Featured Golf News
LPGA Touts Founders Cup
It's impossible to say the LPGA Tour's inaugural Founders Cup has gone unnoticed by the players. The event, which will be held March 18-20 at Wildfire Golf Club in Phoenix, will feature a "mock purse" totaling $1.3 million, all of which will go toward junior golf and other charities.
Though many think it's a good idea - including reigning LPGA Player of the Year Yani Tseng of South Korea and Americans Brittany Lincicome, Christina Kim, Natalie Gulbis and Angela Stanford, some have voiced their concerns about the tournament.
One of the oddities of the event is that players will be credited with earnings "won" for money-list purposes, based on how the "purse" would traditionally be distributed. They'll also get points for Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year, Solheim Cup qualifying, etc.
The charitable pool for the top-five finishers will be $200,000. The first-place finisher will donate a prize of $100,000, second place $50,000, third place $25,000, fourth place $15,000 and fifth place $10,000. In addition, $500,000 will go to the LPGA Foundation and its LPGA-USGA Girls Golf program.
"To have the purse be $1.3 million and the charity not get $1.3 million because it's imaginary money, I'm having a difficult time with that," Creamer told GolfChannel.com at the recent PGA Merchandise Show. "If we were able to have $1.3 million in real money sitting there, and donate it back, I would be the first one to sign up for this event."
The tournament has a sponsor, RR Donnelley, a communications company, which will pick up the tab for some player costs such as players' hotel rooms and caddie fees.
Among the biggest supporters is Christina Kim, who thinks the idea's a good one. "I truly feel like sometimes athletes in general can sometimes forget where we all come from," Kim told an LPGA liaison. "The founders of the LPGA didn't have the endorsement opportunities that we have today. I am so proud of (LPGA commissioner) Mike Whan's vision, for remembering it's not just about the future of the game, but also about remembering and honoring the past."
On Tuesday, Whan along with various dignitaries, including Marilyn Smith, one of the LPGA Tour's co-founders, met with reporters to discuss the new-fangled tournament. Here's what they had to say.
DAVID HIGDON: Good morning, everybody. A very exciting day for us at the LPGA. My name is David Higdon, head of communications for the LPGA. I'm looking forward to coming back next month and working with everybody joining us at that time. The RR Donnelley Founders Cup is a special event. First time ever an event of this type and magnitude. The theme which is certainly reflective of our wonderful panel today is really to honor our founders and our past, to showcase and celebrate the present stars of the LPGA, and really to provide for the future. That's going to be a theme that you're going to be hearing for the next several weeks and certainly throughout the whole week of the RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup.
The panel today, give you a little bit of an idea of what we're going to do. We'll have a few folks come speak a few words to you, then I will do a little Q&A with those up here on stage. We have Marilynn Smith, one of the 13 founders of the LPGA, certainly one of the key reasons we're here today. We also have Grace Park, a local who obviously has made her mark on the LPGA tour with 14 titles. Had quite a long commute to get here this morning, seven or eight minutes. We're happy to have Grace here. She pulled out all stops. Moving into the future, next to her is Sara Brown, who will enjoy her rookie maiden season on the LPGA this year. This will be her first official event as a rookie. You may know her more from her stints on the Big Break. We're happy to have her with us today as well.
Finally representing all those little girls around the United States and the world is a local player from the LPGA-USGA Girls Golf program Hanna Atkins, who already learns to correct me on all the mistakes I make. We're going to get started now. Let me introduce to you the guy who had the idea, the crazy idea, to do this, put it in place. I hope you'll see after today's proceeding that it was a stroke of genius and we're happy to have him as our commissioner, LPGA commissioner Mike Whan.
COMMISSIONER WHAN: I'm excited to be here for three reasons. First is, true story, last night at 6 p.m. I was in Corning, New York. If you don't know where that is, you're like most people from New York, because it's hard to find. But I was in Corning at 6 p.m. I called my assistant and said, The meeting ran long. Tell me there's a way to get from Corning, New York, to Phoenix, Arizona, for tomorrow morning's press conference. She said, I can get you there but you're not going to like it. But I'm excited to be here physically because I really wanted to be back. I was here Friday for USGA meetings. When I left, I said to the driver, it was 37 degrees when he dropped me off at the airport on Friday. I said, You have one month to figure out this weather. He said, When will you be back? I said, Monday. He said, I'll have it figured out by Monday. Sure enough, he had it figured out. So thank you for the weather.
