DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - As the LPGA nears its sixth decade in existence, 2009 looks to be one of its most thrilling, and, undoubtedly, surprising seasons yet. With a minimum of 30 official events, as well as the highly-anticipated Solheim Cup showdown in August, players and fans have plenty to be excited for.
Rolex Rankings' number one and three-time Rolex Player of the Year Lorena Ochoa, of Mexico, will start the season backed up by 21 victories in the past three seasons, as well as 37 additional top-10 finishes in 72 events. In a couple of weeks, she will open her 2009 campaign at the Honda LPGA Thailand, looking to make it the fourth consecutive year she has posted a top-five finish in her opening event. Well on her way to becoming the fastest player to earn $14 million in her LPGA career, one of the only questions remaining unanswered is - just how many more of these milestones will Ochoa break?
As impressive as Ochoa's high-level of play is, there are many others nipping at her heels. Already, American Paula Creamer is shattering Ochoa's 'fastest' money records, while accumulating wins along the way. Her career-best four season wins in 2008 have Creamer on the verge of gaining her first major championship victory, while holding a commanding lead in the race for the U.S. Solheim Cup team, which would be her third appearance in nearly five years on Tour. To continue her undefeated streak in Solheim Cup competition, Creamer will rely on her potential teammates, which look to include veterans like Cristie Kerr, Angela Stanford and Juli Inkster. Adding to the drama, points for 2009 are at one-and-a-half times their normal value. U.S. Team Captain Beth Daniel, along with her assistants Kelly Robbins and Meg Mallon, have a tough year ahead of them to assemble the strongest possible team to face the European Team, led by Allison Nicholas (captain) and Liselotte Neumann (assistant captain). After losing in Halmstad, Sweden, in 2007, the European Team has their sights set on an American soil upset. Laura Davies, the only player in Solheim Cup history to have competed in the first 10 stagings of the biennial event, will potentially join Rolex Rankings' number four Suzann Pettersen in the showdown against the States. The 11th edition of The Solheim Cup will be staged Aug. 21-23, 2009, at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, Ill.
It is hard to believe that one year ago the 2008 Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year, Yani Tseng, of Taiwan, was making her debut as a LPGA Tour member. Her campaign began with a memorable first-career LPGA win via a four-hole, sudden-death playoff against Maria Hjorth at the second major of the season, the McDonald's LPGA Championship Presented by Coca-Cola. This year's 21-member rookie class, led by Jiyai Shin, who won an unprecedented three LPGA Tour events as a non-member in 2008, has already made their presence known on Tour. Joining Shin is Florida's Vicky Hurst, who set a record on the Duramed FUTURES Tour in 2008 for most single-season earnings, and Texas' Stacy Lewis, who accumulated two top-six finishes in seven starts on the LPGA last year and owned medalist honors at the LPGA Final Qualifying Tournament. Michelle Wie, of Hawaii, first competed on the LPGA Tour via a sponsor's exemption in 2002. With forty-eight events and 13 top-10 finishes under her belt as a non-member, Wie, along with her fellow rookies, are hoping that playing week-in and week-out against the world's best will challenge their game and equal successes of their own.
Additional branches of the LPGA - the Teaching & Club Professionals (T&CP) and LPGA-USGA Girls Golf (Girls Golf) are also celebrating important milestones in 2009. With more than 1,200 members and growing, the LPGA T&CP has been a leading contributor to the growth of the game of golf for the past 50 years. LPGA T&CP members complete one of the most comprehensive education programs in professional golf, and their participation and positive influence on the grassroots level of golf is undeniable. Many LPGA T&CP members also serve as site directors for the more than 180 Girls Golf clubs around the nation. Started in 1989 by Sandy LaBauve, Girls Golf reaches out to girls ages 7 to 17 to expose them to the game of golf and the positive benefits of friendship and competition in a non-intimidating environment. Many of today's up-and-coming stars are past members of the Girls Golf program. In January, the LPGA also announced LaBauve and two-time LPGA Tour winner Brittany Lincicome - also a past Girls Golf participant from Florida - will serve as the program's national ambassadors.
The level and depth of talent in the LPGA - from its teachers to its coaches to its Tour players - is at an all-time high. Down the street, or around the world, the LPGA will continue to bring the best of women's golf to its students and fans throughout 2009. Expect Tour veterans to be challenged by rookies for the opportunity to hoist that trophy on the 18th green each and every week. If history repeats itself, the journey of a Rolex First-Time Winner to that moment will be truly unforgettable. With the re-launch of the LPGA's 'Kids in Free' policy, adults and children, alike, are encouraged to come out and share in these moments with the game's current and future stars all season long.
Topics: Press Release