Jin Roy Ryu
Songdo IBD, Incheon City, Korea
LAURA NEAL: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for joining us for the state of The Presidents Cup 2015 press conference. The format for the press conference, I will introduce each of our dignitaries and allow them to make some opening remarks which we will then translate.
We have Tim Finchem, PGA TOUR Commissioner; Mr. Roy Ryu, Chairman of The Presidents Cup 2015 Organizing Committee; Jack Nicklaus, four-time U.S. Team Captain and designer of Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea; and Stan Gale, Chairman of Gale International.
Commissioner Finchem, I’d like to turn it over to you to welcome our guests and some opening comments.
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Thank you, and I’d like to thank all the media for being here. I look forward to answering your questions. At this point, I would like to make three points.
One, I’d like to thank the other gentlemen that are up here with me. First of all, Roy Ryu, for his insistent efforts over the last number of years to make all this happen. Secondly, Stan Gale, our host this week, and my compliments to him for the work that he’s done to create this magnificent facility in Songdo, the great Jack Nicklaus Golf Club. And Jack Nicklaus, his ongoing commitment to The Presidents Cup for what it means and for his taking the time to join us this year, as well.
Secondly, I’d just like to mention that this is the 65th anniversary of General MacArthur’s invasion in 1950. One of the things we hope to do this week is to reacquaint, particularly U.S. citizens, with regard to the very strong alliance that we’ve had with the Republic of Korea for many, many decades, and we are delighted that President Bush 43 is here with us this week to help us do exactly that.
Thirdly, just to remind everyone that The Presidents Cup is focused on charity and giving back, over $32 million have been contributed to over 400 charities by the players, captains and assistant captains over the last 21 years.
And in addition to that, this year has been a fund created with the leadership of Chairman Ryu to help grow the game of golf in Korea, a fund in excess of a million dollars, and it may very well create and we create the first chapter of The First Tee in Korea with those funds. And I want to thank Chairman Ryu for his effort on that.
And lastly, I’ll just mention that players are excited about the golf course, are ready to go and look forward to great matches.
LAURA NEAL: Chairman Ryu, I know this week is the culmination of a lot are hard work on your part. If you could talk first about seeing The Presidents Cup come to fruition.
JIN ROY RYU: Well, I’m a big fan of movies, and baseball used to be my favorite sport until I met golf. There’s a famous few lines I remember from Field of Dreams.
One line is: “If you build it, they will come.” And here we have the developer, the designer and we put it together, so we built it and people are coming, and more than 20,000 people are showing up every day, which is a record in Korea, so I’m very happy about that.
The other line is: “Is this heaven?” No, this is Korea. [Laughter]. So like to start out with that.
I also want to thank, ten years ago, I met Commissioner Finchem for the first time at the introduction of President Bush 41, and I was there with President Bush 41 and Mrs. Barbara Bush. So I know they are after I had fans and would love to be here, but they will be watching TV from the States, so I send my love and best wishes to them. We have a pretty good pinch-hitter with our 43 coming here. So very happy about that. And our President is also showing up tonight.
So golf has really come together and I’m so happy that, and we are happy to have this major tournament for the first time in Asia. And 65 years ago, as Commissioner Finchem said, MacArthur landed here, and 65 years later we are playing golf here one of the biggest golf tournaments. We are actually going to create history. We have history of the past which is not good, but we have history in the future and golf will grow.
So I thank the Commissioner, Jack, Stan, we are all part of the team and we made it happen. So thank you again.
LAURA NEAL: Mr. Nicklaus, perhaps some comments from you on how hosting the very first Presidents Cup in Asia at a golf course that you designed continues a long-standing relationship with this event.
JACK NICKLAUS: First of all, I’m excited to be here, honored to be here. Honored to have the first time Presidents Cup played in Asia and played on a golf course bearing my name.
Thanks to Stan Gale for getting me involved here and Roy Ryu for working so hard at bringing this project here and for Commissioner Finchem for saying, yeah, we need to go there.
I remember just eight short years ago, out here looking at a landfill that was nothing there. Had what you call an open tee shot, you might say, and it’s come a long way.
Three years later, we hosted the first full-field PGA TOUR event here, a senior event here, in 2010, and here we are 2015 holding as big an event as there is in the world today in team golf for goodwill.
So I’m just delighted to be here, and delighted to see we’ll raise a lot of money for charity and delighted that we’ll also see some great golf. Thank you for inviting me and happy to be here.
Q. Mr. Gale, you more so than anyone has been here since the very beginning. I’m sure you have some comments as to how this is a dream come true to see this tournament here?
STAN GALE: This is a dream come true. Thank you very much. And I want to thank my task members here today, and I want to thank Jack Nicklaus for taking a chance and getting involved, and allowing Jack the freewill to design and create something that could attract the likes of a Presidents Cup, the most prestigious golf tournament, one of most in the world.
