LET member Pornanong Phatlum from Thailand held on to her first-round lead and captured her first career LPGA Tour victory at the HSBC LPGA Brasil Cup 2012. Phatlum fired a 6-under 67 on the course at Itanhanga Golf Club in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to finish at 13-under-par and take a four-shot victory over Taiwan native Amy Hung.
Phatlum entered the final round of the unofficial event tied for the lead with Karine Icher at 7-under-par. She got off to a hot start on Sunday with five birdies on the front nine en route to running away with the tournament. Phatlum becomes the fourth different champion of the HSBC LPGA Brasil Cup following Mariajo Uribe in 2011, Meaghan Francella’s win in 2010 and Catriona Matthew in 2009.
“I’m so excited today,” Phatlum said after her victory. “I play really well today and I played my own game. I’m just very happy.”
All in the Family: Phatlum had a little help this week as her brother, Pornpong, was caddying for her. Pornpong is also a professional golfer who has played on various Tours in Asia. Phatlum said that having him on her bag this week was definitely an advantage.
“We just have fun today and my caddy, my brother, he helped me to concentrate,” Phatlum said. “He helped me to focus on my game and kept me in the round.”
Going low: The low round of the two-day event belonged to Taiwan native Amy Hung, who fired an 8-under 65 on Sunday to finish at 9-under-par and move up into second place. Hung tallied nine birdies and one bogey in her round after beginning the day at 1-under-par.
Hung said that she recently made some changes to her clubs, particularly to her long irons and her woods. Hung battled some back pain last year and she wanted to do something that might alleviate some of that. Based on her results this week, Hung is pretty happy with the switch.
“I had done some club change, experimenting with new clubs,” Hung said. “So it was kind of up and down the last few weeks. I didn’t have a lot of time to do that in the offseason, which that is something you should do in the offseason. But I was too busy playing tournaments. I probably found something I like this week and I’ll stick with it the rest of the season and hopefully keep shooting low scores like this.
Road to a return: This week marked the first step in what Angela Park knows will be a long process in her return to the LPGA Tour. The 2007 Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year stepped away from the game at the end of the 2010 season citing mental and physical exhaustion.
But after a year-and-a-half break, Park started working on her golf game about three months ago and decided that she wanted to try to play professionally again. It’s been an up-and-down process for her so far yet this week reminded her why she decided to get back into golf.
“I don’t know if anyone can relate to it but I feel like I’m playing golf all over again,” Park said. “It’s completely new. I’m more aware of what I’m doing out there. Before it was kind of just automatic and I learned so much in these last two days than in the last four years playing golf. It was just a great two days, it was a great week. I have so many people supporting me, which I was really surprised because golf is not even known here. It was a big blessing.”
Park finished the two-day event with a 7-over-par score but the real key for her was taking the first step in what she’s deeming a two-year process. Right now Park plans to go back home to California to work more on her game with her focus on Q School at the end of the year and regaining her LPGA Tour status.
“The funny thing is that I actually played better than when I quit,” Park said of her play this week. “When I quit I was playing pretty bad because I didn’t want to play. But that gave me hope that I can actually get better. It can’t get worse. So I mean I feel confident. I feel I can improve, there is so much room for improvement that it’s almost like you can’t not improve. That’s exactly why I gave myself two years. This year, who knows what is going to happen and then next year we’ll see how it goes.”
Of Note…The low Brazilian for the event was Angela Park, who finished at 7-over-par for the two-day event. The other two Brazilians in the field, Victoria Alimonda and Luciana Bemvenuti, finished 29th and 30th respectively in the field…Defending champion Mariajo Uribe finished 24th at 2-over-par after shooting 75 in Sunday’s final round.
PORNANONG PHATLUM, Rolex Rankings No. 76
Q. Congratulations on your first victory on the LPGA Tour. You came into today tied for the lead. Describe how it feels to come away with the win.
PORNANONG PHATLUM: I’m so excited today. I play really well today and I played on my game. I’m just very happy today.
Q. Did you expect this result?
PORNANONG PHATLUM: I just tried to concentrate on my game.
Q. What did you think of playing here in Brazil?
PORNANONG PHATLUM: I very much liked coming to play here. Everybody was very nice. I love to play here. I will come back here.
Q. What do you think was the most important thing for you to win today?
PORNANONG PHATLUM: I think my mental game and I putt really good today too.