Second reason I'm excited to be here is I'm excited to tell anybody about the RR Donnelley Founders Cup. You're going to have to listen to me for a couple minutes today because I really think and know we're doing something truly unique, not only in golf but in sport. I hope you have the opportunity to share that story with your readers and followers as well. I think sometimes we can play a gold tournament and people can forget what is really going on. I hope this is a tournament where it's hard to forget what's really going on. The third thing I want to talk to you about which probably seems strange, is Phoenix. Why would you do this in Phoenix? Let me tell you about the RR Donnelley Founders Cup. Why the term 'Founders Cup'? I'll give you one simple answer. My first week on the job, somebody gave me a DVD. The Golf Channel did a 50-year anniversary of the LPGA and I watched it on a plane. I had one of those little cocktail napkins. I wasn't drinking a cocktail if my wife is listening. And I kept writing founder, founder, because they kept talking about what the founders did.
What the message was, was that the founders left the game for women better than they found it, and how we could all learn from that simple message of leaving it better than you found it. So I wrote, Founders, leave it better than you found it. I also wrote on that napkin, Title holders, which is a story for another day. Two kind of interesting ideas came out of that video which is based on learning about the history of this game. I've said this in many meetings, I'll say it to you all, as well, certainly players have heard me say this, which is, this thing called professional golf, it doesn't last. You get to hold the baton for a certain period of time and run around the track. Some people get to hold it for a lot longer, if you're lucky enough to be Grace and can play and keep winning, it's great. Some people get a very short stint, and some people get a one-tournament wonder. Some commissioners can do this job for five months and some can do it for five years. I'm still somewhere in the middle.
I don't know how long I'll hold the baton either. But the real question is, what did you do with it when you held the baton? For me, and when I watched that video, what I realized is these 13 women 60 years ago, they didn't have the baton forever, but when they handed the baton off, man, did they leave the game better. Imagine walking into a country club 60 years ago and saying, We got this idea. We would like to play for money and charge an admission and have a purse. Imagine how that country club response must have felt like 60 years ago, and how easy it is for me to walk into a country club, meet John from the J.W. Marriott Desert Ridge and say, I got this crazy idea. No resistance for me. In fact, nine months later we're here telling you about it. I know that happened because of 60 years ago. That's why we call it 'Founders.'
This tournament is about respecting the philosophy that they laid down. Quite frankly, we're going to try consistently to embody. This is an event about remembering the past but more importantly paying it forward to the future, just like they did for us. That takes me to the Founders Cup event. We call this a completely unique off event because it's completely unique. We're going to play an event that for you and our fans and a lot of your fans is going to look like a regular golf event, 132 women, there's going to be a count, it's official they're playing for Solheim Cup points, end-of-the-year points, moving on the Money List. All of that matters, except there's no purse. Rather than paying that week, we're going to pay it forward. So $500,000 is going to go into the LPGA-USGA Girls Golf program. Just so you know, the total revenue of the LPGA-USGA Girls Golf program annually is about $500,000. So this will double the size of our girls golf initiative in the U.S., which is really all about getting young women 7 to 17 a chance to start playing this game with other young women.
If you're not sure it works, I can tell you you're wrong. Do a little bit of research and you'll find we have players on the LPGA that started in Girls Golf. 22 of last year's US Amateur champions came from Girls Golf. If you go watch a Girls Golf, Hanna can tell you about it, it's not designed a camp to pump out serious players of the future, it's designed to be an experience so young girls learn this game at an early age and can be comfortable being around it no matter how far it takes them.
