LET member Shanshan Feng made history on Sunday as the first player from the mainland China to win a major at the Wegmans LPGA Championship.
Feng shot a 5-under-par 67, the lowest round of the week, in the final round of the LPGA’s second major championship to come from three shots back and finish the week at 6-under-par 282. Feng bested a number of former major champions, including Stacy Lewis and Suzann Pettersen,for the $375,000 first-place check and the title of the Rolex First-Time Winner
“I would say first of all I’m really, really, happy that I won the tournament,” Feng said. “I still can’t believe it. I think after this week it’s going to give me a lot more confidence. I believe I can win again in the future. And hopefully it’s going to help golf in China because I want to be [tennis star] Li Na for golf in China. I want to be like a model that the other juniors can follow my steps and get on the LPGA.”
Feng’s scorecard was bogey-free on Sunday with five birdies, including two on the back-nine. She sealed her victory with a birdie at the par-5 17th hole and got up and down on 18 to take the clubhouse lead at 6-under-par. She then waited as three more groups finished before becoming the seventh player in LPGA history to make the LPGA Championship their first Tour victory.
The victory is the latest accomplishment in what has already been a stellar year for Feng. She became the first player from China to win on the Ladies European Tour back in March and captured a victory on the JLPGA Tour on May 27. Feng’s previous best finish in a major was a T22 at this year’s Kraft Nabisco Championship in March. With her victory, Feng is unofficially projected to jump from No. 10 to No. 5 in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings.
“I think winning twice in Japan last year really helped on the mental side,” Feng said. “I think I’ve always been a good ball striker but my short game is usually a little weak. That’s my weak part. So there in the off season I focused on practicing short game like chipping and putting and I think it worked.”
One in a million just became one in 1.3 billion for Shanshan Feng. “It is amazing. I think I’m just lucky. There are good players from China, young players, right now. I became the first one, but I’m sure there will be a second, third, more people winning in the States and winning majors.”
Joining an elite group… Feng became the seventh player to record her first LPGA victory at the LPGA Championship. Other first-time winners at this event include current Rolex Rankings No. 1 Yani Tseng and LPGA and World Golf Halls of Fame member Se Ri Pak.
SHANSHAN FENG, Rolex Rankings No. 10
MODERATOR: We are here with the 2012 Wegmans LPGA champion, Shanshan Feng. Congratulations. You became a Rolex first time winner with this victory, your first LPGA victory, and you became the first player ever from Mainland China to ever win on the LPGA Tour. First off, tell me what that overall accomplishment means to you and what do you think it means back to everyone in China.
SHANSHAN FENG: I would say first of all I’m really, really, happy that I won the tournament. I still can’t believe it. I think after this week it’s going to give me a lot more confidence. I believe I can win again in the future. And hopefully it’s going to help golf in China because I want to be Li Na for golf in China. I want to be like a model that the other juniors can follow my steps and get on the LPGA.
MODERATOR: I know we were talking earlier how it was your goal to win out here and to record a Top‑10 finish in a Major. You did it all in one quick swoop, how does that feel?
SHANSHAN FENG: I know, it’s just amazing that I did it just one time. Because I think before this one my best finish in major was only 22nd. And that was at Kraft this year. And before this year my best finish in major was 30. So that was my goal. I really, really wanted to get a Top‑10. A while I was playing today, I wasn’t looking at the scoreboard, so I was thinking, when I was like 5‑under, is that enough to get me to Top‑10 because the weather is so nice and everybody is going to shoot low scores.
I was on the 18th green, I looked at the board, I was leading. I just can’t believe it.
MODERATOR: Overall this year you have you had some success already you won on the lady’s European Tour in China, and you also captured a victory in Japan in recent weeks. What’s been the biggest difference for you and your game that’s kind of lead you to that success?
SHANSHAN FENG: I think winning twice in Japan last year really helped on the mental side. I think I’ve always been a good ball striker but my short game is usually a little weak. That’s my weak part. So there in the off season I focused on practicing short game like chipping and putting and I think it worked.
Q. I have 2. Can you just first tell us when you first came to the U.S. and how you got hooked up with Gary?
SHANSHAN FENG: Okay, my manager right now, actually they were friends of Gary’s. So it was right after the Asian Olympics 2006. And then I was around maybe even par, my results are around even. And then I wanted to keep improving and then my manager introduced Gary to me and I went to Gary’s academy in 2007, I think. And then I went to Q‑School the same year.
