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Interview With Inaugural Champions Liu, Mitsunaga


| May 13, 2015 | Bandon, Ore.

Mika Liu (left) partnered with Rinko Mitsunaga to claim the inaugural U.S. Women's Amateur Four-Ball Championship. (USGA/Steven Gibbons)

Q. I'm going to start with Rinko. Tell us what it feels to be the inaugural national champions here at Bandon Dunes.
RINKO MITSUNAGA: I said this before but it really has not hit me. Right now we're just happy to be here. We're so thankful for the golf course and all the volunteers for having us this week. It's been a long, tough week, but we're glad it's here.

Q. Mika, you had an amazing round today, all those birdies capped off are Rinko's eagle there. Has it sunk in at all? You kind of look a little shocked.
MIKA LIU: No, it hasn't sunk in yet, but definitely my putting, it was so hot today. I feel like I pretty much made everything, so I was very happy with that.

Q. That said, it was pretty clear you might not make it 18. You had six birdies in your first eight holes. I don't know what your lifetime best score is, but you were 6-under on your ball --
MIKA LIU: Yeah, my best score was 6-under.

Q. Did that bother you when you had the bogey on 11? Obviously Rinko picked you up, you had par for the team. You were beached left --
MIKA LIU: After I hit the shot, I was thinking, oh, I might as well go to the beach. But I mean, Rinko was on the green and she was putting for birdie, and I was just thinking, okay, I might as well give a go and make a birdie from the bunker, and I hit it out and gave it my best shot, so I was good with it. Can't be too greedy.

Q. Rinko, give us the details of your eagle on 12.
RINKO MITSUNAGA: Well, I had a little far out from this morning, and I just really wanted to knock it close since I knew someone was going to make a birdie, regardless if it was our team, and it just happened to sink in. Yeah, I don't know how it happened. Didn't get it see it.

Q. What was your yardage and what did you hit?
RINKO MITSUNAGA: I think 88 and a half swing pitching wedge.

Q. Was there a little bit of -- obviously she was playing great. Was that for you really satisfying to have such a nice exclamation point there to add to it personally?
RINKO MITSUNAGA: Oh, for sure because I wasn't contributing anything. We had a lot of fun. I'm so happy she played well, just for her golf, and it was just -- I don't know, it was a great week.

Q. I think I rode the bus with you last night back to the car. You guys went practicing after the 21 holes, didn't you?
RINKO MITSUNAGA: Yeah, just a little bit.

MIKA LIU: We didn't have a very good round. I think we were a little bit tired yesterday, so we just wanted to get a feel for it because we knew we had an early tee time.

Q. I'm sure you're glad you decided to turn the application in now.
MIKA LIU: Oh, yeah.

RINKO MITSUNAGA: We only had five minutes and somehow we got through with it.

Q. Just tell me what that was like. Was she bothering you, you've got to get this in?
RINKO MITSUNAGA: I actually missed the cut at U.S. Amateur, and I just texted her like hey, do you want to play in this? The deadline is today, and we were like, yeah, and I was like, okay, I guess I can just do it on my phone, and we had some issues, but we got it in somehow.

Q. So it was your idea to do it?
RINKO MITSUNAGA: I think I came to you, maybe.

MIKA LIU: My mom handled it.

Q. So you guys are USGA champions, the first ones to have your name on the trophy. What does it mean to you to be the first?
MIKA LIU: It's big. It's going to be the first name everyone is going to see.

Q. Who gets it first?
RINKO MITSUNAGA: How about we --

MIKA LIU: You have it first.

RINKO MITSUNAGA: No, you have it first.

MIKA LIU: We have a whole year with it. We want everyone to see it first.

RINKO MITSUNAGA: Everybody share it.

MIKA LIU: Maybe we can be their inspiration.

Q. What's been the reaction from the academy? Have you heard from your buddies see and your coaches?
MIKA LIU: Oh, throughout the week, there's been a lot of Instagram and Twitter posts. They've been watching us. They've been staying up late to watch FOX Sports, and I think that really helped us to know we had a big support behind us.

