CURTIS CUP
Team USA Pre-Match Press Conference Transcript June 9, 2010 By USGA

RHONDA GLENN:  Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.  My name is Rhonda Glenn.  I'm manager of communications for the United States Golf Association.  I'd like you to know that the United States Golf Association and the Ladies Golf Union are so pleased to be here at the Essex County Club which has not only hosted two USGA Amateur championships, but perhaps more importantly, was the home club for Margaret and Harriot Curtis, who founded this Match in 1932, and their presence is certainly felt here today.

We'd first like to introduce a couple members of the U.S. team along with the captain.  Noreen Mohler is the captain.  She is from Bethlehem, Pa., and she is a member of the victorious 1978 USA Curtis Cup team.  To her left we have Alexis Thompson, who is the youngest member of the team, at the age of 15.  She is from Coral Springs, Florida.  She is the 2008 U. S. Girls Junior Champion.  Her brother, Nicholas, by the way, was a member of the 2005 USA Walker Cup team.

To her right is Jennifer Song, accomplished a rare double, winning the U.S. Women’s Amateur and the U. S. Women’s Amateur Public Links, both titles she captured last year.  So we would like to remind you that we have released the pairings to you for tomorrow, but simply as a courtesy to the media, and we ask that you embargo these pairings until 6:00.  We also ask that you not discuss these with the players as they will not be informed of the pairings until the flag raising ceremony.  Then you may ask any questions you'd like about the pairings.  Please refrain until that time.  Thank you.

Noreen, let's get this started off with you, please.  How did it make you feel to be selected as the captain of the team and what has the experience been like so far?

NOREEN MOHLER:  Well, being named the captain has been over and above anything I ever expected.  As you are a player, an amateur golfer, you always want to make the Curtis Cup team.  That's the highest honor as an amateur golfer in this country.

Being named the captain I had no idea that it was even possible for me to be the captain.  It wasn't on my radar.  It wasn't something I was striving for.  When I got the call, I was totally, totally blown away by it and just deeply humbled and honored by it as well, and I always get choked up when I talk about it.  That's how important it is to me.

So the fact that it just, I felt like that it came out of the blue makes it even more special.  So it was very, very, very unexpected.

RHONDA GLENN:  And how have you tried to prepare your team for the matches.

NOREEN MOHLER:  Well, the one thing we did talk about is that the Curtis Cup is very special because of what Rhonda has already mentioned to you, that this is the home of the Curtis sisters, so it's a little different than a lot of the other Curtis Cups that have been played, so I really tried to make sure the girls were informed of who the Curtis sisters were and their contribution not only to golf, but in general things that the Curtis sisters did as far as their efforts in the World War and how they were just so beneficial to whatever cause came up.  They took care of it, so not only in the golf world but in the public sector as well.

They were very giving of women, and they were way before their time.  They were doing things women just didn't do at that time.  So I prepared them for that, the history of the event.  And as far as being their captain, they don't need me to tell them how to play golf.  They know how to play golf and they know how to prepare for golf matches, so I've let them do their own preparing.  And we talked a little bit about strategy last night and who might be paired with whom and did a little of that.

I liken my job to being more like a baseball manager.  I'm the one who's going to give the lineup, I'm the one who's going to pair them up.  I've tried to learn who they are both as golfers and young ladies and what their likes and dislikes are.  And we had a nice practice session here, a three‑day practice session about two weeks ago, and I did a lot of observing both on and off the golf course, and that helped.  So it's been great getting to know these young ladies.

RHONDA GLENN:  Jennifer, you won the U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links.  I remember you were hoping that your lifetime goal at that time was to play on the Curtis Cup team.  That's a goal that you virtually wrapped up when you won the U.S. Amateur.  I know it means a lot to you.  Try and tell us what it does mean to you.

JENNIFER SONG:  Just like Noreen said, it's a great honor to be on the Curtis Cup team, and when I got the phone call that I was on the team, I was just really awed, like I was really shocked, and I just couldn't, you know, control my emotional state.  This was something that I've always wanted as an amateur, and thinking that I finally made it to the team just blew my mind away.

And I called my parents right away, because I was in the States, and my parents were obviously in Korea, and they were very happy to hear that, and we just really celebrated that moment, and I was trying to just embrace everything, and I just felt proud of myself at that moment.

RHONDA GLENN:  Where were you when you got the call?

