It's going to get a lot of big impact on women's golf. A lot of people back in Korea asked me why we weren't playing Solheim, so we expect to see you playing, what type of format it was and what type of players was playing on it. They were saying like all the Korean people who were watching TV and following me, they were like, oh, it's not fun this week because you are not playing. So I told them next year that we have something similar like that, a team play where we can play. Yeah, it'll be nice.
Q. Can you talk about there's a lot of expectations on you, the record and stuff at the British Open. Do you feel like there's a weight off your shoulders now coming to Edmonton?
INBEE PARK: Yeah, I feel like I'm a lot more relaxed now. I mean, I experienced some big pressure in British Open. Yeah, that week was big, and it could have been great if I could have played a little bit better, but some weeks you don't play your best. Yeah, but I had a great experience there, so I think that experience will help me throughout this season and my career.
Q. Do you come into tournaments now expecting to win? Is that where you are?
INBEE PARK: I mean, I don't expect to win every week. That's definitely not the case at all times. It depends how my condition is, how my ball striking is, how my body is. I mean, I feel really good about this week. I'm hitting the ball great and putting really good. I love these greens here, so I feel good about it. I feel like I'm ready and feel like all the pressure is off, and I feel like I'm starting new now.
MODERATOR: Two weeks off; I know you practice hours and hours, you're one of the first ones on the range, one of the last ones to leave. Do you cherish your time to practice and really get technically sound rather than competing week to week and try to figure it out? Do you take into consideration the practice week is very, very important or do you like the grind of playing every week?
INBEE PARK: Well, I like actually working on my game while I'm on the golf course. It's better if I'm actually even playing a tournament and working on things during the tournament because no better test than tournament golf than everything else. But you definitely need a rest, especially the season that I had this year. It takes a lot of energy off of you playing every week by week, especially being in contention a lot of the weeks. That takes a lot of energy, so you definitely need time to rest and time to refresh. I feel like I just did that the last two weeks.
Q. Can you elaborate a little bit more on the course? There's a lot of guarded greens here. The wind can be a bit tricky. What are you finding is going to be the challenge of this course?
INBEE PARK: Well, I think the challenge here will be hitting fairways, and obviously you have to avoid three putts because these greens are so quick that downhill putts, you can a little bit over hit it and it can go 15 feet past. I've been working a lot on the greens to get the speed right. I mean, I know the wind today, it blew a little bit on the back nine for me, and I couldn't read the wind exactly because a lot of trees were blocking it. It'll be important to actually read the wind and actually get the right speed of the greens. But everything about this golf course - this golf course played a little bit long today, but if it dries out a little bit, I think it's going to play at a very good distance. I think it's really like a major setting golf course. It's very challenging. It's going to test a lot of parts of your game, yeah.
Q. What happened with you this year? You've been on Tour for a while, and now all of a sudden you're dominant. What was the switch that got flipped, and how can I flip that same switch?
INBEE PARK: Well, I think just everything just - I had my bad times after the win in U.S. Open, and I wasn't experienced or I wasn't used to the Tour. My game was just not ready yet. But over the time, I worked on everything a little bit, little bit by little bit, and it improved, I think, every year. Last year I've learned a lot from finishing second places a lot last year. I think I finished six times second place or something like that. So after that kind of experience, this year when I'm in contention I feel a lot more comfortable and I have a lot more confidence to win.
MODERATOR: Thanks for coming in. Good luck this week.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.
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