Q. And your dad is in Asia, right, now? Gosh, he probably didn't sleep at all. He couldn't watch it, could he?
MIKA LIU: No, there's no TV.

Q. You guys actually lost the first hole. You ended up with a big win, but you got down early.
RINKO MITSUNAGA: I think we both knew we were going to win, the whole tournament. I knew this morning that no matter what, we were going to take home that trophy. I don't know about you.

MIKA LIU: For me, after that first hole, they made birdie, we were 1-down, but it actually gave me a really fast reminder that I had to be focused on every shot and work hard to win it. I didn't know if I was going to win it or not, but I was going to give it my best try, and I was going to just go for it.

Q. Rinko, you said earlier in the week you didn't like to look at who you were playing the next day. Did you know who you were going to play today?
RINKO MITSUNAGA: Today I kind of figured who it was from past experience playing from these players. I didn't know who Hannah was playing against, but I knew they were great players, so I kind of expected it to be them.

Q. You've played them before in AJGA?

Q. They won all their matches pretty big coming into it. Did that change how you guys approached this, or was it all business and usual?
RINKO MITSUNAGA: I didn't know that they won the previous one. Keep the extra distractions out.

Q. So you didn't know they won 10 & 8 the first match?

MIKA LIU: I think it was better than we had tougher matches because we were under pressure a lot more so we got to practice and go into the routine no matter what happens.

Q. Have you ever won 10 & 8?
MIKA LIU: I've done something similar to that.

RINKO MITSUNAGA: Not 10 & 8, though, have you?

MIKA LIU: I think I've done something like 9, 9 and something.

Q. Looking back on the week, if we take out the win, if we take out winning, what's been your favorite moment of your time here at Bandon Dunes?
RINKO MITSUNAGA: Walking by the beach. But what is it, 4? No. 4 is my favorite hole definitely because all we do on 4 is just stare at the beach and just talk about seeing a whale.

MIKA LIU: I loved my trip here. It was so different from the usual tournaments I go to. Usually instead of just flying in a plane -- I did fly in a plane but I flew in Cessna plane for the first time so I got a closer view of all the scenery, and that already got me pumped up because I knew I was coming somewhere close to the ocean, and then I played my first practice round, and I was so shocked by the wind that I was like, oh, this is one tough USGA course. They know how to pick their courses. And then I was very happy to be next to the ocean. Just every time I looked at it, it would smile, and I was away from the city.

RINKO MITSUNAGA: The food, too. It was so good. We gained some weight. I did at least.

MIKA LIU: The food is amazing here. I love the clam linguini at the pub and the pizzas.

Q. So what's next for you guys?
RINKO MITSUNAGA: Thunderbird, both of us.

MIKA LIU: Thunderbird and U.S. Women's qualifier.

RINKO MITSUNAGA: And Southern Am. I guess I'll see you a lot.

MIKA LIU: And also school, finals.

Q. That pesky little thing called school. When are those, school finals?
RINKO MITSUNAGA: It would be really fun if we played against each other in a match.

MIKA LIU: A lot of make-up work in school.

Q. Who would win that match?
RINKO MITSUNAGA: We can't really say.

MIKA LIU: I guess we'd have to see.

Q. Did anyone else from the academy try and make it out to the tournament?
RINKO MITSUNAGA: No, I don't think anyone tried. I don't know about the boys, but the girls, no.

Q. Now that you've played in a tournament in this format, what do you think of it?
MIKA LIU: It's fun. It's different.

RINKO MITSUNAGA: It's more fun.

MIKA LIU: It's good to have a person that -- like when I came in here with Rinko, we didn't know that we would fit so well, and the way we played, I think it was great how I could play aggressive and then Rinko could be aggressive and conservative.

RINKO MITSUNAGA: It brought us closer, too, so that's one plus.