Tuesday, April 5, 2022
Los Angeles, California, USA
Media Day Press Conference
THE MODERATOR: We are here to preview the back-to-back events on the LPGA Tour taking place in LA, the DIO Implant LA Open and the Palos Verdes Championship presented by Bank of America. Joining us on the call to preview these two championships we've got the DIO Implant LA Open defending champion, Brooke Henderson; our resident Los Angeles expert, LA resident and LPGA winner Lizette Salas; and major champion Morgan Pressel, who has had a pretty good run at her previous three LA Opens. She has three top-10 finishes in her three events there.
She's going to be the lead analyst in the broadcast booth for both championships on Golf Channel. And also, I think everybody knows, but saying this again, she was also recently named assistant captain for the 2023 U.S. Solheim Cup team.
Joining us in the suit and tie is our fearless leader, tournament director for both championships, David Tucker.
Q. You're basically boots on the ground there in Los Angeles. Give us a sense of the excitement building at Wilshire and PV in hosting back-to-back events for the first time in LPGA history.
DAVID TUCKER: Thanks for joining us today. I think everyone is thrilled to have the LPGA Tour back to back in Los Angeles. As you all know the diversity in the city is very excited to host some of the best talent in women's golf, as Jeremy just alluded to.
And the support and the energy is palpable, as we have fans back on site for both. So the LA Open, it was 2019 since we were having fans on property. So I think we can all attest to the level of excitement that brings fans back on property.
Additionally, we couldn't do this event, obviously, without the players, members, sponsors and volunteers. And I can tell you that everyone is ready to get back to work to put on two world-class events at some of the best venues in Southern California.
We're looking forward to a dynamite experience. And I'm so excited to see everybody in such a short period of time.
THE MODERATOR: Brooke, Lizette and Morgan, similar question, Brooke, I'll start with you as defending champion for the LA Open.
As we look ahead to these two events, one, as the defending champ and also as someone who played in the tournament last year and hoisted the trophy without fans, how excited are you to basically be in LA for back-to-back events? And, also, how much are you looking forward to defending your title?
BROOKE HENDERSON: Super excited to get back to the LA Open. Last year getting my tenth win on tour there was really special. I definitely did miss the fans, the energy and kind of the adrenaline rush that they do bring. I'm really looking forward to having them back for both weeks coming up in LA. I think that will be really cool. I'm excited to get back to a place with so many special memories and hopefully I can play well again this year and repeat what I did last year.
THE MODERATOR: Lizette, as mentioned at the top, you're the LA resident expert. And you have a lot of great memories in LA, particularly at Palos Verdes. So from your purview, growing up in LA, how special is it for you to see the LPGA Tour hosting back-to-back events in Los Angeles?
LIZETTE SALAS: It's quite an honor to see the growth of the LPGA and hitting iconic, historic cities as Los Angeles -- and Wilshire has been part of my story since college golf. Palos Verdes, again, hosted a college golf tournament.
My swing coach teaches out of Palos Verdes Golf Club. So, to go to two locations where it's really close to my heart, I'm really excited. And I'm just really proud to see the LPGA come to these historic LA golf courses that I feel like are hidden gems and that the world has not seen enough yet. So I'm really excited to get these two events going back to back and bring the best players in the world.
THE MODERATOR: Morgan, similar question. Like we mentioned, you have had some really good success at the LA Open. And you are going to be in the booth for these two events. So just as a player and a broadcaster, same question: How excited are you that the LPGA Tour is hosting back-to-back events in the LA market?
MORGAN PRESSEL: I think it's great. I think the media on the call and the players all appreciate it. I think everybody enjoys not having to hop on a plane between events, even though I know they're on the other side of LA and it could take forever. But that's a different story.
But Wilshire is a special place to me, having played well there the last few years and it being the last place I competed in, so it will be almost a year since I've competed in a tournament. And I'm just really excited to be back and to see what that event has grown into.
And then I've heard so much about Palos Verdes especially from Jim Gormley, there Lizette -- he's given me some insight and I've heard so much about it. I'm really excited to see it. From my understanding it's a spectacular property with beautiful views.
And I think the players are all really excited about it. And I know the fans, like everybody has mentioned, are excited to come out and see their favorite players and support the LPGA.