My mother, who lives in Scottsdale, Arizona, I have to mention her because I've been here twice in the last week. You can just mention, Whan mentioned mom, that would really cover me for another month or two. But my mother started the game at age 59. Never walked on a golf course in her life. I was nervous for her because she really didn't ever seem to have interest in golf. Today she plays three days a week in a women's outing group. The most exciting invitation to speak I ever got was when she asked me to come to their Tuesday outing group. Still haven't been there, but I thought it was pretty cool that she asked. And I asked her one time, How did you finally start at age 59? She said, You know what, Mike, somebody finally asked me. I just though how simple it would be.
She said what most people say when they start this game later in life: If I only had known, had an opportunity to start this game when I was younger, what a difference it would have made in my life, to be able to have gold, its lessons, its camaraderie as part of your life. And that's what Girls Golf is all about. But it is a completely unique event that's going to pay it forward. In addition to the $500,000 going to Girls Golf, we're going to put out a minimum additional $200,000 into the charities that the players are going to select. When players come and sign up for this event, they're going to say, I'm playing for Girls Golf this week, and they're going to say, I'm playing for, and they fill in the blank. American diabetes, association, breast cancer, whatever it is they want to play for. And the top five finishers in this event will all be having significant checks written to the charity of their choice that will add up to $200,000. If you think about that 18th green, there's going to be at least $700,000 of checks handed out, but they won't be in players' hands, they'll be in charity's hands.
As David said, we're going to call it the Founders Cup, because it's a philosophy they started. We're going to play it with the showcase heroes of today and we're going to pay it forward to make sure this game is strong for women in the future. The last thing I wanted to tell you about is Phoenix. Why Phoenix? If I had to be perfectly honest with you, the answer is this: when I sat down with RR Donnelley, we sat down and talked about this event at this year's Tour Championship, which was December 5th. And they said, Give us two weeks to go back to our board and dialogue this idea called the Founders Cup. On December 15th, we decided to do this.
I made the call that every manager hates. I called Kelly Hyne at home and said, I got this idea, Founders. She goes, Great, May 2012. I said, March 2011. She goes, May 2012. I said, If you had to go March 2011. She said, Only if you go to Phoenix, which I thought was an interesting answer. She said, I have the volunteer base, the community gets behind it, we have courses we can play on. I said, Ever been to the JW Marriott and the Desert Ridge? That conversation happened about December 20th. For all of you wondering, can you really pull off a tournament on December 20th, check in with me on March 19th and we'll talk.
It just seemed too great an opportunity to pass. If we waited a year, it was another $500,000 not going to Girls Golf and another $200,000 not going to player directed charities. It seemed like a mistake and it seemed like a cop-out if we didn't try to do it because I thought the idea was too good to pass. The other reason why Phoenix is pretty simple for those of you who are from Phoenix, a lot of hometown heroes of the LPGA and women's golf in general are here. Marilynn Smith, we have a founder here. Ping, who has been unbelievable to the game for women is here and is behind this event in a major monetary way. Thanks to John Solheim and the whole Ping group. Once again they have proven what they will do for women's golf.
In fact, while John and Ping are really in a major way, I would tell you the golf manufacturers have gotten behind this event in a way like they've never gotten behind another sporting event in golf, which is TaylorMade, adidas, Callaway, Nike, Adams. They've already decided to contribute to this event because that contribution is actually paying it forward to grow the game for women's golf, which quite frankly long-term helps them. Kerry Graham is here, who is the former president of the teaching and club division of the LPGA, which some of you may not know is 1300 women who work and teach in the game of golf. A natural leader for us there. Danny (indiscernible) is in Phoenix. In 1989 really started the first Girls Golf program. We're coming to where it all began for Girls Golf.
Lastly, we've been here 39 times, so the LPGA knows what happens when we come to Phoenix: the fan base and media get behind it. We are counting on that again. We want to be in Phoenix for a long time. One because I have to see my parents more than once year and, two, this is golf country, which you all know that are here, and is why my parents are here. I'm going to leave you with this thought. I hope you'll write about it, blog about it, and go on TV about it. What's going to happen in that March 18th to 20th window is going to be special. It's going to be a golf event, we are going to have great players playing to compete and lift the trophy, but it's going to be something special in the world of sport, not just the world of golf. We're going to do it in a special place. This is a pretty cool place. I drove in last night at 2 in the morning. Even at 2 a.m. my driver said, Welcome to the White House. We're going to do it with a pretty special partner.