So few countries have hosted a Presidents Cup, and something grateful for Jack and the Commissioner. But certainly for ourselves, as well and couldn’t be a finer venue than what we have here today.
It was a team. And Roy Ryu, I want to thank him for his early encouragement, and also working together with myself and Jack, and then see if we couldn’t get the Commissioner over here, and we did. We spent an hour and a half in the clubhouse, and what a team lunch we had.
But I was so pleased that we had built a globally standard — building a city, not just fitting a new city, that fit the entire footprint necessary for a Presidents Cup, the TOUR the Oakwood, the Convensia; the entire footprint works. And that was the envisioning of the plan originally and we are very much all validated by The Presidents Cup coming here, and it took this wonderful team.
I also want to thank my partner, Posco, worked tirelessly together with Gale International. And I know this was difficult to envision. But the key was not just buildings and a master plan and a real estate development, but who would activate; who would come to Songdo and that was the trick for us.
So early programming, golf is the international business venue, without a doubt, and again, giving Jack free hand and freewill to design his masterpiece, and I believe that’s what we have here.
So actually I just want to thank the people here and partner Posco for allowing us to be able to build something in a world-class, global standards manner.
And I think my dream is that the Korean people will embrace The Presidents Cup here this week as they did when we were here for the World Cup in 2002. Thank you very much.
Q. The agronomic and play conditioning for the golf course looks outstanding. Have you had a chance to get out and look around the course, and what do you think of the subtle changes that were made to the undulations in the greens?
JACK NICKLAUS: I have seen them. I went out— Of course, I was here a couple times during that change of salt in the greens, you might say. I went out this morning and the golf course is in fantastic condition. The greens are perfect. Every green looked like it had the number of pin placements that we probably didn’t get in properly to start with [winking].
But I’m very pleased. I think the golf course is showing very well, thank you.
Q. Can you comment on what’s the reason that President Park pulled out of the Opening Ceremony tonight?
JIN ROY RYU: She is coming, yes.
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Good answer [laughter].
Q. There’s always something special about the greens design. I hear the players —
JACK NICKLAUS: Special about what, I’m sorry.
Q. The greens, the design, there’s always something special about it. I hear players outside already, so especially for this course, what would be the characteristics of the greens here?
JACK NICKLAUS: Of the golf course or the greens?
Q. The greens.
JACK NICKLAUS: Well, the greens are a part of the golf course. First of all, the design of the golf course here was to do a golf course that was totally contained where you basically had a loop that went out the front nine, came back around on both sides.
So there was no way that anything was going to be in the middle, the driving range in the middle. I like that from a design standpoint.
The greens themselves, we felt like there was going to be a fair amount of play here, so we wanted to get the greens large enough to be able to handle the play. So when you do large greens, you have to put some movement in them. We did put some movement in them, probably more than we should to start with, but we’ve come back and worked on that.
I think that the golf course has great pin placements on every green, and that gives a different feel to every hole, which is what we tried to accomplish.
Q. Does the long-term success of The Presidents Cup have any bearing on what the outcome is this week?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: I think The Presidents Cup is successful regardless of any particular match outcome.
I think this is a great step in The Presidents Cup to be in Asia, coincidentally with a year where there are four Asian countries represented on the team. Says a lot about the way golf is developing in this region of the world, and I think it was a great choice to come to Korea because of their ability to stage big events, and because both on the men and women’s side, the way they are developing elite players.
I think that’s a very positive thing. You always want to see the matches close. I hope they are. But I think the fundamental thing here is what’s happening with golf in Asia, what the future of golf is in Asia, and I think— I told the players the other night, 20 years from now, you look back, and this will be one of the milestones in terms of where golf is in Asia.
It’s actually 20 years ago we played the World Cup in Shenzhen, China, and you look back now, and there’s 35, 40 golf courses in China. So these little things — and this is not a little thing this week — can have a big impact on where the game is and where it’s going. So I think that’s the big picture regardless.
Now, having said that, again, we like to see close matches.
Q. Your course was one of the first courses to come up in India —
JACK NICKLAUS: The first golf course I did in India about 20 years ago.
Q. Your design was one of the first designed golf courses in India about 20 years ago, and since then you’ve got more courses in India. Also a player that has full status on the PGA TOUR, and Indian golf is looking good for the first time in 20 years.
JACK NICKLAUS: I think The Presidents Cup will have an impact on golf in India, and I also think the Olympics will have an impact on golf in India, as well as in other what I would call undeveloped golf countries, large populations, India, China, Brazil, Russia, countries that I think will help build the game.
The game in India, the biggest problem in India is you have a lot of population and not much land. You try to putt a piece of ground together and do a golf course in India, you know you have several hundred owners, landowners, you’re trying to put a piece together for and that makes it very difficult.
But I think golf will grow and continue to grow in their country.
Q. I’m wondering, is this a breakthrough week for Presidents Cup, first one in Asia; wonder if there’s another breakthrough in four years. Are you close to selecting a site and country?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Breakthrough in four years— What was the end of that?
