World Golf Hall of Fame Press Conference

RHONDA GLENN: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the World Golf Hall of Fame press conference honoring Ayako Okamoto. My name is Rhonda Glenn.

United States Golf Association in its role as head of the governing body of golf in this country seems to preserve and protect the game of golf. One way in which we do that is to preserve the history of the game and we're always excited to be associated with World Golf Hall of Fame, which does such a wonderful job of promoting and protecting the history of the game.

I would now like to introduce you to Jack Peter, who is the senior vice-president and chief operating officer of the World Golf Hall of Fame.

JACK PETER: Thank you, Rhonda. Thank you all for showing up today to help us introduce and welcome another new member into the World Golf Hall of Fame. A little bit of housekeeping, the induction ceremony this fall is November 14th at the World Golf Village in St. Augustine, Florida we hope you all can make it.

I'd like to take a minute introduce a couple people with us today. We have a couple Hall of Fame members in attendance, today please welcome Sandra Haynie and Kathy Whitworth.

(APPLAUSE)

We're also honored to have the Commissioner of the LPGA with us today, Ty Votaw. Thank you for being here.

(APPLAUSE).

JACK PETER: First of all, I'd like to thank the USGA for letting us stage the press conference today. It's been an interesting two weeks, at Pinehurst now Cherry Hills and it's been fun to be on the USGA circuit for a couple of weeks. Thank you for hosting us.

A few things about our guest of honor today, Ayako was elected on an international ballot. We announced the result about a month ago in May. She has won 62 times worldwide on the LPGA Tour, the Japan LPGA Tour and the ladies' European Tour. In 1987 she won four times on the LPGA Tour, finished tops on the money list, and earned Player-of-the-Year honors. Incredible year. To top off the year in 1987, she received the Japanese Prime Minister Award for contributions and encouraging and developing sports in Japan, truly a national hero.

She will join Isao Aoki as our third member from Japan in the Hall of Fame as well.

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Ayako Okamoto.

(APPLAUSE).

We also have Margie Kuramoto helping us with translation duties today. With that we will open up the floor to questions.

Ayako, would you like to say a word first?

AYAKO OKAMOTO: I was in Japan when I got the news, Commissioner Votaw called me on the phone. When I first heard the news over the phone in Japan I was just very surprised, very touched and was very happy. It's been a few weeks, maybe a month since then, but I came here and I met Jack and I met all my old LPGA friends. It was a new kind of inspiration, a feeling of happiness that overcame me. So I am doubly happy and I am happy to be here and talk to you now.

I played as an international player on the LPGA Tour for just over ten years, but that experience leading me to join the ranks of Sandra and Kathy Whitworth into the World Golf Hall of Fame is overwhelming and it's something that you can't really win for, you can't go for it and get it. It's an honor. That's a gift that's given to you, so I am just very, very happy and it's very overwhelming.

I am truly grateful for the members of the counsel members of the World Golf Hall of Fame who has elected me into this position.

JACK PETER: Thank you. At this time we'll take questions from the media.

KATHY WHITWORTH: We're just glad you're with us. Glad to have you here and congratulations.

Ayako was truly a great player, but she was a great asset to our Tour, and of course the Japanese have been a terrific friend of the LPGA. She deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, so we're just very happy for her.

Q. Of all the accomplishments that you made throughout your career, just list a few that you just remember the most, maybe two or three, if that's possible.

AYAKO OKAMOTO: It's been already 20 years, but -- I am here commentating for TV Asahi, but when I come to a major tournament like this and I see the old footage of the other tournaments, I had played really well in one U.S. Open, and it brings back great memories of playing against many players and almost being able to grab the trophy, but just slipping it away from my fingers is many of the experiences that I have, and remember of major tournaments in the States.

JACK PETER: I'd like to acknowledge a Hall of Fame member, Judy Bell who joined us. Thank you for joining us.

JUDY BELL: Congratulations.

Q. I think you have to bring your memorabilia to present to the World Golf Hall of Fame but what first comes to your mind that you are going to be giving, not giving up, but gifting to the Hall of Fame exhibit?

AYAKO OKAMOTO: One thing I regret very much is that if I knew this was going to happen, I would have kept all my memorabilia and scorecards and whatever, but many of them have been lost, so that's what I miss very much. There are many things that I would like to give, put into the exhibit, but probably one thing for sure is when I became the leading money winner in 1987, the U.S. LPGA players carried me on their shoulders and it is a wonderful picture with all the players carrying me on their shoulders, so I will definitely have that picture in the exhibit.

JACK PETER: We accept.

Q. One great dream has come true. What is going to be your next dream?

AYAKO OKAMOTO: I hope one dream would be to be able to play for many, many years to come, as everybody does. Until the young players really tire of me and ask me to leave, I hope to be able to play within the ropes for many years to come.

COMMISSIONER TY VOTAW: If I might say, on behalf of the LPGA, having fellow Hall of Famers here, Kathy Whitworth, Sandra Haynie and certainly Judy Bell on behalf of the members of the LPGA, I want to thank you for everything that you have done for women's golf and for the LPGA. You following in the steps of Chako Higuchi, and now following her footsteps into the World Golf Hall of Fame. It's appropriate now that the LPGA has 95 players from 23 different countries. You and Chako were among the first, if not the first, prominent international players to play on the LPGA Tour and to spread the word of women's golf around the world, and without your leadership and your pioneering, we would not be the organization that we are today.

(APPLAUSE).

JACK PETER: Thank you, Ty. Any other questions?

Q. As you said, it's a very international field now but you must have had many problems when she first came over with language and eating. Of course the LPGA players welcomed you that's one reason why you succeeded, but on you side what were many of the problems that you faced when you tried to play on Tour?

AYAKO OKAMOTO: One thing that made it easy for me was that the rules of golf was international, so as long as I had that right, then I was able to play in tournaments.

But I am embarrassed, and I admit it, that I can't -- I still have to speak through an interpreter. I am very embarrassed about that. I am sorry. It just shows how the LPGA players were welcoming, although I couldn't speak the language they had accepted me and welcomed me as a friend and that had helped me to perform well. The LPGA had changed as an organization, changing many of the rules and accepting foreign players, making it easier for us to play.

So the international field now is due to the players and the organization changing to accommodate that. I think they have done a very good job.

JACK PETER: Anyone else? I know that Rhonda wanted to regale us with a quick story for just a second.

RHONDA GLENN: I remember one of those times when you almost got your hands on the trophy. That was in 1987 U.S. Women's Open. JoAnne Carner I believe finished first and 3-putted the final green, or she would have won her 9th USGA Championship. Then Ayako finished tied with JoAnne Carner, Laura Davies finished third and tied with the other two. The only problem was this was on a Monday because we had rain all week. That was the longest Women's Open in history, and you played off on Tuesday. I remember Jim McKay had to leave to go do something. He wasn't doing the TV anymore, Jack Whittaker had to leave, because he had another assignment. Dave and I were left. We were the last ones standing in the ABC tower. I was there, I saw it all. That was the year that you were the leading money winner. You were a great, great player.

JACK PETER: Thank you, Rhonda. Thank you all for attending. If there's no further questions we'll conclude and hope to see you Monday, November 14th at the World Golf Village.

End of FastScripts.


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