The 2009 season gets underway this week on the Duramed FUTURES Tour. And the inaugural Florida's Natural Growers Charity Classic will bring together an eclectic mix of returning veterans hoping to take the next big step, new professionals eager to make their mark, and some LPGA Tour players looking at the developmental tour as their ticket back to the big league.
For the record, this week's tournament field includes five 2008 winners - HAEJI KANG of Seoul, South Korea, MO MARTIN of Altadena, Calif., STEPHANIE OTTESON of Wilson, N.C., SAMANTHA RICHDALE of Kelowna, British Columbia, and KIM WELCH of Sacramento.
And then there is the Tour's 2007 Player of the Year EMILY BASTEL of Upper Sandusky, Ohio, two-time winner SEO-JAE LEE of Seoul, South Korea, who earned 2008 LPGA membership on the 2007 Duramed FUTURES Tour by finishing in the top five, two-time 2007 winner LIZ JANANGELO of West Hartford, Conn., who earned 2008 LPGA status at Q-School, and 2007 Duramed FUTURES Tour Rookie of the Year, VIOLETA RETAMOZA of Aguascalientes, Mexico, who, like the others, lost her card and wants it back.
While LPGA Tour veterans VICKI GOETZE-ACKERMAN of Cartersville, Ga., TRACY HANSON of Coeur D'Alene, Idaho, ANGELA JERMAN of Columbus, Ga., and HANA KIM of Los Angeles, aren't exactly here on a Good Will Tour, they're savvy enough to know that playing time is everything - second only to winning. These alums are back just to stay competitively sharp.
"I have LPGA status this year, but it's not great status," said Welch, who finished 10th on the 2008 Duramed FUTURES Tour money list. "I'd rather be playing and competing every week rather than just waiting to get into tournaments. I'm playing here and committing myself to making the top five and moving on. It's competitive every week out here."
If returning members aren't challenged enough by LPGA-tested players on the 2009 roster, they also will be met by eager young pros making their first stripes as professionals on the Duramed FUTURES Tour. Among them will be a former individual NCAA champion (2006) and NCAA team champion (2008) DEWI CLAIRE SCHREEFEL of The Netherlands, fresh out of the University of Southern California. Ten-time collegiate winner from the University of Arizona and 2008 U.S. Curtis Cupper ALISON WALSHE of Westford, Mass., also joins the Tour and brings her youthful verve to Winter Haven this week, as will KRISTIE SMITH of Perth, Australia, who recently tied for 20th at the ANZ Ladies Masters in Australia.
"I'm really excited to be a rookie and starting my professional career," said Walshe, 23, who, like Smith, began competing during the winter months in Australia, posting a tie for 16th at the Women's Australian Open.
"I've definitely talked to some players who have been out here and they say it's very competitive," added Walshe. "It's a long season and I've also been told to be patient."
Another rookie member of the Tour who is eager to make her mark is MINA HARIGAE of Monterey, Calif. Harigae, 19, is the 2007 Women's Amateur Public Links (WAPL) champion, a member of the 2008 U.S. Curtis Cup team, a two-time PING Junior Solheim Cup Team member, and a four-time California Women's Amateur champion. The teen left Duke University last fall, where she was a member of the nationally ranked Blue Devil women's golf team.
But while the rookies will bring a sense of fearlessness to the Tour, playing with a nothing-to-lose, everything-to-gain approach, some wily veterans hope to make this their final season in the minor league.
"I've learned that nothing ever comes as we expect it," said Mo Martin, a two-time winner on the Tour and a former collegian at UCLA. "I felt kind of stagnant and did some things in the off-season that make me feel like this is my first year again. I'm taking a risk, but I'm trying to make something better that was already pretty good."
Martin went to "Golf Boot Camp" in Spain for a week this winter. In the mornings, they were up and running, followed by practice drills and a competitive round each day.
"My 2008 season was a solid year and it made me want to really dial in my swing," added Martin. "But it takes honesty to realize where you are and what you have to change to move forward."
Martin, along with the rest of the field this week, is acutely aware that the season starts with the first shots on Friday, but that each week adds up to that final event in September when 10 players will clutch replica LPGA Tour cards and stare securely into the future.
Topics: Press Release