Q. Just if an announcement might be imminent, pretty close on where you’re going next internationally after Liberty National.
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Yes, we’re pretty close to making an announcement about four years from now but we’re not going to make it right this minute [laughing].
Q. Fine. As a follow-up, when?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Soon. [Laughter].
Q. The golf courses in Asia seems to be sputtering a bit in north Arizona [?] and northeastern Asia, Japan, Korea, China. Southeast Asia does seem to be on the threshold of development. Could you make a comment about that, and do you see opportunities for encouraging golf and developing golf more in Southeast Asia these days?
JACK NICKLAUS: I think that golf developed first in Asia, more in Japan and Korea than other places. China is developing, but it’s a slow process in China. China has probably got 700 or 800 golf courses now.
As a company, I think we have got about five courses we are doing in Vietnam right now. We’ve got down through Asia, well, actually, Thailand, I did maybe seven golf courses there about 20 years ago.
I think the game of golf is going to continue to grow in Asia. It goes through cycles and periods where it goes up-and-down, and some places become very excited about wanting golf and then all of a sudden they sort of slow down and another area pops up.
But we’re going to see the game continue to grow. Asian people love to play golf. You’ve got good weather for it, you’ve got great population and you’ve got beautiful land in places that sometimes it’s difficult to find, but usually you can always find land for it. I think you’ll continue to see the game grow. I don’t think any more here, and I think the only reason saying that situation would be is already Japan and Korea have quite a few golf courses built already.
Q. We all know that you love this golf course and that you designed this golf course, but before The Presidents Cup, there have been some changes made to the golf course. Was there any special reason that we had to do it?
JACK NICKLAUS: Because I made it too tough to start with [laughter].
I think that’s probably about it. I think a lot of times, everybody, all designers go through cycles of when they do different things. I guess I was in my bumpy cycle when we started this. I’m in my more ‘peaceful, love golfer’ cycle right now.
JIN ROY RYU: I just want to add, a lot of members, they like it more difficult.
JACK NICKLAUS: Some people like that. PGA TOUR did not [laughter].
But I think all golf courses did not— First of all, it had to have a level of difficulty of the golf course or we wouldn’t be here. There’s all kind of golf courses built in the world, and what people usually go to is, they can play a golf course and say: Gee, that’s a nice golf course; where am I going to go play tomorrow.
What you want them to do is play a golf course and say: Gee, that was a nice golf course; what time can I play this golf course tomorrow. And I think that people enjoy playing this golf course because it challenges them.
I think we got our greens a little severe to start with, but I think the greens are very good right now.
STAN GALE: He’s being modest. When Jack arrived here for our request of Gale International, half of this land was underwater still, and I think Koreans know the history of the property here, but underwater.
And actually, it could have been a moderate golf course, an okay one, but what we really had envisioned, and we were asking Jack, what could he see here, so that — no idea that The Presidents Cup would be here today. It’s a little surreal for all of us.
But we asked Jack to look ahead, and designed the features with necessities that are there so a Tim Finchem would say, hey, we like this place, we want to grow in Asia within a third of the world’s population within a three-and-a-half-hour plane ride, okay, it’s a hub without a doubt. How are you going to get something that brings in the likes of The Presidents Cup, the most discerning group, and the TOUR saw what Jack had done here.
But I think he had a mastermind and he had a master vision of something like this, given a free hand. And it didn’t happen by accident, is what I guess I’m trying to say; our good friend Jack Nicklaus, and Commissioner of the TOUR, and we thank him for it.
Q. Commissioner, you’ve got the first Indian on The Presidents Cup team. Last year you had the first Indian sponsor on the PGA TOUR, even though it’s a very limited-field event. Do you have any comments on the possible growing relationship between the world’s second-largest populated country and the PGA TOUR and the growth of golf?
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: What was your question?
Q. A comment on the growing relationships between the PGA TOUR and India.
COMMISSIONER FINCHEM: Thank you. It’s a developing relationship. We have some activity. We are delighted with the interest that there is by Indian companies and PGA TOUR golf and golf generally.
We can only do so much to relate to that interest, but now, Indian companies are showing more interest in the market of the United States and some of the other areas in China and South America and Canada are during tours.
So we see it as certainly, if you go back 15 years, nobody ever came to see us from India. Now they come and talk about golf course development, housing development and also companies that are interested in global markets.
So it’s just another indicia of how golf is growing. It’s also a recognition that we live in a global economy. Everything is interconnected. And it does beg the question about whether golf on a professional level should be organized more in a global fashion to take advantage of those synergies and those dynamics that are changing globally. So we spend more and more time thinking about those things.
But we’re delighted that there’s a player from India, who happens to be a very engaging fella, and we look forward to working with entities in India going forward as golf develops there and companies that are interested around the globe.
LAURA NEAL: Gentlemen, thank you so much. We appreciate your time. Enjoy the week.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports