It appears that Yani Tseng will not play the Puerto Rico Open, or any men’s event, this year.
Ernie Huang, Tseng’s adviser, told Golfweek on Monday that her camp has declined the Puerto Rico Open’s invitation to compete in its 2012 event. Huang said it is “not likely” that she will compete against men in 2012.
“We thank Sidney (Wolf, the tournament’s general chairman), Chi Chi Rodriguez (the tournament’s ambassador) and Puerto Rico for their interest, but it is too early in her career,” Huang said. “Yani is still interested in men’s tournaments, but not in the immediate future. She has other goals to accomplish, and she would like to remain focused on women’s tournaments.”
Wolf said Tseng has an “open invitation” to compete in the Puerto Rico Open, which started in 2008 as the tournament opposite the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral. The Puerto Rico Open is scheduled to be played March 8-11.
“We made the offer for the right reasons. I was very happy that I was able to contact her team to give her the reasons for our invitation,” Wolf said. “We fully understand the decision. We want to thank everyone who was supportive of this opportunity.”
Tseng was competing in Asia recently when she expressed an interest in competing against men. “If an opportunity presents itself, I would like to play in a PGA tournament to learn more from male golfers,” she said. “I wouldn’t care about the results because I’d just want to enjoy the feeling of playing with guys and learning from them to further improve my skills.”
Wolf, also the president of the Puerto Rico Golf Association, responded to those comments by offering Tseng an exemption. He told Golfweek, “Having the No. 1 player here would open our event to a broader audience. It could open up the possibility of a LPGA event here, and ultimately help us raise funds for our charities. It would also create awareness of Puerto Rico globally, which would economically be very positive for the island.”
Tseng’s presence at the Puerto Rico Open would undoubtedly boost the tournament’s profile. Just the talk of Tseng’s potential invitation has helped the event become one of the game’s hot talking points over the past few days.
Huang said Tseng still wants to win the career Grand Slam and qualify for the Hall of Fame. She could accomplish both goals next year. She needs only to win the U.S. Women’s Open to complete the career Grand Slam. Though she’s only 22, she could earn enough points by next year to qualify for the Hall of Fame.
Wolf and Rodriguez discussed the invitation with Huang. Neither spoke directly with Tseng. “I wanted to go through her team the right way,” Wolf said.
Puerto Rico may be a top candidate when Tseng decides to play against men, though. It is an easy trip from her home in Orlando, Fla. Tseng competed in Puerto Rico at the 2004 World Amateur Team Championship. The Puerto Rico Open is contested at Trump National Golf Club-Puerto Rico. Players stay on property at the Gran Melia Resort, just a short shuttle ride from the course.
Wolf and Tseng are members at Lake Nona Golf Club in Orlando. Tseng is taught by Gary Gilchrist. One of Gilchrist’s students, Jason Roets, competed at last year’s Puerto Rico Open after winning a local AJGA event.
For now, though, Tseng will stick to the women’s game.