I texted the CEO, Tom Quinlan of RR Donnelley, on New Year's Eve and just said, On New Year's Eve it's a time to reflect a little bit. I was with my family. I said, I'm just reflecting on all the great partners we have at the LPGA. The cool thing about RR Donnelley, they're not only a partner, they're great people, and I'm proud to be in business with them. I want to introduce you now to Rick Ryan, the director of marketing and one of the people that made this event possible from RR Donnelley. Help me in welcoming Rick.
RICK RYAN: Thank you. Thanks for coming out. I'll be very brief. I'm Rick Ryan, director of marketing for RR Donnelley. We've got 60,000 employees. I bet there are 59,999 who would like to be in Phoenix, but I get to be here with you. I'm thrilled because we also have 60 inches of snow that has fallen in six weeks in Connecticut where I'm from. So it's great to be here. As Mike said, we are an old company, 150 years old almost. We have never done anything like this in our history. We were a very unlikely candidate to be a title sponsor. We have not supported any other professional league, men's, women's. But we got involved with the LPGA eight months ago. Small partnership deal that gave us benefits at eight events.
We got to meet not only the LPGA commissioner, the marketing folks, but we got to meet the players. We've had some great experiences, a volunteer day effort we did in Chicago that was phenomenal. We played in some pro-ams. Wendy Ward, we even signed her to an endorsement deal. She had as much to do with our elevated commitment to the LPGA as Mike and his staff. We just think she embodies everything that we want to be: a good corporate citizen. In this particular event, saluting the founders and supporting the current players and empowering the future players is everything that we're about as a company. That's all I have to say. So thanks again. It's great to be here.
DAVID HIGDON: Next we're going to have Kelly Hyne, who was referenced earlier by Commissioner Whan, who is vice president of LPGA properties and will be running this event coming forward.
KELLY HYNE: Thanks. After a year of working with Mike, let's say I wasn't surprised when I got that call. It's going to be a phenomenal event in five weeks. Yes, we are counting down the days. I wanted to thank Rick and his team for their support. It's going to be a tremendous way to honor the founders and showcase RR Donnelley to a global audience. We couldn't be here, as Mike said, without the support of our host club here and the resort at Wildfire Golf Club and the JW Marriott Ridge. I want to especially thank Steve Hart and his staff for all the work they've done and support. To pull this off in five weeks, there is a lot of work that needs to be done. To that point, there are a lot of people involved.
Our staff, I want to recognize Jeff, our tournament director in the back, and Jackie Burch, Amy Powell. We're based here full-time now and working around the clock to pull this off and do it in a great way. The generous support from the community, Mike referenced Phoenix. Clearly from day one we knew we had that support. It was obvious by the phone calls literally the minute this was announced, the people that reached out and said, How can we help? We have a room full of people today that have done this for us, particularly the City of Phoenix that got behind the event two years ago, and from the City of Phoenix I want to welcome councilman Peggy Neely to say a few words.
PEGGY NEELY: I am almost without words today because, one, I want to say welcome home to Phoenix. We are so glad to have you back. To me this tournament is something that we should be so proud of. It's going to be held in the jewel of the desert, JW Marriott. I can tell you you will not regret one moment of making that decision. Because of the staff that's here, they'll make sure everything is done first class. I also want to say thank you to RR Donnelley, you guys stepping up to be the sponsor for this event, making that happen. Jackie Burch and I have been talking about this event for several months. Now it seems like, wow, five weeks around the corner and we're going to be there.
But Phoenix is very honored to be able to have this prestigious event right here in Phoenix, Arizona. Why Phoenix? Because we are a great place to be. Phoenix is a wonderful area that, as you said, volunteers will come to you, help you put this event on. We are a great place to be. I just want to say that to me this embodies so many things I believe in. I believe that women's sport is a wonderful program that we need to keep moving forward, be it golf, be it any other women's sport. I've had a daughter that has been a competitive player. I know what it does to their life. It is a journey, it is an experience, and you guys should be so proud to be involved in that.