MODERATOR: I know everybody know Gary Gilchrist is Yani’s swing coach. What does it mean for you to work with him, and have his help and what you have seen that Yani has been able to accomplish as well?
SHANSHAN FENG: I will say maybe we are a little bit different. I think Gary is not only a coach. He is my everything. He is like swinging coach, chucking coach, putting coach, mental coach, and he is also my friend. I really like his personality. We are both very simple person. So we get along very well, not only golf. I think it’s my sixth year working with him already. And I am still very happy.
Q. So your dad works for a golf association in Guangzhou?
SHANSHAN FENG: Yes.
Q. Do you know what the Government has been doing to prepare for the Olympics in 2016, just maybe how much resources are being put in for the game?
SHANSHAN FENG: I’d say, you know, we are having our own Chinese Tour right now, both ladies and mens. They are trying to give exemptions to the juniors and amateurs, like good players, trying to let them have more chances to play in big tournaments. And also we have the national team in China. I think it’s going to help. Hopefully my win is going to help a little bit too.
Q. Shanshan, have you taken time to understand that in a country of 1.3 billion people you are the first person to win a professional golf tournament in the United States in a Major championship in the United States? What does that do to your mind. It’s kind of amazing.
SHANSHAN FENG: I know it is amazing that I just can’t believe. I think I’m just lucky, you know. I would say except for me, there are good players from China right now. And many good young players. I think I became the first one, but I’m sure that there will be second or third or more people winning in the states or winning majors.
Q. Can you just talk to us about, I think your dad worked for the association, how difficult was it to start in golf when it wasn’t a popular sport like you said before?
SHANSHAN FENG: I started when I was 10 and at that time all of the schools, they weren’t supporting us to practice golf. So I was taking lessons like it was middle school. It was like from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. was the starting time. So every day after 5 p.m. and my parents, one of them would come and pick me up, we go to a range close by and hit maybe like 200 balls in like two hours. That’s all I have, two hours every day. That’s on the weekdays. On weekends I try to play a round if I can. But that was before 17, before I came to an America I was doing the same thing. So Gary actually went to China once. I think he went to China a couple of times after I’m with him. So he was very surprised that you know how difficult we were, the situations were for us.
Q. Can you talk about your host family in Rochester you have been staying with them for a while? I guess you had an omen in your eggs this morning.
SHANSHAN FENG: Their names are Dick and Mary Beth. This is my fifth year playing the tournament and fifth year staying at their house. This morning I was hungry around 10:30. And then they were planning to leave around 11:30 so they said, oh, we can make you breakfast. I’m like yes, please eggs and bacon please. And then she figured there were 2 yolks in one egg. She showed me and she said oh, this is good luck. And I was like yes, good luck. I never thought about it, but it was good luck.
Q. Do you believe in messages like that? Are you superstitious?
SHANSHAN FENG: I mean it works sometimes. When it works I believe.
Q. I just want to know your mind set going into the final round especially with you being in the hunt, in a very tight race for first?
SHANSHAN FENG: I’m sorry, can you say that again, please?
Q. Just your mindset going into the final round especially with you being in the hunt in a very tight race for first, what was your mindset going into the final round?
SHANSHAN FENG: Okay. You know, for me I would say I never thought about a must win. I knew I was three behind. I knew I have a chance. But then I just never looked at a scoreboard. I was focusing on every shot, just shot‑by‑shot. And because I know if I just try my best and if I win, I win. If not, I know I’m good enough to win next time. So it just works out. Thank you.
Q. Do you know Hung Mae Yang (phn)?
SHANSHAN FENG: Yes, I do.
Q. How do you know her, did you play golf with her?
SHANSHAN FENG: You know she is like a big sister. I know that she has won twice on the Future Tour maybe.
SHANSHAN FENG: Once. Not only here, I think there were a few more Chinese girls that were playing in the states earlier. They told us a lot of experiences about being in the states. I played recently the closest time ‑‑ the last time I played with her was last year actually so it was almost a year ago because I don’t go back to China very often but she is very nice, and if you ask her anything she is going to answer you.
