August 10, 2003

             2003 U.S. Women’s Amateur

               Gladwyne, Pennsylvania

 

VIRADA NIRAPATHPONGPORN

 

  RHONDA GLENN : This is an incredible achievement for you. I think about you coming over here when you were 17 by yourself to live  ---

  VIRADA N. : 15.

  RHONDA GLENN : 15. -- to live by yourself in this country because you were dedicated to learning to play great golf. And now you have reached the top of the peak in amateur golf. What does it mean to you?

  VIRADA N. : I am just so proud of myself of how I just have grown up the last six years, basically by myself, but I know my parents are there in Thailand but they are very far away. They can be my guidance, they can give me emotional support, and advice and all that, but I am the one executing, making the decisions and just the way I have grown up the last six years, I am just so proud. Like you said, I think this is the top of the Amateur level. In college I am the National Champion individually and team and then I won the Honda Award and that's about all you can get -- as high as you can get in college. U.S. Amateur is definitely one of the goals that I wanted to accomplish. But sometimes you can't have all, Publinx was one of the goals. There were things out of my control and I can only do so much, but I learned a lot from that experience and I really put it together this week.

  RHONDA GLENN : You sure did.

 

  Q. How did the course play later in the day from this morning with all the rain last night?

  VIRADA N. : I think it might have played a little bit more difficult this morning because it was better. I woke up and I heard thunders and hard rain and I am like, oh, it's going to be wet, wet day. But I finally cleared up before we teed off so that was nice and the sun came out, so it helped dry a little bit. But yeah, it was difficult this morning, playing on wet fairways because you are thinking chunk or thin, it's just hard to go at it.

 

  Q. Seemed like both of you were having a little trouble judging the speed of greens first than this morning too?

  VIRADA N. : Yeah, don't remember (laughs) , but I am sure, you know, wet greens and when they are trying to cut it fast but it's wet you just don't know if it's going to be fast or it's going to be slow because of the water.

 

  Q. You talked about your father on the TV. You got a little bit emotional. Did he really want to be here this week?

  VIRADA N. : Oh, I am sure.

 

  Q. How was that?

  VIRADA N. : Even if he was dying, he would still want to be here. But I told him, dad, please stay home, stay healthy now so that you can watch me ten years from now. Don't rush and maybe you might not even be there to see me succeed. I think he listened to me and I told him: Dad, I got it. I know what I have to do and I will go and do it. So you don't worry.

  RHONDA GLENN : He is ill.

  VIRADA N.: Yeah, it's hard for him to move around and he thought he was okay, but I went home last month and I could tell, you know, hot weather like this, and it's so much traveling, I don't think he would be able to handle it.

 

  Q. What is his medical program?

  VIRADA N. : He has leukemia.

 

  Q. What is your father's name?

  VIRADA N. : Dr. Apichart , same last name.

 

  Q. Did you talk to him last night?

  VIRADA N. : Every night.

 

  Q. What is the time difference?

  VIRADA N. : 11 hours. So I call him about 10 o'clock here last night, and it was 9:00 AM the next morning.

 

  Q. Are you going to call a little earlier this time?

  VIRADA N. : Right now it's what?

  RHONDA GLENN : 20 after 5 .

  VIRADA N. : So it's 4:20 AM , but I think I will call him. I am sure he won't mind.

 

  Q. Had they been following your exploits on the internet?

  VIRADA N. : Yeah, on the internet. I don't know if they stay up all night, though, I don't think so. But maybe they did.

 

  Q. Was this on live TV at home?

  VIRADA N. : I am not sure. But they do get ESPN so I don't know if   ---

 

  Q. ESPN  --

  VIRADA N. : -- 2.

 

  Q. What is your mother's name?

  VIRADA N. : Dr. Supranee .

 

  Q. About three days ago when I first met you I said we're putting money on you. Do you remember that?

  VIRADA N. : Oh, yeah.

 

  Q. What did you think?

  VIRADA N.: I have heard things like that a lot of times and I think that's one of the things I have to deal with to be great, you just can't let anything  anybody says shake you or get distracted. So I just said, okay, yeah, I think you said a lot of pressure on you now, or something, too, but to be great  --

 

  Q. I said "we're betting on you. "

  VIRADA N. : Yeah, actually the guy in the pro shop said the same thing, and then  -- but to be great you just have to deal with things like that and just stay focused on your own task.

  RHONDA GLENN : You hit a lot of great bunker shots today. I thought your sand play was extraordinary.