THE MODERATOR: Lizette, quick follow-up to you on Palos Verdes. You have a great history with Wilshire playing college golf, playing it a lot. With PV, Jim is your swing coach and director of golf there. And two, in college, you hinted about the college event at Northrop Grumman, the four years there you had top 10 finishes there.
And there's a lot of players that played in Northrop Grumman that are playing in this tournament. How cool is it from your perspective and also from the other players who have played this tournament or played this golf course in college, but now get to play on it and the world gets to see play with the best players in the world?
LIZETTE SALAS: The fact that Palos Verdes has been a big supporter of women's golf for decades now is just an amazing thing to witness. And to finally give them this platform that they so much deserve is very exciting. And I've talked to many players who back then played in the Northrop Grumman and asked me, has it changed, because back in the day it was very tough. Tough conditions. We played in early February. And we just didn't know if we were going to be in beanies and jumpers or if we were going to be in skirts.
So I think we've all had like a similar experience with the Northrop Grumman. Not to say that we're traumatized, but we know how challenging Palos Verdes can be. And I just said, you know, it's going to be a great event regardless. And the course is in phenomenal shape. They've done some renovations to it.
Every time I speak to Jim or go to the course, something's happening to improve any aspect of the upcoming tournament. So I hear some anticipation and excitement from the players. But as a whole, everyone is just so excited to get back to PV and to showcase how great the golf course is and how great we can play on it.
THE MODERATOR: 50,000-foot-level question, you've all been asked this probably week in, week out this year with the return of fans, but how has it been, especially last week, last week at Chevron with that amazing fan base, to play in front of fans again versus last year playing in front of marshals and cameramen and camerawomen?
BROOKE HENDERSON: (Indiscernible) last week at the Chevron Championship. Walking up to the 18th green with the fans (indiscernible) and cheering you on. It's just such an amazing feeling. And it helps you play better. It gives you that little bit of extra boost and little bit of motivation to make a putt and here them clap. So I'm definitely looking forward to the LA Open, having the fans return, and hopefully a whole bunch of people will come out and hopefully we get (indiscernible).
MORGAN PRESSEL: I wasn't there at the Chevron Championship last week, but even watched it on TV and having played there so many times, to see the fans back in full force, it was very special and I know that, especially that walk up 18 is amazing.
Wilshire is set up as a spectacular venue for fans to watch. It is a relatively small property; you can get back to holes pretty quickly. And I think it's what makes it great and makes almost the energy feel even more electric because it is pretty tight. And so the fans can come in, can watch, can get really close to the action, and it's amazing it's been since 2019. And having played it each year to see how the event has grown it will be great to see how the fan base has grown as well, even though they haven't been there in a few years, I think that town is going to come out strong for sure.
THE MODERATOR: Same question for you Lizette. We know that last week was special for you as well for a lot of reasons. Touch on last week a little bit and then just playing in front of fans again.
LIZETTE SALAS: I mean, the last two weeks have been such a game-changer for me. To play in Southern California and to finally have the Salas family in the gallery, it was really special. And some of my family members haven't watched me play since 2019.
And so to finally have them get to experience, like, the full LPGA tournament vibe, it's great for them, and it's great for me as well to see the fans come out and to actually hear applause rather than wind and crickets. It's a magnificent feeling.
And I think it also, like Brooke said earlier, it helps us play better, to get that motivation from fans and now to be in my backyard for these next two weeks and to have everyone finally come out and experience what the LPGA has to offer to the world of golf. We're beyond excited and pumped for these next two weeks.
Q. Lizette, being a Los Angeles area kid, having grown up here, playing at USC and now playing in these back-to-back Los Angeles events, knowing the U.S. Women's Open will be here in 2026, what are your thoughts on the Los Angeles area from, again, having grown up and played golf here to seeing the opportunity and effect it can have on women's golf in Southern California?
LIZETTE SALAS: To see firsthand how the Los Angeles area and the golf course or golf here has impacted my career and now being at the world class level of the LPGA, I'm just grateful to be part of this area, to have these golf courses part of my journey. And these are hidden gems that the world doesn't quite grasp the magnitude of what they're capable of.
And so to bring all these players from, the best players in the world to play in these venues, and to start the excitement for the Women's Open next year and to showcase what this city can bring.
We see the city bring great championships, like the LA Rams, the Lakers and the Dodgers, and now to focus on women's golf, I think it's a great transition. And this city brings champions. So hopefully I can add the name to one of those championships and just kind of put that stamp in LA and to the rest of the world.