Q. You mentioned earlier when you were coming down 17 you had a different mindset, can you elaborate on that, please?
SHANSHAN FENG: You know, like I said, I never looked at the scoreboard. But, you know, there was nobody, maybe just one media people was with us before 16. And then on 17 it started to be like at least 10, 10 people were around us. And I was like, okay, maybe I’m having a chance to win. But I never thought about I was leading by 2. I was still trying to concentrate on shot‑by‑shot, and I made a good putt. I made a birdie on 17. And I knew that 18 was a very difficult hole. So the second shot I didn’t hit it very well, went to the left. I saved it. So I think I did very well. Actually, after I chipped, I left it, it was only like two feet, two feet putt and I looked at the board so I knew I was leading.
Q. Were there any players that you looked up to when you were a kid on the LPGA or elsewhere?
SHANSHAN FENG: I would say just when I started playing golf when I was 10, I think it was the time that Annika and Karrie, they were, you know, pretty tight. And Karrie was my idol at that time. And I really looked her play. She is always calm. She is not angry. So she was my idol.
But at the same time I never thought I would get a chance to play with them. And since I was growing up I got to know Yani maybe when we were 13 or something like that. We were playing in [junior|, Jr.] tournament in America. That was my first time to the states and she was the winner last year. So the past year. So I was always trying to chase her until now.
Q. Going back to your hitting 200 balls a day did you work on your short game at all as a kid? Did you have a chance to, any facilities or anything?
SHANSHAN FENG: Actually, yes. But maybe in the driving range I was practicing it. There was one putting green with maybe a couple of bunkers by it. But it wasn’t very good. You know the speed was never ‑‑ it’s not even close to maybe six or seven. So it’s very, very slow and very, very bumpy. So it’s really, really hard for us to practice putting and short game in China.
Q. How do you plan to celebrate this win?
SHANSHAN FENG: I don’t know because I think it happened too soon. I know that I have next week off, and I know that I’m going to miss my flight tomorrow because my passport is still in the British Embassy. I don’t know. Let me think about it. I might just go home, who knows? Maybe I will fly home. I want to see my parents. I’m sure they want to see my too.
Q. Can you give us your birdies, the clubs you hit in and how far your putts were please?
SHANSHAN FENG: I can see mine. 2nd hole I was in the fairway, first shot. And second shot it was 105. 115 teen shot. And I hit a pitching wedge. I left it 15 feet below the hole and I made the putt.
6, the par‑4, I was in the fairway again. And it was 171 to the hole, and we had a wind against us. I had a 5‑iron punch shot, and I left it on the left of the pin for like ten feet. That was a short putt. But that was a really difficult putt. I was right on the slope. So it broke a lot left‑to‑right.
8, par‑5, down the fairway drive. Second shot I had 191 front and 205 pin, I believe. And it was a little downwind and the balls were carrying further today, so I took a 3 hybrid, and I thought I actually hit it left but I didn’t. It was below the hole like 12 feet. And I just missed the putt a little bit on the edge. So 2‑putted.
12, par‑4 ‑‑ 10 and 11 I was missing putts. I missed both of the birdie putts. And then 12 I was in the fairway. It was 100. I think it was 100 to the hole. I knew that if I would hit a 52 it was going to be a full swing so it would spin all the way back so I took a pitching wedge, tried to control it, it went passed the hole maybe 15 feet down the hill and I made it.
17, I was in the bunker from a drive. Second shot I hit 7‑iron back to the fairway and left myself 95 yards to the pin. And I hit it a little past the hole and it was like 12 feet putt down the hill and I made it.
Q. Can you imagine a day in the future when Chinese women will be making the kind of impact on the LPGA that South Koreans did?
SHANSHAN FENG: I would say yes. I think, you know all of the Asians are good. That’s what my parents told me. All of the Asians are good at controlling small things. I don’t know if that’s true or not. But I will say if Koreans can, Chinese can, and golf in China is really growing up and getting more popular. I believe in the future China will be one of the strongest countries on golf.
Q. When you moved to Gary’s academy did you come by yourself, did your mother and father come with you or were you by yourself?
SHANSHAN FENG: I was by myself.
Q. And when you were growing up was your father always running the golf association?
SHANSHAN FENG: He’s not running it. He works for it. He is also the captain for the junior team. So there weren’t many good coaches in China at that time. So my father and myself were trying to figure out ourselves.
Q. Why is your passport at that time British Embassy, what’s going on there?
SHANSHAN FENG: Because I’m trying to get my visa for the British Open. I’m Chinese, and we need a visa anywhere else except for China. I need to get tons of visas in a year. My American visa is one time entry. So every time I get out of states I need to get a new one to come back.
