RANCHO MIRAGE, CALIF. - Five amateur players have received sponsor invitations to play in the 2009 Kraft Nabisco Championship, scheduled for March 30 through April 5, at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, Calif. The Kraft Nabisco Championship - now in its 38th year - is the first LPGA major tournament of the year.
Amanda Blumenherst, a senior at Duke University, won an automatic spot in the Kraft Nabisco field for 2009 as the reigning USGA Women's Amateur Champion. She returns to the desert for the second consecutive year. Blumenherst played in the Kraft Nabisco in 2008, earning low amateur honors after finishing 30th in the field. She is a three-time National Player of the Year, three-time first team All-American and three-time All-ACC honoree. Blumenherst led Duke to three ACC championships and two NCAA titles in three years, and was awarded the Dinah Shore Trophy by the LPGA in 2008. The 22-year-old attended Xavier Prep in Phoenix, Ariz., and is a resident of Scottsdale, Ariz.
Gabe Codding, business manager for the Kraft Nabisco Championship, also announced that invitations have been extended to Tiffany Joh, Azahara Munoz, Candace Schepperle and Alexis Thompson.
Joh, a senior at University of California, Los Angeles, is another collegiate standout. She won her second U.S. Women's Amateur Publinks Championship title last summer, only the second champion to win the title twice in the 32-year history of the tournament. She was also the 2008 Pac-10 Golfer of the Year and played on the victorious U.S. Curtis Cup Team. Joh led the Bruins in every statistical category including scoring average, Top 10 finishes, rounds under par and rounds under 70. The 22-year-old is a resident of San Diego where she attended Rancho Bernardo High School.
Azahara Munoz, a native of Malaga, Spain, and a senior at Arizona State University, was runner-up at the 2008 U.S. Women's Amateur. She was also the NCAA Individual Champion in 2008, winning the title in a playoff against Tiffany Joh. Munoz was first-team All-Pac 10 in 2008, earning seven Top 5 finishes, ten Top10 finishes and 11 Top 20 finishes. Munoz turned 21 last November and is a graduate of Ortega y Gasset in Madrid, Spain.
Candace Schepperle, a 20-year-old junior at Auburn University, is off to a fast start in 2009. Last month, she won the 2009 Harder Hall Invitational, following that win with the Dixie Amateur title, beating Alexis Thompson by one stroke. Currently ranked among the top five amateurs in the country, Schepperle played in the CN Canadian Women's Open last year and made the cut. She is a resident of Birmingham, Ala., and a graduate of Hoover High School.
Rounding out the field of amateurs is 13-year-old Alexis Thompson, who turns 14 on Feb. 10. A resident of Coral Springs, Fla., Thompson is the reigning U.S. Girls' Junior Champion. She qualified for the U.S. Women's Open in back-to-back years, first playing in 2007 as a 12-year-old, the youngest player in history to qualify for the prestigious women's event. She also qualified last year, but missed the cut. The upcoming Kraft Nabisco Championship will be her third appearance in an LPGA event, all of them majors.
Codding said that the field will be cut after two rounds to 70 low professional scores and ties and any amateurs within the cut. In addition to Blumenherst, two other amateurs made the cut last year at the Kraft Nabisco Championship: Maria Jose Uribe (T-58) and Mallory Blackwelder (T-68).
The Kraft Nabisco Championship has a proud tradition of extending sponsor exemptions to top amateur talent - many of whom have gone on to win LPGA titles as professionals. The list of professionals who played as amateurs at the Kraft Nabisco Championship includes Lorena Ochoa, Grace Park, Paula Creamer, Morgan Pressel, Aree Song and Michelle Wie.
For more information on the 2009 Kraft Nabisco Championship, please call 1-888-487-0232 or visit the official tournament Web site at www.KNCGOLF.com.
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