Q. How were you able to concentrate today?
PORNANONG PHATLUM: We just have fun today and my caddy, my brother, he helped me to concentrate. He helped me to focus on my game and kept me in the round.
Q. Did having your brother as your caddy make a difference?
PORNANONG PHATLUM: He helped me a lot today.
Q. What was the most difficult part of your victory?
PORNANONG PHATLUM: I think the tough greens and it’s a very narrow golf course. I just have to concentrate on my target
Q. Is this your first time in Brazil and how was the sensation to win in Brazil?
PORNANONG PHATLUM: This is my first time here. It was just relaxing to play here. I like everybody here, very friendly and yeah it’s very nice.
AMY HUNG, Rolex Rankings No. 129
Q. Great round out there today. What was the key to your success out there today?
AMY HUNG: My wedges and my putting were very good today. Inside 100 yards, I gave myself putts of 3 feet or 4 feet and I was making all of them.
Q. We saw your low score among others out there today, including Pornanong Phatlum. Was the course pretty scorable today?
AMY HUNG: I think so. There are a lot of par 5s on this golf course and I’m sure a lot of long hitters can bomb it out there. I consider myself not to be a long hitter but I lay out good yardage and hit a full shot with a wedge in. That worked out pretty well.
Q. So far this year how have you been feeling about your game and is today a representation of some hard work that you’ve been putting in?
AMY HUNG: I had done some club change, experimenting with new clubs. So it was kind of up and down the last few weeks. I didn’t have a lot of time to do that in the offseason, which that is something you should do in the offseason. But I was too busy playing tournaments. I probably found something I like this week and I’ll stick with it the rest of the season and hopefully keep shooting low scores like this. The long irons and woods I changed because I’ve been suffering some back pain last year. I wanted something easier to hit. But on the other hand, it gets a little softer and whippier so it’s hard to control. But these seem to be good and I think I’ve figured it out now.
PAULA CREAMER, Rolex Rankings No. 10
Q. Great round today. Overall thoughts on your day and the two-day event?
PAULA CREAMER: I played really well today. I had a lot of birdies, definitely enough birdies to win the golf tournament but too many bogeys in two days. Overall though I’m very pleased. I loved my first visit to Brazil. I really enjoyed my time here and I’m looking forward to coming back.
Q. What was your overall experience like in Rio?
PAULA CREAMER: I’ve had a wonderful time. I got to do a lot of things that you don’t normally get to do at golf tournaments. Just being able to see the culture. This is my first time in South America so it’s nice to be able to see a different country and everybody has been really nice, really wonderful here. I’m really looking forward to for the Olympics and hopefully I’ll be able to come and represent my country.
ANGELA PARK, Brazil native
Q. Can you sum up the two days at the event and what you gained from this experience?
ANGELA PARK: I don’t know if anyone can relate to it but I feel like I’m playing golf all over again. It’s completely new. I’m more aware of what I’m doing out there. Before it was kind of just automatic and I learned so much in these last two days than in the last four years playing golf. It was just a great two days, it was a great week. I have so many people supporting me, which I was really surprised because golf is not even known here. It was a big blessing.
Q. What has the reaction been from the other players out here?
ANGELA PARK: It’s been really nice. They’ve been like, ‘Where have you been? You’re so white.’ I joked with them to stop telling me that. After a couple days, they were like you’re still not tan and I was like, I know you put sunblock on so what kind of tan are you going to get? But they’ve been very welcoming and I really appreciate it.”
Q. So what is the next step for you now that this week is over?
ANGELA PARK: Just grinding it. Just going back home and really getting ready for Q School. I know it’s a long ways away but I did stop playing for a long time. So I need a couple months to really grind it out there and hopefully I’ll be ready to go during Q School.
Q. Do you have any other events on your schedule yet?
ANGELA PARK: Not as of now but maybe I’ll play some small tournaments back at home, back in the States.
Q. Did you get a good assessment of your game this week? Like what feels normal and what might need some work?
ANGELA PARK: The funny thing is that I actually played better than when I quit. When I quit I was playing pretty bad because I didn’t want to play. But that gave me hope that I can actually get better. It can’t get worse. So I mean I feel confident. I feel I can improve; there is so much room for improvement that it’s almost like you can’t not improve. That’s exactly why I gave myself two years. This year, who knows what is going to happen and then next year we’ll see how it goes.