Believe me, we know that you're going to show it all out on the course this year. And thank you to the founders. Without that vision, that's what it takes. Marilynn, the vision that you brought to this group is incredible. We thank you so much and we're so glad you'll be able to be here in March. Again, I want to say for an organization that started back in 1950, you guys are showing what it takes to be world-class leaders. Congratulations to you. Thank you to the LPGA. Thank you to RR Donnelley. And, Steve, let's start the show and tee it up. Thank you so much.
KELLY HYNE: We did kick off sales a couple weeks ago. Children 17 and under are admitted free, as well as those members of our military. PGAFounders.com is the place to go to volunteer. We have 30 some committees that are looking for volunteers. We're working with a number of charities here in the region, donating half the proceeds back to them. There's a lot of involvement. Throughout the entire week, we're going to be telling the founders story and the history of the LPGA. We're doing things in terms of incorporating the founders in Marilynn, Shirley Spork, and Louise Suggs will be with us, as well as many of our Hall of Famers. We have Betsy King in the audience here. Betsy and Nancy Lopez, Pat Bradley and Patty Sheehan will be doing an exhibition prior to the first match on Friday. And we're renaming all the golf holes after 13 of our founders and 5 of our Hall of Famers. There's going to be a lot of things on the property when you step foot here that you'll see the history of the LPGA every step of the way and we look forward to having you with us. Thank you.
DAVID HIGDON: Thanks, Kelly. Before I turn it over to Marilynn, who I'm sure has a lot to say, I want Betsy to stand up. She embodies everything that's great about the LPGA. Betsy, please stand up. What she's done with golf for Africa is something that all the players, believe me, aspire to be able to leave a legacy like she has been able to leave. Marilynn, grab this here so we can hear your beautiful voice. It started in 1950, so you must have been, what, five or six years old at that point.
MARILYNN SMITH: 20.
DAVID HIGDON: Tell us a little bit about that first year. We'd love to hear about that.
MARILYNN SMITH: Can I say something about our commissioner and the LPGA? What an awesome concept this was. Thanks to you, Commissioner. The first time I met you and talked to you on the phone, you had to get your brain working real fast. You talk so fast, I have to get my brain active. But thank you. This is great to be in Phoenix and to see all you fine folks that support golf and love golf. We started back in my hometown in Wichita, Kansas, in 1950. There were 13 of us at the Rolling Hills Country Club. Fred Corcoran was going to be our tournament director. He was the manager of Babe Zaharias and wanted a venue for her to play so he thought he would start the LPGA. And Carol Corcoran is the president of the LPGA Foundation.
In those days we didn't have many tournaments. Amateurs made our fields greater. But we traveled by car. We were like one big happy family - not happy sometimes. We had a lot of physical struggles at first because we had long trips, like 1600 miles from Spokane, Washington, to Waterloo, Iowa. I was fortunate that I had a 27-year contract with Spalding. My job was to go out and give golf exhibitions at various golf and country clubs in this country. I've been in 37 countries and given exhibitions in a lot of those countries. Louise Suggs was with the MacGregor Company and gave exhibitions for that company. Patty Berg and Babe Zaharias were affiliated with Wilson. We were fortunate to do that.
We had 13 tournaments and the total prize money was $50,000 in that first year. Babe Zaharias, she was our marquee player, as everybody had heard about her because she was an Olympic champion. So people would come out to see her. She was kind of a swashbuckling type of a player. She was quick with a quip, a lot of fun. When she died in 1956, that was the time that we almost went down the tube. Is that what we say nowadays, down the tube?
A lot of us, we had to do a lot of PR work. I had a good time going into Major League Baseball ballparks like Cincinnati, Washington, D.C. I'd go out by home plate and hit some golf balls from home plate out to centerfield before the baseball game. I grabbed the mic, told all the fans they should come out and watch us play at a certain club. I have to tell this story about Shirley. Shirley and I went to a fight, boxing match. We were going to get in the ring afterwards and tell the fans to come out. This was a brutal, pulverizing, I won't go into it, but I got squeamish. I couldn't walk up there in this ring. Shirley grabbed the microphone, crawled through the ropes, stood up there and told the fans to come out and watch us play. It was the U.S. Open I believe in Landover, Maryland. We had to do a lot of those things to get the people to come out and see us.