JENNIFER SONG:  I was in my apartment, and I just came back from classes, and I was tired, and you know, kind of, you know, about to get in my bed and take a little nap.  And I got the phone call, and I was just like, oh, my gosh, I'm on the team, and I was kind of ‑‑ I was walking around in the room and knowing ‑‑ like I didn't know what to do.  So yeah, it was a very thrilling moment for me.

RHONDA GLENN:  Thank you, Jennifer.  And Alexis, let me ask you one question and then we'll open it up for questions.  You're the youngest member of the team.  Does that create any kind of hardship for you or advantage or what's it like being the youngest?

ALEXIS THOMPSON:  No, I don't really think about it that much.  All my friends are on the team.  I know everybody pretty well.  We make a great team.  I don't think age matters.  We're all great players and that's all that matters.

RHONDA GLENN:  All right.  Let's open it for questions.

Q.  I'm curious what the practice consisted of.  What did you get out of that and how important was it to have your team all together prior to this week?

ALEXIS THOMPSON:  Yeah, it was really important getting to know the golf course really well, getting used to the greens and knowing what side of the hole you need to be on, and we play alternate‑shot and best‑ball that week, too.  So we got to know the players and if we're good with certain players or not good.  So it definitely helped a lot.

Q.  I'm curious if Nicholas gave you any advice about playing Curtis Cup.  He played in the Walker Cup five years ago.

ALEXIS THOMPSON:  He actually didn't tell me any advice.  He just said it's an honor.  That was an amazing event, the Walker Cup, and even my dad said it was an amazing event to watch, just all the people.  It's an honor to represent the United States, and I know that because of the Solheim Cup and Junior Ryder Cup.  This is a way bigger event, and I'm just really happy to be here.

Q.  Jennifer, you kind of give us the key holes and what it's going to take this week?

JENNIFER SONG:  Well, actually I've only played the course like two times, but I think it's really important to push yourself on this golf course, especially on No. 2, the greens are crowned, and you have to really ‑‑ with your second shot you don't want to miss, and at certain places there is like a collection area all around the green, and I think it's really important to keep your ball short of the pin.  And if you go over it, it's going to be a tough up‑and‑down, and I think all of our players know that.

And definitely there's a par‑3, No. 4 is a long par‑3, and I think par is going to be your best bet there, and if you make a birdie, you should be happy and just walk away.

But all of the holes, I think you just can't really loosen up.  You have to keep your tension, like your feel, like from 1 to 10 your tension should be like six or something.

RHONDA GLENN:  Are your parents here, by the way? 

JENNIFER SONG:  Yeah.  Both of my parents are here.

RHONDA GLENN:  Alexis?

ALEXIS THOMPSON:  Yeah.  They just came in today.

Q.  You both talked about how honored you are to be here.  With the tournament starting tomorrow.  Any concern that you're too amped and that would be a bad thing going into an event like this?

NOREEN MOHLER:  Let's see.  We talked at the beginning of the week that ‑‑ the girls all arrived on Sunday, so we talked at the beginning of the week that it's a long week.  There's a lot expected of us, both socially and getting their golf games together and getting to the golf course.

So it was important that, first of all, they play the golf course and feel comfortable with that, and they all love it, absolutely love the golf course.  And secondly, they need to pace themselves, so we played 18 holes Monday, we played 18 holes Tuesday, and then yesterday we took the morning off and went into Boston and did some fun things, so it's just important to pace yourself so that you're ready to go, so by the time Friday morning comes, you're not tired and just thinking, oh, we're just getting started.

So I think the girls have done a good job of getting their games ready and pacing themselves as well.  So I think they're ready to go.  It's actually gone by fast.  I think Sunday through Thursday has flown by, at least for me.  So we're ready.  Ready.

RHONDA GLENN:  Alexis, do you feel the possibility of getting too amped up?

ALEXIS THOMPSON:  No.  I don't think we're too excited.  I think we're just ready to get the tournament started because we've played on it a good amount of times ‑‑ I have at least.  I've played on it like seven times already, so I'm just ready to get the tournament started.  I think I have a good feeling that we're going to do really well out there.

RHONDA GLENN:  And Jennifer?

JENNIFER SONG:  I'm like Alexis.  I'm not that nervous.  I think all of the players want to get it started, kind of show the GB & I team what we are made of.  We're just waiting patiently for tomorrow morning. 

RHONDA GLENN:  And what sort of fun things did you do in Boston yesterday?

