Senior PGA Championship

Interview with Seiji Ebihara
Sunday, June 9, 2002

(Note: Ebihara was speaking through a translator, and the transcribers reported his comments literally.)

JULIUS MASON: Folks, we're going to have an opening comment and then go through the card, and then we'll go to Q and A. I think everybody knows this is Mr. Ebihara. He's at plus eight total today, 65. An incredible front nine and right now if you wouldn't mind, we would like some general thoughts on his round today and then we'll go through the card.

SEIJI EBIHARA: For the past three days he was going over par, 3 over, 5 over, 5 over. So he was thinking at the beginning that he wanted to get under par somehow, and that's how he started.

In 1985 at NEC World Series, he came here once and for two days he was able to go under par. So he really wanted to get under par this time, too. At the first hole, he went short last time, so this time he used a 7-iron and it went 140 yards and it just went perfect and he got a birdie and then he felt much better and was able to start off the whole course.

JULIUS MASON: Can you go through the each hole one by one?

SEIJI EBIHARA: On the second hole, on the third hit, he had 70 yards left, but all the time the ball usually came back, so this time he used a sand wedge and hit it really hard, aiming for 80 yards. And just as he thought, the ball did come back and there were four meters left and made a putt just perfect.

Q. Four meters is how many feet?

SEIJI EBIHARA: 12 feet. On the third hole, the drive went right into the right side -- right into the semi-rough on the right side. There was a big tree right in front of him on the right side. The green was right behind it and you could see the pole right behind the tree. So, if he is able to hit it over that tree, he knew that he will make a perfect shot right onto the green. And he used a 9-iron for the second hit and it came six feet right next to the hole and he was able to make a birdie there, too.

On the fourth tee, he made a great tee shot and there was 200 yards left and he was wondering whether he should use a 3-iron or 4-wood, but he used the 4-wood. When he made the shot it went right to the hole, and there again, there was only six feet left, and from there he was able to make a perfect putt.

So far for the first four holes, he was able to make birdie. So he thought that it felt really good and from here he started to think that he wanted to make more birdies. If he makes a perfect shot here, he knew he would get a birdie, so he picked out the 4-iron and hit it right to the hole and there was only six feet away from the cup and again he was able to make a perfect putt.

Q. On hole No. 1, how long was the putt?

SEIJI EBIHARA: About nine feet. On the sixth hole, after the first drive, there was only 165 yards left. He could have -- he saw the pole on the left side of him, but the wind was coming against him and he could have cut the range short by hitting it towards the right side, but instead he wanted to get the birdie again. So he picked up a 5-iron and the wind was coming against him, but he was able to hit it really hard and hit the perfect curve to the right and it came right on to the green. And again, he was able to make a birdie there.

Q. How long?

SEIJI EBIHARA: It was 165.

Q. I mean the putt.

SEIJI EBIHARA: It was about 15 feet. On the seventh, it's a short hole and there is only 200 yards and usually when he uses a 3-iron, he's able to hit a perfect 200 yards. So he knew that if he hits with a 3-iron, it will go 200 yards, and from here, he started to think that -- he never went through nine holes going under 30. So from there he started to think of going under 30, and he aimed for the birdie again and he hit it and then it went about 30 feet. He made a perfect hit, but it actually went 30 feet off of the hole, and there it's a downslope and the ball will go really fast and there's a slight curve so he was thinking, "Please, oh please, God, let me make this hole," and he was able to make the putt.

From here, on the eighth, he wanted to make a very -- he wanted to hit the fairway, but actually he hit it right into the rough. But he knew if he was able to get -- hit the edge of the green somehow, that he would be able to get under 30. So, he got out the 8-iron and he made it right on to the green, but it was 90 feet away from the cup and it was a very long one, but he was able to make it with two putts and he was able to make a par.

On the ninth, if he can make a par there, he knew that he'll make the front nine under 30, so he felt very good. And he was actually aiming for a par and he made a great tee shot, which he thinks it was a great one, and there was 135 yards left. And usually when he uses an 8-iron, he's able to make a perfect 135 yard hit, so he got out the 8-iron and he hit it and it came right nine feet away from the pole, and from there he was able to make a perfect putt again.

JULIUS MASON: Mr. Ebihara, on the front nine we're looking at nine putts. Can you we take a break here and ask if someone has any questions about emotions after he knows he's under 30 now and maybe we'll go to Q and A. Right now we just want to hear, he shot 27, what's going through his mind.

SEIJI EBIHARA: He was actually thinking that being able to be invited to this big tournament was a great honor to him and just being here was great. But coming here and making this kind of score, a 27, it was just amazing. He had been playing golf for a long time, but being able to make this kind of score as a senior made him think that his golf career will still go on.

JULIUS MASON: Folks, let's open it up for questions that you might have before we go to the back nine.

SEIJI EBIHARA: He's also saying this course is very great. He just loves it.

