Photograph courtesy of LPGA
The third edition of the UL International Crown gets underway tomorrow here at the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea in Incheon City, Seoul, with the Australian team of Minjee Lee, Katherine Kirk, Su Oh and Sarah Jane Smith in a confident mood as they head into tomorrow's opening match against England.
Team Australia will be the fifth seed for the event, while the remaining seven countries that have qualified to compete, in order of seeding, are Korea, USA, Japan, England, Thailand, Sweden and Chinese Taipei.
Lee and Kirk had long been guaranteed their positions on the team, however Smith and Oh had to endure a nerve racking last few weeks of qualifying to ensure their positions on the team.
Minjee Lee is the only Australian player to have represented her country in all three playings of the event, Kirk and Oh will be playing for the second time while Smith makes what is a long-awaited debut at the event.
The hosts and overwhelming event favourites Korea will be represented by current world number 1 Sung Hyun Park, So Yeon Ryu, In-Gee Chun and In-Kyung Kim, all former major champions
The other team line-ups who will be competing for a share of the $US1.6 million prizemoney on offer are:
USA - Lexi Thompson, Jessica Korda, Cristie Kerr, Michelle Wie.
Japan - Nasa Hataoka, Misuzu Narita, Mamiko Higa, Ayako Uehara
England - Charley Hull, Georgia Hall, Jodi Ewart Shadoff, Bronte Law
Thailand - Ariya Jutanugarn, Moriya Jutanugarn, Pornanong Phatlum, Sherman Santiwiwatthanaphong
Sweden - Anna Nordqvist, Pernilla Lindberg, Madelene Sagstrom, Caroline Hedwall
Chinese Taipei - Teresa Lu, Wei-Ling Hsu, Hsuan-Yu Yao, Candie Kung
In tomorrow's opening match teeing off at 9:15 am local time, Minjee Lee and Sarah-Jane Smith will take on the tough English pairing of reigning Ricoh Women's British Open Champion Georgia Hall and European Solheim Cup star Charley Hull.
In the second match teeing off at 9:30 am local time, Su Oh and Katherine Kirk will take on the English pairing of Bronte Law, who makes her debut in the event and Jodi Ewart Shadoff, who is undefeated in UL International Crown play.
Team Australia faced questions from the world's media assembled in Seoul yesterday with Katherine Kirk speaking about the feeling within the Australian Team while admitting that Team Australia did also face a huge task this week,
"We have probably got a little ground to cover on some teams but this year though we feel really confident with our team and our preparation, I think it's going to be a good week for us."
"If you look at world rankings the South Korean team is so far ahead of us but we know that anything can happen in match play. Certainly, all four of us have played a lot of match play growing up and the World Rankings won't mean much standing on the tee against them. We know that we've got as good as chance as any team, the pressure is on the South Koreans and the crowds will be pulling for them harder than we've ever seen, but I really think we're up to the challenge. We don't mind the underdog role, I don't think it's ever hurt anyone and the energy amongst our team is fantastic. As great as golf is playing by yourself, there is just that much more excitement and energy when you have teammates and you're working towards this common goal. I think that's the part of it that gets us going.
"Obviously it's an honour to represent your country. We know that we've got 24 million back home -- maybe they don't all follow golf but there are many that do who will be cheering us on."
Kirk said that the opportunity for the players to play for their countries ensured an electric atmosphere this week,
"I would say I can't speak for the other players from the other countries, but certainly they're enjoying the fact that they're representing their country. There is a lot of camaraderie on tour even though it is an individual sport. The fact that we get to play in a team event, yeah, we're getting a different level of excitement this week"
When speaking about tomorrow's opening match against England the Queenslander said,
"For golf fans and cricket fans, I'm sure they're drawing some similarities to our first match. I was kidding around out there. Yeah, we're playing against the motherland. I think it'll be fun, we know all the English girls well. We feel we can be very competitive against any country, but I think there is also a little bit more rivalry between Commonwealth countries. We are looking to get some points early."