NOREEN MOHLER:  We played golf in the afternoon.  We went into Boston yesterday, and we did the Duck Tour in the morning.  I took them to a very strange shoe store called Bodega.  I don't know if any of you know about that in Boston, but it's kind of ‑‑ it's different.  Then we had lunch in Boston at P.F. Chang's and then came back and spent the afternoon practicing and playing.  It was just a nice diversion.

Q.  There's two other 15‑year‑olds in the match.  Have you seen either of them play and can you comment on their games?

ALEXIS THOMPSON:  Yeah.  I think I played with one of them once at the Junior Ryder Cup, I think.  And we made it to the last hole, so it was pretty close.  So I don't think we both played that well on that day, so I can't really go off that.  But to get here they're obviously really good.  So everybody I think it's a really good year and I'm grateful to be here.

Q.  This is for both players.  Now that you're here and you've been on the course, spent some time around people who know about the history, has it sunk in more how much tradition and history is behind the tournament?

ALEXIS THOMPSON:  Yeah.  It definitely has.  We've learned a lot.  I mean when we got here the first time, we went through and learned about the Curtis sisters and all the history about it, like when it first started in 1932, and I don't know, we learned a lot about it.  So we definitely know a lot about it.

RHONDA GLENN:  And Jennifer?

JENNIFER SONG:  Yeah.  Definitely it's a long tradition, because all of us got a chance to meet the former Curtis players, and they were mentioning like what year they were on the team, and some mentioned 1950, and I'm like, wow, even if you double my age, I still wouldn't be born.  (Laughs).  And they were kind of laughing at that.  But yeah, that's definitely a long history for all of us.

Q.  From a captain's perspective did you kind of lose the home court advantage with the weather?

NOREEN MOHLER:  You mean the weather today?

Q.  The weather the last couple of days with the rain and ‑‑

NOREEN MOHLER:  Yeah.  Hopefully it's going to be beautiful tomorrow.  That's what I was told.

So no, I mean I think these girls, I mean they've played all over, and they're used to dealing with the conditions, and they can adapt.  I have no qualms about that.

Q.  The U. S. has won, I think six straight matches now.  For the players, do you all feel any extra pressure of keeping the streak alive?

JENNIFER SONG:  Well, of course, that kind of pressure is definitely in the back of our heads, but going into the tournament all we're thinking about is kicking some butts out there, but we don't have the pressure, oh, we should keep the streak going.  But I told Noreen yesterday, Noreen, we got your back, so don't worry about it.

NOREEN MOHLER:  Of course, as the captain, you don't want to be the captain that the streak is broken on.  It's there, but these girls are used to, as they're going to deal with the elements, they deal with the pressure.

RHONDA GLENN:  And Alexis, I'd like to ask, too, about the streak.

ALEXIS THOMPSON:  Yeah.  I don't think we're going to think about that like when we're on the first tee, we're going to be like okay, we have to win, we have to win.  We don't want to think that because then you're just going to get really nervous.  You just have to play your game and hope for the best.  That's all you can do.  Just try your hardest.

Q.  I have a question about when you were on the Duck Tour.

ALEXIS THOMPSON:  I was really amazed that the truck went in the water.  I've never seen that before.  That was crazy.  I actually saw it when I was back home.  I saw it and people were informing me about it.  It was definitely different, wheels and then propellors.  It was different.

NOREEN MOHLER:  Tiffany Lua when we were in the Charles River, she got up and sat in the conductor's seat.  So she was able to see the Charles River.  So that was fun.

JENNIFER SONG:  Personally I was amazed to see, one of the windows, it was set up like transparent glass, and the tour guide said it was made out of manganese and it turns purple or something because that's an element, and I thought that was pretty cool, and he said it's rare to find those glasses around here.  I thought that was pretty cool.

Q.  Both of you are going to turn pro after this.  Does that create any distractions for you or does it make it easier for you to concentrate because you don't have to think about that this week?

JENNIFER SONG:  For me this is definitely a good week for me, and turning professional is way out of my head.  Like I'm not even thinking about that right now.

Like I'm focused about this event, and I'm just going to give my best out there, and you know, this is definitely the best honor for an amateur, and I'm just embracing every moment out here.

ALEXIS THOMPSON:  Yeah, like she said, you just gotta play one event at a time, and we're not thinking about turning pro right now, because this is our main focus, and we just want to do our best out here and come out strong and do our best to win.

RHONDA GLENN:  Any other questions?  All right.  We'll let the two players go.  Thank you so much.  Noreen, we want to speak to you about the pairings.  We will hold this until after 6:00.