Q. Did his playing partners, did the other players in the group have anything to say at the turn?

SEIJI EBIHARA: They were just saying it's just great. It's just perfect, wonderful, nice.

Q. Has he ever experienced any kind of streak like this during his golf career, that many birdies, in any round, really?

SEIJI EBIHARA: In practice he has, but none in any kind of tournaments. Going under 30 was his first time. Going under par, he was only able to make it four times in the past three days, and he was able to make twice as much in the first nine.

Q. You have been playing in the European Tour for three years. Any connections? You had such great success today.

SEIJI EBIHARA: There's many kinds of different types of courses in Europe, so being in tours over there means you have to adjust very fast and that gives him experience to adjust to a new atmosphere. But coming here, he's thinking that he wishes that he was able to adjust much earlier, a little bit more earlier so he could have done better. The rough over here is much harder, much tougher than the ones in Europe.

Q. Is he known for his putting, just generally? Is that his strength?

JULIUS MASON: On the European Tour, is putting --

Q. Yes.

SEIJI EBIHARA: He doesn't know if he's known or not. He thinks that his putts are pretty good, but yesterday, after the third round, he was practicing for long putts because if you can make the long putts, he will be able to make the short ones, too.

Q. Has the course changed much since the last time he played it? And if so, how?

SEIJI EBIHARA: He thinks the greens changed.

Q. How so?

SEIJI EBIHARA: He's saying that the greens were a little more flatter. It wasn't as bumpy as it is now.

Q. The magic number in golf is sort of like 59. Did that enter his mind at all when he made the turn?

SEIJI EBIHARA: He didn't know the number. He's saying that number is amazing.

Q. What's his previous low, his previous competitive low?

SEIJI EBIHARA: He doesn't really remember it that much, but he thinks that it was eight under par.

Q. After finishing the front nine in 27, what was his approach for the back? Was he hoping for more of the same or just what was he thinking approaching the back nine? It's hard to duplicate that feat?

SEIJI EBIHARA: He wanted to make a few birdies, but he knew how tough this course was, so he thought that it wouldn't be that easy. And thinking that way wasn't the right thing to do.

JULIUS MASON: If we could just take a look at the back nine and have him speak about the holes that he had the bogeys on.

SEIJI EBIHARA: On the 13th, he made a good tee shot right at the fairway and had 200 yards left. So he used a 3-iron and it went over the edge of the green and he made it on to the green, but there was four feet left and he missed the putt and it became a bogey.

On the 16th hole, he was able to make a tee shot right into the middle of the fairway, but on the second shot, it went right and it went right between the cart path and something like the tent, and the ball went right in between there. He was thinking about going over the lake, but to do so he will have to go over the trees, which was standing right in front of him. And he didn't think that he'd make it, so he hit it back on to the fairway and got it back on to the green and made two putts, which made a bogey.

On the 17th hole, his tee shot went right into the right rough. It was very deep. So he had to get it back on to the fairway, and he got it back and there was a 100 yards left, so he used a pitching wedge and got it on to the green, but there was 30 feet left and he made it with two putts, making a bogey.

Q. I understand that your golf teacher is Mr. Aoki, and he came to the 18th greenside to congratulate you. What kind of conversation did you have with Aoki?

SEIJI EBIHARA: He actually saw him at the 17th green. When he got finished he told me, "Congratulations, and your golf career will still go on because you played incredible golf today." He was just very happy. He was actually there from the 16th but he didn't notice. He saw him at the 17th green.

Q. Could you go through the 18th hole?

SEIJI EBIHARA: Before the 18th, he made two bogeys and he was feeling pretty bad about it, but at the 17th green, he saw Mr. Aoki, so he really wanted to get a par or a birdie. But when he made the first shot, it went into the right bunker and he just couldn't see the green. So he had to get it back on to the fairway and try to leave about 100 yards and he used the 9-iron and there was actually 90 yards left. And from there he used a sand wedge and came very close to the pole and was able to make a par.

Q. Three feet?

SEIJI EBIHARA: About three feet, yes.

Q. We had him hitting three greens on the back side; is that right? Three greens on the back side that he hit in regulation; does that sound right?


Q. Going into the back nine, then, was it a matter of you got too excited about what you had done on the front nine, or did self-doubt start creeping in?

SEIJI EBIHARA: Just like you said, he was very nervous and not only that, he doesn't have much self- confidence because of the last three days, the result of the past three days. And he just thinks that he'll just take this as a footstep and he'll try to aim much higher again.

Q. We understand that your daughter was here for the first time. How old is she and what's her name?

SEIJI EBIHARA: Her name is Akiko. It is spelled A-K-I-K-O, and she's 22 years old. She just finished school, but she'll be going to school over in the United Kingdom. So she'll have to study a little English, and he can't teach her. So she took her over here to get a little feel about English.

Q. Does she golf?

SEIJI EBIHARA: No, she doesn't.

Q. But she understands what he did today?

SEIJI EBIHARA: Up to some point, yes.

JULIUS MASON: Mr. Ebihara, congratulations.

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