STACY LEWIS, Rolex Rankings No. 3
MODERATOR: We would like to welcome Rolex rankings No. 3, Stacy Lewis, into the interview room. It’s been quite a run for you over the last few weeks. You won two of the last three events and find yourself right there in the hunt today. Take me through the day, and I know it started off slow but got off to a great finish.
STACY LEWIS: Yes, it did. I only hit one fairway on the front 9. The front was a bit of a struggle, and I made a lot of really good pars. I made two bad bogeys on 10 and 11. That really kind of took me out of it. But I was proud, I birdied 3 of the last 8, so I was proud of the way I hung in there and made some putts at the end. It’s fun being in contention and having a chance to win, and Shanshan went out there and shot a great round and that’s the way you want it to be. You don’t want somebody to make bogey on the last hole and lose it. She went out and won it today and congratulations to her.
MODERATOR: How impressive of a round is that, low round of the week, 5‑under‑par, we’ve all seen the tough conditions, to go out there on a Sunday and to shoot that to win it here.
STACY LEWIS: Yes, it is. It’s really impressive. She was in a good spot and got out early ahead of the leaders and was able to go post a number. I think that’s everybody was trying to do. But it was really impressive. It definitely didn’t get any easier out there today, I can say that. My hat is off to her.
MODERATOR: I know a lot of people don’t know a ton about Shanshan’s game or her, can you share some thoughts about what you know about Shanshan and how impressive her game has been over the past few seasons on Tour.
STACY LEWIS: Yes, she played a lot in Japan and the last few years she has been playing more over here. She is a really good player. I played with her a lot of times. She hasn’t quite put together four rounds. I was surprised she hasn’t won out here. You knew it was coming at some point. She is a lot of fun to be around. She has a good sense of humor. It’s great for our Tour. We are getting more global so that’s a good things too.
Q. Stacy, I know you would rather have won this, but there was quite a good consolation prize, I believe you are now the Rolex Player of the Year points leader, is that right?
STACY LEWIS: Steve is more excited than me I think. It’s nice because that’s something that I looked at last week after I won. I don’t know, I think you can ask me that question in November, and I might have a better answer.
Q. Just talk about the conditions today compared to the first three days. What was it like out there?
STACY LEWIS: You know today, gosh, the wind was a little different direction, so some of the holes played a little longer. You know, it played comparable to yesterday. It played a little bit easier than the first two days just because of the weather and the wind and all of that. But you put final round major pressure in there and it makes it a little harder. It wasn’t easier. If you hit it in the rough, you are still struggling to get back out. My back hurt, my feet hurt, my wrist hurt, my elbows hurt. Go get a massage and enjoy the week off.
Q. At what point, you are looking at the leaderboard, I’m sure, at what point did you think I can’t win this? You were struggling all day. It just wasn’t quite there. Were you thinking I just don’t have it?
STACY LEWIS: Yes, the bogeys on 10 and 11 really hurt me. That really took me out of it. It calmed me down and made two birdies on 12 and 13. You know, I really wasn’t watching the leaderboards until I got to 17 and saw Shanshan was at 6‑under. I needed to make eagle on 17 and possibly a birdie on 18. But I don’t know, you don’t really tell yourself you are ever out of it. I was trying to hole out my shot on 18. I fought all day and gave it a good run.
MODERATOR: Last question from me, overall over the past few weeks it’s not just been the victories that you have had that you have consistently putting forth Top‑5 finishes, what is the biggest difference for you for your game lately and how much has this confidence started to grow over this stretch?
STACY LEWIS: You know, it’s confidence, and I think it’s walking up to the first tee and knowing that you can win a golf tournament. Before I kind of wondered, after I won the Kraft, I wondered if I would win again. So you think that’s doubt kind of gone, and I think I can go out there and win and shoot a good score any given day. I feel a lot more confidence in myself.
Q. Stacy, on 18, your approach shot, was it to ten feet? What was your distance for your birdie?
STACY LEWIS: It was about 8 feet probably, just below the hole.
Q. It ran passed by four feet?
STACY LEWIS: 3 feet, a little firm.
GERINA PILLER, Rolex Rankings No. 189
MODERATOR: We are here with Gerina Piller, congratulations, a great final round here today. Considering your history in major championships having not made the cut how were you able to hold it together today and put together a round like this?
GERINA PILLER: Well, today I just wanted to have fun. I was playing with Jenny Shin. She has been a great friend of mine. I actually had my husband write a lot of Bible verses in my yardage books, and I realized there is lots of things, and I just kept reminding myself that there is bigger things out there.