Q. Your work in the community here and with girls in Southern California and specifically the Latina Golfers Association the impact of these kind of events and what is it about the work you do in the community and for girls in this area that you enjoy?
LIZETTE SALAS: You know, being from again, yeah, being from LA and the diversity and inclusion, that initiative that these organizations have gone forward with, it's so easy to be my authentic self around them and to feel that support from these organizations.
And representation meant a lot to me growing up. And so I feel like the more I continue to do what I do will give organizations and women golfers from any walks of life, regardless of race and ethnicity, just to keep pushing forward. And I'm just very blessed and fortunate to have this platform and to showcase my story but also share the stories of the other 143 players on this tour.
Q. Morgan and Lizette, as exciting as it is to be in the Los Angeles area, these two tournaments are some of the smallest purses on the LPGA. Combined they're the same as the founders Cup the following week. Given the media size the market of LA, where would you like to see the purses of these events going forward given the growth of the LPGA purses?
MORGAN PRESSEL: I'd certainly like to see them continue to increase. And I think that you see that at certain times. It comes in newer markets for the tour. I mean LA is -- I feel like the sweet spot of the tour is usually in a market where you might take a regional jet, not so much a large plane that travels to international cities. There's a lot of competition within LA, which we've mentioned.
But I really think that to see how the event, especially the first LA Open, has really grown over the last few years, you can just feel it as a player on property. And I think we'll feel it especially this year that fans are back and with the build-around the greens and things like that.
So I think COVID certainly has not helped with the last couple of years in that respect and getting people out to the golf course to play in pro-ams. Even the pro-ams have been impacted and things like that.
As we can open back up and get back to somewhat of a new normal, hopefully we can continue to encourage sponsors to come and to join. And I always feel like we've got to get them out -- encourage your viewers and readers to come out to the LPGA Tour, because I think we have an experience like none other in sport and you'll be fans for life.
LIZETTE SALAS: Kind of going along with what Morgan said, COVID really hit the LA area really hard. And I got to experience the impact it had. And of course from a player's standpoint we want to see higher purses. But at the same time we're very fortunate and blessed to have venues like Wilshire and PV step in and host the best players in the world.
And I feel like this is a good starting point. I truly believe that our board of directors and our commissioner will do whatever it takes to increase the purses going forward. But that will just take time.
And I think with bringing in the fans and then understanding how important the LA area will be to the LPGA, I think it's just a matter of time before we see these purses increase.
Q. Lizette, for people that come out to a tournament that have not seen the LPGA in person before, what do you think is going to impress them and what might surprise them a little bit?
LIZETTE SALAS: I think they'll be surprised in many different aspects. I feel like they'll be surprised that, one, there is a lot of golf in Los Angeles. Number two, how accessible the LPGA is. And three, how good we are. I think fans in this area, they love the PGA Tour. They understand the magnitude that they bring to each city, but they haven't really grasped what the LPGA does.
And so as we continue to encourage the fans to come out and support all of us, they'll understand how good athletes we are, and I guess just how approachable and how easy it is to be a fan of the LPGA Tour.
There's 144 stories. There's 144 different ways a fan can connect with one player. And it just takes that curiosity to come and check out an LPGA event. And everything from hospitality to a fan's experience, I think it will just change the trend as to what people may think an LPGA Tour event is like.
Q. Morgan, the LPGA has always worked as much as any sports organization in the world to respect and preserve its history. In light of Chevron moving on next year to a new location, how important is it for today's players to continue to do that as time passes and players such as yourself have retired or other players were so committed to preserving your history have retired? How important is it for today's players to continue to maintain that mindset?
MORGAN PRESSEL: I think the tour as a whole is exceptionally committed to that. Think about what has been created with the Founders Cup and every year really celebrating the 13 founders, and we encourage all the young players on tour to watch "The Founders" movie, and to really understand how the tour was started and where we came from and then all of the players along the way who have really helped build it into what it is today.
And it's definitely bittersweet watching the final Chevron Championship at Mission Hills last weekend. But we have a phrase that's a lot of times posted in our locker rooms and on e-mail communications that we get from the tour, and it's "act like a founder." And I feel that's really embraced by a lot of players on tour. And how can we leave the tour in a better place than when we got there is the basic idea of the phrase. But truly act like a founder.