Australia's unofficial team leader and highest ranked player Minjee Lee was also looking forward to the challenge ahead this week,
"The fans are probably going to be roaring out there, I have heard rumours that all the online sales were sold out a very, very long time ago. Yeah, I mean, we're really looking forward to all the fans and just the atmosphere. I think it's going to be great. Obviously the golf course, the layout is really pretty good for match play, I am really looking forward to that, too. The fact that we are here in Korea means the Korean team probably has the most pressure on them, we'll just go out there and play our best and we'll see how it goes. We will definitely just go and play as free as we want and I guess embrace whatever comes our way. There are a lot of holes that you can score, the 14th hole you can drive the green and there is a mixture of long and short holes and mid-holes, so you never know where you're going to make mistakes. There are holes that you can really take advantage of and make birdies. So you can go either way. It'll be exciting.
Queenslander Sarah Jane Smith spoke of her excitement about finally making it onto the Australian team this week,
"It's something that I really wanted for a long time. I've been in the fifth spot for the first two editions of this event and it was really disappointing to miss out. Australians love representing their country, so this is something that I have really wanted.
It was really close again this year, I think I was in the fifth spot with a month or two before the teams were selected. I'm honoured to be a part of this team and looking forward to representing Australia with these girls.
Smith said the unique opportunity to represent her country at a professional level was her motivation to make the team this week.
"For us growing up we played a lot of representative golf, and all of a sudden you turn professional and then there was nothing for us to play in anymore. Now we have the Olympics obviously, but for most Australians this really is our only opportunity to play as a team. I think we as a country really revel in doing that, and I think that moving the tournament here to Korea and getting an international feel to the event has made it even more special. I think this would be a really good one for us to have a good week"
Victorian Su Oh also said that the Australian Team spirit this week could provide them with an advantage,
"Yeah, well, we obviously have a really good team dynamic. We all know each other really well. It's not like getting to know each other. We all play out on the LPGA, so we see each other week to week. I think a lot of us are in different spots leading up to the event after Evian, but we have kept in touch on our group chat. It is a secret what we have been talking about, but a lot of important stuff. We have really good communication and we all get along. The team dynamic has been great the whole week."
Oh played in the opening match two years ago at the UL International Crown with Australian legend Karrie Webb, and spoke of the support that Webb provides to young Australian players,
"Yeah, obviously Karrie has been great, she is like a big sister to us on the tour. Growing up Minjee and I were a part of the Karrie Webb Scholarship, which is like funding as well as being able to come to the U.S. Open and spend the week with her, stay with her and go to the course with her and walk inside the ropes. So that was my first experience of the U.S. Open, it was an eye-opener and just a great experience. Karrie is just there when we need her and just a great support and role model, too. I know that she'll be watching on TV and on the phone, I'm sure we'll get some messages from Karrie."
Click here for a video guide to watching the 2018 UL International Crown
Click here for a list of the Round 1 Matches
You can watch all of the action live on FoxSports Australia Channel 505 from 10:00am AEST Thursday 4th October
History of UL International Crown
The UL International Crown is a biennial women's professional team golf tournament on the LPGA Tour, played in July of even-numbered years. Eight national teams of four players each (32 players in total) participate in the match play event.
The International Crown debuted in 2014 at Caves Valley Golf Club in Owings Mills, Maryland, a suburb northwest of Baltimore. With selection based on the world rankings of individuals, the eight nations were announced the previous November: Australia, Chinese Taipei, Japan, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Thailand, and the United States. Teams were divided into two pools and played round robin fourball for three days. The top five teams (20 players) advanced to the ten singles matches on Sunday, with each nation facing the other four. Spain won all four singles matches to win the title with a total of fifteen points; Sweden split its matches to finish in second with eleven points.
The second edition in 2016 took place at the Merit Club in Gurnee, Illinois, north of Chicago. The top two finishers from 2014, champion Spain and runner-up Sweden, did not qualify for 2016 and were replaced by China and England. The United States won the 2016 International Crown with 13 points, winning three out of four singles matches on Sunday with South Korea finishing second with 12 points.
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