  VIRADA N. : It used to be maybe four years ago, I would put sand shots in my weakness list, but I am a master of things. I like to just master things that I don't have right. So I study myself a lot. Whatever I do I just study and see what doesn't work, what works. Okay, what doesn't work, why doesn't it work. And how am I going to make it work. And once I know that I will go and work, work, work until I master it. Now I put it on my strength list. Andy , my caddie and I were just talking, you know, if any time of the day if I don't have a shot and if I have to lay up or somewhere, if it is a choice of rough and bunker I will go to the bunker.

 

  Q. When Becky was in here on Media Day she said you were one of the best players that no one really knew about. Do you think they know a little bit about you more now?

  VIRADA N. : I think so.

 

  Q. Was that an important thing in your career to put this so that you have that title?

  VIRADA N. : Yeah, I think this is -- my name is going to be known now. Yeah, maybe, I have been a very consistent player, but I just haven't done anything like you know, extraordinary like, you know, winning the Publinx at 13 like Michelle, or Aree was Top-10 at Nabisco at 13 as well, but and Top 5 just now. Just things like that, I just haven't done. But I have always been up there, I think. Now winning this thing, now I am doing the things that those guys are doing.

 

  Q. Is this the crowning moment of your career so far?

  VIRADA N. : Yeah. After winning NCAAs, I think that was the peak, I was really proud of that achievement and this is something one thing left that I hadn't accomplished and now I have. I am ready to move on.

 

  Q. How did you get started in golf and what was it about the game that made you want to pursue it enough to come to the United States when you were 15 years old all alone and do what you done?

  VIRADA N. : To be honest, I was actually kind of just guided, I started because my family played, and I didn't really like it at first. I thought it was a hard sport and I really enjoyed swimming before. But my parents are both good golfers  -- not my mom, my brother is too and that's the only way the four of us can spend the weekend together. They just didn't want me to  -- they didn't want to leave me at home swimming by myself, so they said come on over and just play golf. I just kind of was guided in that direction and I was good from the very beginning, won my first national event that I have entered and I think that moment told me that, hey, you have some talent in this sport. And people around me were saying you are good, keep going, keep going. But at the time I don't think I was really wanted to  -- it wasn't from me, but it was just from other people looking and telling me that you are good, just keep going. But just freshman year at Duke I think I realized that, hey, you know, it's not what other people say to me anymore. It is me. I really want to make it to the LPGA .

 

  Q. How old were you when you won that national event?

  VIRADA N. : It was 2002  --

  RHONDA GLENN : The first one you played in Thailand ?

  VIRADA N. : 10.

 

  Q. Your freshman year at Duke at that point you had already moved over here, what, three years before living alone at the Leadbetter Academy . What was it that kept driving you then?

  VIRADA N. : Because I just knew that I have the talent in this sport and I just don't want to throw it away. I don't want to regret later on that I never gave it a try.

  RHONDA GLENN : Pretty big decision for a 15 year old, wasn't it?

  VIRADA N. : I think I just knew that -- I knew that I really have great talent at this sport. I just can't throw it away. I just have to give it a try.

  RHONDA GLENN : You were only at the Leadbetter Academy two years, right?

  VIRADA N. : Three years. And I think I was very motivated and determined to do the job because I knew it was a lot of  -- well, effort from my parents who sent me over financially and everything and so I knew that it takes them a lot and I can't screw up, I have to do well.

 

  Q. How long ago was your dad diagnosed leukemia?

  VIRADA N. : 2001.

 

  Q. Were you at all surprised how well Jane Park brought it to you? She is 16 years old.

  VIRADA N. : Yeah, she never lost it. She was  -- she stayed right there. She seemed a little tight at the very  -- the first hole of the second match. In the morning she was smiley that she is, she seemed business in the afternoon; but she really held it together.

 

  Q. When she won the three straight holes to tie you did you feel a little shaky at that point?

  VIRADA N.: No, because I  -- she was making birdies and she is going to have to keep making birdies to beat me and I know that if I just stay in my game I will keep putting it close, eventually I will make my putts too, unless she keeps on making birdies on me and maybe  -- and if I don't, then that's fine.

 

  Q. Is it anymore satisfying to win this considering that you had such a dramatic match against Michelle, 1-up you guys both played under par golf and now to come here and produce it again for 6 straight matches, is it any sweeter now because you went through that experience?