And as Lizette mentioned, the approachability of the players. If you come out to any event, you will see that in action day in, day out. And I think that in itself is every player celebrating the history of our tour. And also really recognizing the power that they have in the moment to create a better future.
And I think that we're all excited for the future of the Chevron Championship to see what that holds. I know that Chevron is really excited to be a part of it. And also to celebrate the history, to somehow create new history as well as celebrate old history.
So it will be fun to see how that transition happens. I know everybody has a been a little bit emotional about it, but I think it will be very exciting in the long run. And I know I see it every day how our players truly do act like founders.
BROOKE HENDERSON: I think Morgan was saying a lot of really good things. Chevron has really stepped up and they're helping to push the women's game forward in terms of bigger purses, and it was an extremely well-run event last year. We'll definitely miss playing at Mission Hills. But they are pushing the game forward for women's golf, and that's what it's all about.
And for the players, we're all just trying to showcase our skills and our talent to the world and continue to try to inspire and motivate younger generations to pick up this great game. It just teaches you so much about life and so many great values.
So, if we can just continue to move the game forward and hopefully get rid of the pay gap that we currently have between the men and women's tours and just continue to be the best that we can be and show the world that, I think that's really key.
Q. On that front, on the Chevron front and the sponsor front with Morgan, with you two in particular, I know you two you're very active with your sponsors in terms of doing clinics and doing different things to really introduce the game to not only to adults but to young kids alike. Like Brooke, as an example, the next, the two LA events Sketchers is going to be partnered with the two tournaments. They're going to be very active at these events. Tell us about as you guys continue week in, week out on the LPGA Tour, what are some of the initiatives that you guys are working with your sponsors to grow the game of golf, expand the game of golf, both at tournaments and outside of the tournaments as well?
BROOKE HENDERSON: You mentioned Sketchers, going to LA is a lot of fun for me because I get to visit their headquarters. I get to catch up with them and get free clothes and shoes which is always great. So it's always a lot of fun for me to be in LA.
They've really stepped up. And they're going to be a part and involved in both of these LA events, which is also very exciting. And I'm looking forward to seeing some signage up around the courses.
And I think as you mentioned, some of the junior clinics, I think that is a great way to grow the game and to have young kids come up and watch us hit balls, I think that's pretty cool. But just to attend a LPGA event and see the young kids out there, lots of times they're happy and they're smiling and they just really seem to enjoy being out there.
Hopefully it motivates them to pick up the game and practice a little harder, maybe, but it's just important for us when we see them wanting an autograph, it's just give them the autograph, take a picture with them and spend a little time.
And for me, growing up, Morgan was my biggest role model. When I got to see her live on LPGA event in Ottawa -- back then I was really, really young, it was just an eye-opening experience. And she gave me a ball and a glove after the round, and just being able to meet somebody I looked up so much helped motivate me push me to get better and get to where I am right now.
MORGAN PRESSEL: Brooke has a great photo of us when, it was at a Callaway Day, I believe. And Brooke was, what, 9 years old? It's one of my favorite pictures.
BROOKE HENDERSON: Yes, I was really young.
MORGAN PRESSEL: Just to follow what Brooke said there, I was that young girl at an LPGA. I remember Karrie Webb gave me a signed golf ball. To think that we as athletes have the opportunity to make the tiniest impact on somebody's life -- to what us seems tiny, I should rephrase that -- but to them is the whole world. And that can inspire them to ask their parents to take them out to play golf that weekend.
Sometimes I see little kids swinging sticks outside the ropes. And just to think that you can have that -- I think golf is obviously such an incredible game. It meant so much to me in my life, but to be able to give that gift of encouragement in golf to somebody else, it's a special place to be as an athlete.
LIZETTE SALAS: I'm going to go along with that trend say that I have the same experience with Lorena Ochoa at the Chevron Championship. Back then it was the Kraft Nabisco. But, yeah, representation on the LPGA is important. And I've just been fortunate to work with sponsors that have that same passion to give back to the community and to women's golf.
They see our potential and they want us to showcase that. And with these next two weeks, I'm just fortunate to partner and to have these partnerships and to make some of these announcements during those weeks and to give back to the community with Youth on Course, which I'm a proud national ambassador of, and with upcoming events.
I'll announce certain partnership that they're focusing on entertainment and sports. And I think it's a great correlation. It's a great relationship to finally put women's golf on that platform and to finally showcase the true stories and what we go through day in, day out to be some of the best players in the world.