If we ever were written about, it was on the back page. Our prize money was like $3500 a tournament. Now what is it, over $1 million, maybe $3 million. What is the total prize money for the year, $45 million, $50 million? Isn't that awesome. Everybody would come up and say, Did you think it was going to be this great? Well, you couldn't imagine that, that it would be such a fantastic organization. So we just kind of struggled along day to day. We had a lot of help along the way. You give a lot of praise to the founders, but they smaller towns like Gatlinberg, Tennessee, and Carrollton, Georgia, where Louise's father owned a golf course, so we played that twice. Ed Carter, he was our tournament director for a year, and he got some of these smaller towns that really helped us to keep going. Gradually our prize money went from $3500 to $5,000. When it got to be $7500, we got the Western Open. They couldn't keep up with the money. That's enough of that. I just want to thank you all.
DAVID HIGDON: Sara, didn't you go to a baseball game last year with the Futures Tour and promoted the upcoming event? We have a tournament coming up in Alabama where we do a Home Run Derby. You did that before, didn't you?
HANNA ATKINS: I did. On the Futures Tour, I actually threw out a first pitch. I'm way better at golf than I am at throwing a baseball. But, yes, we did very similar things. We just thank you, because without you I wouldn't be here, Grace wouldn't be here. Thank you so much.
DAVID HIGDON: You actually never throw from on top of the mound, you come down.
HANNA ATKINS: I just wanted to move closer and they wouldn't let me.
DAVID HIGDON: Let me turn it over to Grace Park, who as we mentioned earlier lives down the street. Grace, last year you struggled a little bit with injuries. We're keeping our fingers crossed that you're a hundred percent healthy and ready for 2011. Tell us when you first heard about this event being here, the concept, and what was your original feeling?
GRACE PARK: Yeah, I was actually home, back home, in Seoul, Korea. I got an email hearing about this tournament. I said, What is this? At least we have a tournament in Phoenix. That was nice. But I was at the time debating whether to come back and play the full season or take it slow because I struggled with back pains and hip problems for so many years, I didn't know if I was going to be able to start in March to participate in this tournament. A couple weeks passed by and I decided I'm going to come back to Phoenix, where I've lived for 18 years. I couldn't miss a tournament in Phoenix. It's my hometown. This is where I learned to play golf. This is where I accomplished my whole career. I couldn't possibly miss this tournament. I came back. I'm hoping to play this event, play well, play full season and play healthy.
DAVID HIGDON: As Mike mentioned before, thanks to RR Donnelley, the top five players will be able to designate a charity. Your $50,000, whoever finishes second place, will be able to donate $50,000 to a charity of their choice. Have you decided?
GRACE PARK: I would like to pick the Breast Cancer Foundation. I've never been so personal with any of the foundations before, but it's sort of unlucky news, but it grew very personal because my mom was very recently, four weeks ago, diagnosed with breast cancer. It was just a shock. You hear of all these stories from people all over the world. Until it hits you, until it becomes so personal, it becomes your mother, you don't really realize it. What a great opportunity for me to have something personal to help the charity of my choice, breast cancer. It's going to be great.
DAVID HIGDON: We'll be cheering for you to finish in the top five and look forward to a great year with you.
GRACE PARK: Thank you.
DAVID HIGDON: Before you turn the microphone over to Sara, do you have any words to a rookie who has no clue what she's getting into?
GRACE PARK: You know, I just saw her. I just met her 20, 30 minutes ago. I thought I saw her. I couldn't really recognize her. Big Break, I'm a big fan of yours. I think I have more fun watching Big Break than playing some of our tour events (laughter). The tour is nothing without me, so we'll make it more interesting now that I'm back (laughter). We welcome you. I welcome you. It's exciting to have another Arizona friend out on tour. Good luck. It's a long road. It's tough at times, but you'll make a ton of friends, play well, get worldwide recognition. It will be great.