  VIRADA N.: Yeah, that match really helped me stay focused because  -- this has been a dream for a long time and I have fallen short, I have tried, I have worked hard and  -- but never was enough  -- I mean, I worked hard enough, but just do well enough but not enough to get it, so I have been hungry and I am just so glad I really held it together. I think I was really, really determined at the beginning of the week.

  RHONDA GLENN : You maybe surprised at this, but a lot of people in this room picked you at the beginning of the week when everybody was here.

  VIRADA N. : Thank you.

  RHONDA GLENN : School is out. Are you still living at the college at Duke?

  VIRADA N. : No, just staying there with some friends and also Greensboro I have family that I know that I go and they take care of me.

  RHONDA GLENN : You are not living by yourself?

  VIRADA N. : No, I try to stay in a house, private housing every time I go to a tournament.

  RHONDA GLENN : In between tournaments you have a place to go?

  VIRADA N. : Yeah, I don't stay by myself.

 

  Q. You are exempt for the Open next year.

  VIRADA N. : I am? That's right I forgot.

  RHONDA GLENN : If you stay amateur.

 

  Q. What are your plans? Obviously school you will graduate in May.

  VIRADA N. : Actually right now planning to turn pro after school. I might have to rethink.

 

  Q. What do you mean you might have to rethink?

  VIRADA N. : You know, just I never thought of that option.

  RHONDA GLENN : She gets an exemption to the Women's Open but she has to stay amateur in order to use that exemption.

 

  Q. Actually it's a two-year exemption.

 

  Q. As you look down the road to a pro career, what do you think you have left to do to turn yourself into a complete pro player, anything?

  VIRADA N. : Winning something like this, I knew I have the game all along to play with the pros, but I just needed this mental toughness that I displayed this week and I think I have found it, well, it's not going to be easy to keep it, but the best player has it. So to keep getting better I will have to master this.

 

  Q. Getting back to the match, you were 2-up going into the final 18. You made I think, one bogey in that final 18. Did you feel if you just par, par, par you keep the pressure on her like that?

  VIRADA N. : No, because I know Jane Park is a great player and the way she has been  -- to come this far I am sure she has been to be great. I never played her before but I expected great play from her and my caddie said she is a great putter and she is. So I knew I had to do my job too. But I knew that if I just stay in my game I will be fine.

 

  Q. Were you nervous at all today?

  VIRADA N.: Back nine  -- second 18  -- not, well, I would be lying if I wasn't nervous, but I felt somewhat calm inside because I knew what I wanted to do and that I was capable of doing that. So there's no need for me to get nervous.

 

  Q. Are you as satisfied with winning or satisfied with achieving your goal, because it sounds like that that was really important to you. I mean, maybe they are hand-and-hand, but is one almost better than the other?

  VIRADA N. : I think it comes hand-in-hand like you just said because if  -- I know if I achieve that goal of staying focused in my own game, then I am the best player and the best player wins.

 

  Q. Interesting question because sometimes after Match Play tournament you look at a winner and think, well, that was a fluky winner. Do you feel like I am the best player, I won, and damn it, I deserve this?

  VIRADA N. : Yeah, she didn't give it to me. I won. All day long, especially the back nine I kept knocking it close and sometimes I was nervous; sometimes I had difficult shots but I said, hey, the reason  -- but then I kept sticking it and I said the reason why I am the best player is because I keep hitting those shots. I go right at the pin because I know I can, I am not going to stay conservative and let other people take the hole.

 

  Q. You beat the medalist, beat the No. 4 seed, No. 7 seed to win this Championship. You had to feel that you didn't back into it; you beat some pretty quality players of the stroke-play qualifying to win the Championship. I mean, can you talk about that? It wasn't an easy road.

  VIRADA N.: No, it wasn't an easy road and Match Play is always quite unpredictable, but I believe that stroke-play or Match Play, the best player wins, most of the time.

  RHONDA GLENN: The shot you hit -- your third shot to the 6th hole this afternoon, after her ball spun off the green. I felt that was a key shot for you having lost  --

  VIRADA N.: Yeah, I think it was good to see that the wind was really strong, yeah, we went from 75 yards to 80 yards, right when I saw her ball starting rolling back. It was a good shot.

  RHONDA GLENN: Sure was. Did you think that was a crucial point in that match because you kind of stopped the bleeding with that?

  VIRADA N.: No, I really  -- I didn't think that it was the crucial. What was crucial was that I was never shaken by the move that she made.

  RHONDA GLENN: You have been very gracious to all of us. Thanks so much for coming in everyday and talking with us. We're all extremely proud of you.

  VIRADA N.: Thank you.

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