Q.  You were making observations during the practice rounds.  What did you see?

NOREEN MOHLER:  Well, the one thing with foursomes, the United States doesn't play foursomes at all.  We have no foursomes tournaments.  So I think it's really important to put people together, first of all, personality wise that will click, and I must tell you that personality wise they all click.  So that was not a big chore.  The chore was to watch their game and see how far they hit it, whether they're conservative players or go‑for‑broke players, so that's really what I watched.

And I try to in foursomes put people together that have basically the same length, because I think it's really hard if you put someone who hits it far with a shorter hitter.  But again, we have some girls that hit it really far, but we don't have any short hitters.  We have some medium hitters, but they're not short.  So that was very much under consideration.

Q.  Did anybody ask to play together?

NOREEN MOHLER:  Not really.  I mean we had a great meeting last night, and I said to them, just talk to me; tell me what you're feeling.  Tell me what you think.  And a lot of things came out, and I know that Alexis and Jessica have played a lot together.  They know each others' game.  They didn't specifically say, oh, we want to play together, but they know each others' games.  They know each others' personalities, so I thought that was a no‑brainer there.

The two Jennifers are ‑‑ their games are very similar in that they're very steady.  They hit a lot of fairways.  They hit a lot of greens and they have amazing short games, so I thought that was a good pairing, and Cydney and Stephanie really get along well personality wise, and Stephanie is unflappable and she's steady, and Cydney told me that she's a person that can make a lot of birdies, but she can also make a lot of bogeys, so I think those two games maybe are a little bit different, but I think they'll help one another be steady to a match.

Q.  Did anything become pretty obvious early in that practice session or was it the kind of thing where it took a little while before you had a feel?

NOREEN MOHLER:  Yeah.  It took really until last night listening to how they felt and what we talked about.  I mean I had papers and papers, and I scratched out names.  I mean it's pretty amazing.

But I think the hardest part is who's going to sit out.  And that's what I struggled with the most.  They could all play.  I told them that ‑‑ I don't have a team where No. 1 is really strong and No. 8 is weak.  They are all No. 1 players.  So the hardest part was who's going to sit out each match.

And I won't know ‑‑ I know who's sitting out tomorrow morning, and I don't know what I'm going to do tomorrow afternoon.  I got a nice email from Beth Daniel last night who named was Solheim captain recently, and she just said be prepared.  Plan ahead, and then go with the flow.  So that basically means just be ready for anything.

Q.  Is your plan to sit each player at least once?  Is that what you want to do or will you ride a certain player through all the matches?

NOREEN MOHLER:  I think ideally it would be wonderful if everybody sat out one match, and I hope I have the luxury to do that, but we're here to win, and if I have to ride a player, then that's what we'll do.  But again, I don't think that that's going to happen with this team because it's a strong, deep team.

Q.  How many players were at the practice session?

NOREEN MOHLER:  Everybody was here at the practice session except for Jennifer Song.  She had a commitment in Korea.

RHONDA GLENN:  Noreen, in the past when Barbara McIntire was captain in Minikahda, she had past captains come in and talk to the team.  Have you done anything like that or have you played a lot of patriotic songs?

NOREEN MOHLER:  Well, it's amazing, Rhonda, because these girls are 15 to 20 and the music that they listen to is not the same music that I listen to.  I was just sitting upstairs with the Golf Channel interviews, and their music is hip hop and reggae and rap.

So no, we haven't done patriotic songs, but we went to the past players reception last evening, and the girls came in and met a lot of the past players and captains, and I think that was valuable, as Jennifer mentioned, to meet players that played back in the 40s and the 50s, and that was nice.

But as far as, I mean our schedule has been jam packed this week, but we have not specifically had the captains come in and talk to them.

Q.  Noreen, you talked earlier about remembering everything when you played in the 70s.  Could you maybe compare what the Curtis Cup was like back then to now, the whole scene?

NOREEN MOHLER:  The whole thing just seems to be more of an event now.  I don't remember getting there on Sunday to play the Friday match.  I think we maybe showed up on Wednesday, and just the way they're outfitted.  We get all the ‑‑ I don't remember getting all the clothes and the golf bags and the golf shoes.  It just seems like it's a bigger event nowadays.

RHONDA GLENN:  All right.  Noreen, thanks so much.  We wish you all the luck.

NOREEN MOHLER:  Okay.  Thanks, Rhonda.