DAVID HIGDON: And don't miss any putts.
GRACE PARK: Yeah, good luck (laughter).
DAVID HIGDON: Sara, you're from Tucson?
SARA BROWN: I am, right down the road.
DAVID HIGDON: Did you grow up down there?
SARA BROWN: Born and raised in Tucson, but I went to college at Michigan State. Cold. People call me crazy, but I loved every second. I'm back in Phoenix.
DAVID HIGDON: Once a Spartan, always a Spartan. As some of you know to qualify to play on the LPGA tour, you have to go through this incredibly grueling school, Qualifying School. That's what she did to be able to make it as a rookie. You had a lot of big moments on Big Break. But I do have to remember you turned to your boyfriend, who is also your caddie, I'm either going to puke or I'm going to cry. Those were her two choices. Fortunately she also qualified. What was it like going through Q School, the pressure you had to face there?
SARA BROWN: I did both the ladies European Tour Q School and the LPGA Q School. I did Spain and then flew over to Daytona, and it was just as cold in Daytona. I did say that to Derek on the last day, on 17. I was very nervous. He's actually sitting right there, has a blue hat on. Boyfriend, caddie, golf instructor there. I did look at him and told him I was going to either throw up or cry. Neither one of those were very good at that moment. He talked me through it. I smashed my drive on 18. I was the only one to hit the green in two for that day. A nice solid 3-putt. So those putts that I'm not going to miss, start now, start in Phoenix. But it didn't matter. I qualified. I got tied for 14th. Emotions were not really ready to come out because I had to actually go back to Spain for another Qualifying School. After Spain was all over that next week, then I think I slept for two days because I was so exhausted and I was so excited. We cried and we were happy.
I've been golfing since I was eight. It's always been a dream to be on the LPGA. I've seen her play tons of times. So to meet her, hear about Marilynn, you hear about the excitement of the LPGA, I'm happy and very ready to get going. To have our first tournament be in Phoenix, close to my home, I'm excited. The fact that it's for charity, you have to give back. You have to know where you came from, and I will never forget that. I'm just excited to get out here and play.
DAVID HIGDON: We're happy to have you and looking forward to your play here. Who are you going to be playing for?
SARA BROWN: My charity is called Stand Up and Play Foundation. I actually met him during Q School. His name is Anthony Netto. He does an organization with people that are paralyzed. He designed a wheelchair that you can stand up and you can actually go out and play. He's actually paralyzed himself. He still teaches golf. He has outings all over the place. I just think he's a wonderful human. I'm just excited to help out his organization. He's new and up-and-coming. I'm sorry about your mom. Nothing has hit me home like that. So just to have a guy and just feel so passionate about what he does, I felt passionate about it as well.
DAVID HIGDON: Great. We've been getting the players who have entered have been giving the charities they're going to play for. A few are Natalie Gulbis is playing for Boys and Girls Club of Henderson. Brittany Lang, one of the top-rising Americans, is playing for the Child Advocacy Center. Beatrice Recari, who was a fabulous rookie last year, won a tournament in San Francisco, she's playing for the Alliance For Eating Disorders Awareness. Aree Song, who won the Q School, is going to be playing for the Captain Planet Foundation, which I think is where our commissioner came from, if I'm not mistaken. Tell us a little bit about that experience in the Big Break. Just tell us something we didn't see on the camera that we all wish we had.
SARA BROWN: I don't know if I can talk about that.
DAVID HIGDON: LPGA is always off the record.
SARA BROWN: I had a blast. Before going on the first Big Break, I quit golf for three months, didn't want to play. I was done with it, I hated it. I wasn't having fun. I told myself when I started with I was eight that I was going to golf and love it. I want to be in my 80s and playing golf and loving every second. I knew I wasn't going to do that. I took some time off. My brother made me audition for Big Break. I went on there and had a blast. They asked me to do a second one. How can you say no when you had so much fun on the first one?