Q. Brooke, I saw you post about taking the tram and hiking around Mount San Jacinto. Is there anything like that that you'd like to make sure you do in LA, whether it's before or right after the tournament that you like to get in?
BROOKE HENDERSON: I might have to ask Lizette later for some good ideas of what we could do. But that was really special to take the tram and to experience that kind of touristy thing, but it was just amazing up there. And I think that is important when you go to different venues and different locations around the world to try to take in a little bit of each place. It just makes it a little more special and gives you a nice break from golf, too.
LIZETTE SALAS: You know, you can't go wrong with any part of LA. I think if you want to venture out and do some -- my mind is like where do we start? There's so much history. There's so many great stories that you can go the typical tourist route, go to Hollywood and this and that. But if you go down the street of Wilshire and go to Royal Heights, you'll see a strong Japanese American history culture there. And it's all within like a ten-mile radius. You can't go with anything LA.
If you do want some bomb Mexican food, I can hook you up on that. (Laughter).
Q. Brooke, you mentioned obviously such a special week and winning the LA Open last year and such special memories, can you take me through a few of the highlights of the week and what made it so special?
BROOKE HENDERSON: It was my final, first final grouping I was in last year. So it took me a little while to start the year to get into the final group. I was fortunate, the final rounds and playing with Jen young and Jess, two amazing players and good friends. I was trying to go out make a few birdies climb up the leaderboard as best I could, and ended up was able to chip in on 12, which I think really changed the momentum, and then from there was able to sneak out the win.
I think just having such a great final group and it was the first tournament that my new brother-in-law at the time was there, too. So I think that made it a little more special for my sister.
And it was just a great event. And to get into double digits in victories on the LPGA is really special. And I'm looking forward to the opportunity when it's my time to win again.
Q. Brooke, you mentioned closing the gap between the PGA Tour and LPGA Tour and the steps that Chevron is taking to help with that. What does it feel like playing with a gap as it is right now?
BROOKE HENDERSON: I think every week we're getting closer and closer, and we're just doing our job out there. We're trying to play the best golf that we can and trying to prove ourselves as people and as golfers. And we're encouraging fans to come out and watch us.
We love spending time with them after the rounds, getting autographs and doing some of the extra things that make it more fun for us and the whole fan experience. And sponsors are really taking notice of us, and they're really stepping up. The purse increases that have happened so far this year have been phenomenal. Some of the great venues that we'll be able to play later this year is amazing, too.
So I think it's all going in the right direction. And we just all have to do our part and hopefully it will close the gap sooner than later.
Q. The other news of the day, Augusta National, Mr. Tiger Woods said a couple hours ago that he's going to try to give it a go. So as a fellow player and as a fan, just with everything that he went through with his car crash in LA, could you touch on that how forward are you looking to, hopefully, see him tee it up on Thursday?
BROOKE HENDERSON: The Masters are always special. And I always looking forward to watching every year. And to have Tiger Woods make a comeback like this is really impressive.
He's always been somebody that is super exciting to watch and some of the shots that he pulls off and some of the comebacks he's had have really been phenomenal. So I think everybody's eyes will be glued to the TV, and we look forward to watching him play this week and watching all the other players play in such an amazing event.
MORGAN PRESSEL: At this point, with everything that Tiger has gone through over his entire career, are any of us really surprised that he's going to try to play? I mean, every time anybody doubts him, he just comes out and proves everybody wrong. So I think it's definitely created certainly in the Masters creates a lot of buzz anyway, but Tiger's involvement this year even more so, and it will be fun to watch.
Anytime what he's done for the sport, bringing more eyeballs than anybody could have ever imagined to the game of golf. And all boats rise with the tide. We all feel that Tiger effect even on our level, on the LPGA level. So it's really helpful to the game of golf to continue to grow the game. And anytime he's involved in an event, it just creates so many more ripples in the pond.
LIZETTE SALAS: Just both Brooke and Morgan hit it right on the number: To see the magnitude that Tiger has in the game of golf, it's really impressive to see. And I'm not at all shocked that he's coming back and trying to give it a go.
That's just kind of how he's made. And it's great to see and for us players to be part, not of his circle or the PGA circle, but to be in the same sport and understanding how hard it is to be at that level consistently have all eyes on you how he handles it. It's really impressive to see and Augusta is a historic event but now that he's going to do his thing is going to be an even greater week. We're all excited to see it.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.