LPGA stars extol virtues of intl. team event
Published : Oct 16, 2017 - 14:34
Updated : Oct 16, 2017 - 14:34
INCHEON -- International stars of women’s golf extolled the virtues Monday of an up-and-coming international competition that has given them a rare opportunity to play for their nation.

The UL International Crown, inaugurated by the LPGA Tour in 2014, will come to South Korea for its third edition in 2018. It’s a new international team event in women’s golf alongside the Solheim Cup, the match play contest between the United States and Europe.

The International Crown is more inclusive. It invites the top eight nations based on the world ranking positions of their four best players and has featured countries like South Korea, China, Australia and Japan -- nations that aren’t part of the Solheim Cup.

International LPGA stars speak at a media conference for the 2018 UL International Crown, an LPGA international competition, at Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea in Incheon on Oct. 16, 2017. From left: Azahara Munoz of Spain, Amy Yang of South Korea, Danielle Kang of the United States and Feng Shanshan of China. (Yonhap)

The teams and their participating players for the 2018 event won’t be determined until next summer, but it didn’t stop international faces of women’s golf from getting ahead of themselves and looking forward to the third International Crown.

South Korea was chosen as the host nation in 2014, and Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea in Incheon, just west of Seoul, was picked as the venue last year. Amy Yang, world No. 13 from South Korea, said the country is a well-deserving host, given the country‘s passion for golf.

“I still have vivid memories of the last International Crown, and playing for your country will just add to your patriotism,” Yang said of the event, in which South Korea finished second to the United States. “There are so many great players from my country that I don’t know if I‘ll have another opportunity. I’ll have to do my absolute best.”

South Korea is currently first in the team standings, with four of the world‘s top 10 players. Spain, which won in 2014 but missed the 2016 competition, is on the bubble in eighth place. And Azahara Munoz who played on that 2014 squad, said she’d like nothing more than another chance to win the International Crown.

“There’s nothing like playing for your country with your teammates,” the 2010 LPGA Rookie of the Year said. “I still remember the 2014 event like it was yesterday. It was probably the best tournament I’ve ever played in my life. I‘m trying to play my best golf and play in front of all the amazing fans that I am sure are all going to come out and watch.”

China didn’t play in 2014 but made it to the 2016 competition, where it finished sixth with former major champion Feng Shanshan in action.

Feng recalled that finally getting to represent her country, after years of watching the Solheim Cup on television, was a memorable experience.

“Hopefully, we can make it next year and I believe we can,” Feng said. “The International Crown allowed me to represent my own country and I tried to make China proud. It will be a chance to show how good Chinese golfers are. We‘ll try to bring our A game.”

Danielle Kang, an American player of Korean descent, has never played at the International Crown, but represented the United States at this year’s Solheim Cup, so she knows how fun it is to wear the Stars and Stripes.

“To be able to represent my country once again would be a great honor,” Kang said. “It will be really great to see multiple players coming out and represent their country. To be a part of that will be absolutely incredible. I‘ll have to play my best golf to make the team.”

The International Crown team standings will be finalized after the US Women’s Open next June. The four eligible players for each nation will be determined based on their world ranking positions after the KPMG Women‘s PGA Championship next July. (Yonhap)