MODERATOR: I know it’s an emotional day, and you were talking earlier about how tough it is to play in these four rounds, how has this week been for you overall?
GERINA PILLER: It’s been great. Having my husband here, and I just can’t. I don’t know how to explain it.
MODERATOR: 17 I know that was a tough hole, did you take a look at the leaderboard before you teed off on that, did you see yourself up there tied for the lead?
GERINA PILLER: I didn’t. I didn’t know where I stood or what I was doing. There was times when I looked back at the front 9, and I was, oh my God, I already played nine holes I can’t believe it. So I just wanted to stay focused, run my programs and just get up there and just play like I was playing back home.
MODERATOR: There are still a few holes left to play for the players, still anything seems possible, how are you holding up, what are your feelings right now?
GERINA PILLER: I’m just glad to be done. I’m exhausted and I get to sit back and relax and enjoy the fans and enjoy my husband.
Q. What did you see out there today that kind of set up for you?
GERINA PILLER: My main focus, I told my caddy at the beginning of the week that I think hitting fairways and hitting greens is key out here. When you do miss a fairway you just got to get yourself back in position. It was very comforting to know that once I maybe missed a fairway I knew I could get up and down for par. So that helped me a lot today.
Q. A lot of players make double on 17, come to 18, and they can’t recover, then you hit your drive in the rough, and you still find a way to get up and down, how proud are you that you held it together until the very end and get that par?
GERINA PILLER: That was huge, definitely boosted my confidence. I’ve been working with a guy named Lanny Basham (phn). I just tried to recall running programs and just try to do the same thing, stick to the same routine and tell myself it’s likely I’m going to hit a good shot, a good drive. This is what we practice for. This is the things we go out on the weekend for, get up early and stay late. It’s for these type shots, you really talk yourself through it and know you can pull it off.
Q. Just off of 17 today how tough was that shot?
GERINA PILLER: It was kind of similar to 17. I’m sorry, it was very difficult. I had one similar on 10 the first two rounds and some I hit a little long. Some I hit a little short. But I really worked before the round on chip shots and just visualized it, and my caddy, thankfully reminded me just to make sure I go through the shots. It was tough not to get on the green, but some of those shots could easily get away from you.
Q. Emotionally how did it affect you? Did you know that you had a chance?
GERINA PILLER: I kind of knew I had a chance on when I made a birdie, and we kind of had to wait on the tee. I just kept telling myself just keep doing what I’m doing. There is no reason to change it. And so it was just, I just got up there and swung. I wouldn’t have done it any other way.
Q. What were a couple of the Bible verses that helped you?
GERINA PILLER: I have them written down actually. Actually the one that really helped me going into 17 or 18 was Matthew 14:13. It says when Peter got out of the boat, walked out of water and came towards Jesus, saw the wind, he was afraid and beginning to sink, called out, Lord saved me, and immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. And I just thought that no matter what happens today, that’s more important. I’m just here living through it right now.
Q. Were you reading that as you were on the tee box?
GERINA PILLER: I read it towards it. On the way to the tee box and read it to my caddy and just really tried to put things in perspective and just glad to be here and just very thankful with the grace that I’ve been given in my life.
PAULA CREAMER, Rolex Rankings No. 11
PAULA CREAMER: A rather frustrating finish. Yes, I definitely had given myself many, many opportunities out there today. I was close a lot of the time, but I just kind of put the ball in difficult spots. A lot of big left‑to‑right putts. It’s hard on this golf course constantly when you are giving yourself that. But I hit the ball well. Definitely like I said, I had a chance, that’s for sure.
Q. Do you feel like maybe you wanted it too much?
PAULA CREAMER: No, I think my attitude was actually pretty good out there. I just kept on giving myself chances, just trying, plugging. The missed putt on 8, and then the bogey on 9 kind of stalled me for a little bit. I was a little bit upset with that. But I got right back out on it and got some good looks at 14, 15. Not 15 but 16. And finally a birdie on 17. It’s frustrating, yes, very much so, but I got to the take a lot of positives from the week. I am hitting the ball so much better. I haven’t really had that kind of feeling for a while and it’s nice now that it’s back.
Q. So it feels good going to The Open?
PAULA CREAMER: 100%, yes. I’m looking forward to a good week off, keep grinding away with David, and hopefully work a little bit more on my line and my speed with my putts just matching that because I’m going to need that at Black Wolf Run and have a 3 week stretch.