There's not really any stories. Brian is crazy. Everyone wants to know that. Yes, him and Elena did like each other. That did happen. And, yes, he did cheat. So those are like the three questions that I usually get about the Big Break. I have to make fun of myself a little bit. I was at Q School in December, and this cart drives up. I'm making the turn. This guy is like, Oh, my gosh, congratulations on Big Break. I'm a huge fan. I'm an avid Big Break watcher. It's spectacular you beat the boys. I'm like, Thanks. Good luck on the back nine. I want you to make it on the LPGA. What's your name? He goes, Mike Whan. How am I doing meeting the commissioner for the first time? My face turns the color of the exit sign. Derek is laughing.
I am so sorry. He's laughing, No big deal. I'm like, Oh, my gosh. I'm like, You're the man. I just had no idea who you were. He's like, No big deal. I'm playing with Meredith Duncan, who has been on tour for a while. She looks at Mike and said, I will never let her live that one down. That's my first experience with Mike Whan. So that's a funny story about myself.
DAVID HIGDON: We're happy to have you on tour.
SARA BROWN: Thank you.
DAVID HIGDON: Now let me ask a few questions to somebody who represents who we're paying it forward to, Hanna, who has been waiting there, wondering when we'd get to her. That's really what this event will ultimately support, which is the Girls Golf Program. I know you're in the Girls Golf Program here now, but tell me how you got into golf initially.
HANNA ATKINS: I actually got into golf because we moved into a golf community. We didn't really know much about golf. We went a couple times to putt-putt. I didn't show much interest in it until we moved up here and took some local golf lessons. I just started loving it since then. I've been continuing it for a while, for about five or six years.
DAVID HIGDON: Hopefully someday you'll make it on the tour, and if not you'll continue to play golf for 80 years and aspire to greatness that Grace Park has been able to aspire, two major championships, 14 titles. We hope you'll eventually make it on tour. Those are two models for you. How did you get into the LPGA-USGA Girls Golf program?
HANNA ATKINS: I think we were going to a couple of the tournaments just trying to see what I was interested in, whether or not I would continue on. I started from such a young age. I think we just continued on trying to find tournaments, trying to get myself interested, trying to find what sport I would continue in, or whether or not I would continue in golf.
DAVID HIGDON: I know your two new favorite LPGA players are Grace Park and Sara Brown.
HANNA ATKINS: Definitely.
DAVID HIGDON: Any other players you looked up to?
HANNA ATKINS: Paula Creamer, Brittany Lincicome and Natalie Gulbis. Now I have another two to add on to that list.
DAVID HIGDON: You watched Big Break on The Golf Channel?
HANNA ATKINS: Of course, I did. Sara was in there.
DAVID HIGDON: Just so everyone knows, one of the beauties of this event of course is that The Golf Channel, our long-term partner, we signed a 10-year agreement with them, will be producing this event. They're bringing the whole crew, do the three days of the event, and we're excited to be on The Golf Channel and showcase everything that makes the Founders Cup what it's going to be and showcase Phoenix to the rest of the world. We'll wrap-up the program. Final word, as I'm sure you guys would agree to, would be Marilynn. If you have anything you would like to add or tell the media or anyone else about what you think of this event and the support that RR Donnelley has supplied for us?
MARILYNN SMITH: One thing that sets it apart when I was speaking to the Commissioner on the phone a couple months ago, he said that the USGA-LPGA Girls Golf, about 6500 girls started the game of golf a year. With this program, giving the money to charity to the LPGA-USGA Girls Golf, he's hoping that 20,000 young women will take up the game. I was just thinking if all these young gals start taking up the game, we're going to have some golfers to compete against the Koreans, right (laughter)?
I think that's very unique, that there's something like this in any sporting organization. So it kind of sets the LPGA, the standard is up there. I'm very proud you have this tournament. We're honored that the founders are being celebrated. I know Louise and Shirley and I are going to have a great week with all of you folks. If you have any questions that you want to ask us, feel free to come up and we'll try to give you some kind of an answer. We can even talk politics. Is the councilwoman still here? I love politics. I'll vote for you if you are going to run again.
DAVID HIGDON: Okay, now we cut her off (laughter). Thank you.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.