Previous winners Jiyai Shin and Ai Miyazato signalled the start of the HSBC Women’s Champions 2011 by dressing up two of their biggest rivals in their respective national costumes.
Defending champion Miyazato, the 25-year-old Japanese star, was tasked with helping America’s Paula Creamer into a furisode (a type of kimono). 2009 winner Shin, at just over 5ft 1 inch/1.55 metres wrestled with getting the 6ft/1.83 metre Michelle Wie into a hanbok, Korea’s distinctive costume.
Meanwhile, new world number one Yani Tseng, who has dominated the start of the year with four wins in her first four tournaments in Chinese Taipei, Melbourne, Queensland and last week in Thailand, watched on approvingly.
Tseng said: “The LPGA is such a global organisation and we need to showcase our international talent all over the world. We are all proud of where we are from. The Taiwanese and Chinese cultures, and Korea and Japan too, they’re all so rich and this is such a nice opportunity to see just how diverse the LPGA Tour is.”
The tournament, which takes place from 24 to 27 February 2011 at the Tanah Merah Country Club’s Garden Course, is unique in women’s golf as it has only ever been won by members of the exclusive club of players to have been ranked number one in the world.
“The HSBC Women’s Champions came to Singapore because we knew this wonderful new generation of Asian stars was coming. In some ways, it has become a symbol of their emergence; for Jiyai and Ai-chan, their wins in Singapore have been confirmation of their rise to the very top of the game. While the golf is going to be as serious as it gets, it seemed like a nice idea to let them share some of their culture and remind the golf world of how rich their cultures are,” said Giles Morgan, HSBC’s Group Head of Sponsorship.
Said Ai Miyazato, “From the moment I won here last year I’ve been saying what an honour it was to follow Lorena Ochoa and Jiyai. This week is the perfect test of women’s golf and it’s a guarantee that another tournament full of excitement and talent will be showcased again this year.”
“At the same time, there’s always something different here every year and dressing Paula up in the furisode was great fun. While I feel that it’s a great piece of our culture, not many people these days wear a furisode so I’m happy I get to share it at an event like this. Paula looks great in it too like she always does!” added the Okinawan, who started last season with back-to-back wins in Southeast Asia.
Creamer, the 2010 US Women’s Open champion, whose dress included the traditional tabi (split-toed socks) and wooden geta sandals, said: “I wouldn’t want to try and swing a driver wearing a furisode, but it does feel really special and elegant. I have worn kimonos a couple of times on visits to Japan, but it has been awesome to have Ai, a fellow fashionista, on hand with me for this wonderful experience. The Japanese have been wearing kimonos for nearly 2000 years, so as an American, it almost feels like you’re wearing a slice of history. I have really enjoyed learning a little more about Japanese culture today. Luckily I found the perfect pair of earrings to match!”
For Shin and the Korean-American Wie, there were fewer cultural issues but more logistical challenges. “I needed a ladder to dress her,” laughed the diminutive Shin. “She’s one of the tallest women I’ve ever seen in a hanbok. Koreans tend to be shorter and closer to the earth; a solid foundation. It’s one of the reasons we’re good at golf; that and kimchi power of course!”
For Wie, who is studying at Stanford University and has a keen interest in fashion, getting back to her roots was an enjoyable experience.
“I’ve only worn the hanbok a couple of times in my life but it is still a huge part of my family heritage. One of the LPGA’s strengths is how international it is, but we all look the same once we’ve got our golf gear on. I hope this will help people realise how different and rich our backgrounds are and I hope it encourages people to be more interested in our cultural backgrounds,” said the 21-year-old from Honolulu, whose 2010 CN Canadian Women’s Open win is the biggest of her career so far.
Alex Hungate, Group General Manager and Chief Executive Officer of HSBC Singapore said: “As a bank, HSBC prides itself on opening up a world of opportunities for people and the HSBC Women’s Champions has proved to be an opportunity for talented young Asians to step up into the world’s elite. At the same time, we’ve always made sure that an opportunity is given to a young Singaporean, like Christabel Goh who won in the local qualifier this year, to get a taste of what it is like to play at this level.”
Robbie Henchman, Senior Vice President of IMG, the event promoters, added: “The HSBC Women’s Champions has earned a reputation as one of the top tournaments in world golf in almost no time at all. It attracts the best players, gives them one of the warmest welcomes, tests their golf to the limits and makes the winner produce a truly world-class display.”
The HSBC Women’s Champions 2011 will see 63 of the world’s top female golfers, including all of the 2010 major champions and all of last year’s LPGA tournament winners, battle it out over 72 holes of individual stroke play. The tournament is sanctioned by the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) and will offer a purse of US$1.4 million.
Lorena Ochoa, who has since retired from the sport, lifted the inaugural trophy in Singapore in 2008 with an outstanding final score of 20-under – 11 shots ahead of her closest challenger.
Jiyai Shin had a phenomenal rookie season with her victory at the HSBC Women’s Champions 2009, kick-starting a winning season which she ended at the top of the Official Money List.
Ai Miyazato, who won the HSBC Women’s Champions 2010 after defeating Cristie Kerr by two strokes, became the first player in 44 years to open a LPGA Tour season with two consecutive wins after also claiming the Honda PTT LPGA Thailand 2010.
For more information on the HSBC Women’s Champions 2011, please visit the tournament website at http://www.hsbcgolf.com.