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Safeway Classic – First-round Notes and Interviews

Posted by on Aug 20th, 2011 and filed under Golf. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

Safeway Classic Presented by Coca-Cola
Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club, Ghost Creek Course
North Plains, Ore.
August 19, 2011
First-round notes and interviews


Na Yeon Choi -6, Rolex Rankings No. 5
Grace Park -4, Rolex Rankings No. 266
Se Ri Pak -3, Rolex Rankings No. 35

2010 Vare Trophy winner and Rolex Rankings No. 5 Na Yeon Choi fired a 6-under 65 on Friday to take a two-stroke lead after the first round of the Safeway Classic Presented by Coca-Cola. Choi got off to a hot start in her round. After making a birdie on the second hole, she recorded seven consecutive birdies from No. 5-11 on the Ghost Creek Course at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club to get to eight-under par to drop to 6-under. Choi remained there until the 18th hole when she three-putted for a double bogey. Despite the blip at the end of her round, Choi leads Grace Park by two shots heading into Saturday’s second round.

Feeling the pressure?
Last year, Choi had a season to remember. She tallied two wins and recorded 16 top-10 finishes en route to capturing the 2010 LPGA Official Money List title and also the Vare Trophy for the lowest scoring average. But all of the success in her third year on the LPGA Tour raised expectations for the 23-year-old heading into 2011.

“After last year I had a lot of pressure on myself from in Korea, sponsor, media, they want better results so I had a lot of pressure when I started this year,” Choi said. “But I tried to play LPGA tournaments, and I think I’m doing okay. You know, we have a lot of tournaments left, so I’m fine, I think.”

Choi is still seeking her first victory on the LPGA Tour in 2011. She’s had five top-10 finishes this season, which included two third-place finishes (Avnet LPGA Classic and Sybase Match Play Championship).

Choi’s goals for 2011 didn’t just include continued success on the golf course but also improvement off of it. That meant working on her English over the winter and dedicating many hours this season to improving her grasp of the language.

The media in Portland for this year’s Safeway Classic commented on Choi’s vast improvement with her English, having spoken with her quite a bit at last year’s tournament when she finished tied for second with Cristie Kerr.

“I traveled with an English tutor and my own trainer, workout trainer [this season],” Choi said. “I didn’t know that I am like a really dedicated person, but I think I needed it. I felt last year. I don’t know. I play in America, so I think I have to speak English well, and then I want a little more connection with the fans, American fans. So that’s why I learned English.”

Searching for another win: Grace Park has not captured a victory on the LPGA Tour since 2004, when she won twice (the Kraft Nabisco Championship and the CJ Nines Bridges Classic) and took home the Vare Trophy. At the time, it had appeared that Park was a player on the rise but back problems have slowed her down since then as she’s gone 96 starts without a victory

On Friday, Park was able to put together a solid round in the first round of the Safeway Classic and place herself near the top of the leaderboard. She shot a 4-under 67 that included five birdies and one bogey.

“I started out really well today,” Park said. “I birdied four

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