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2010 Final Qualifying Tournament -- First-Round Story

Three Share Lead In Opening Round Of LPGA Qualifying Tournament

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., Dec. 8, 2010 – Three veteran professionals moved to the top of the leaderboard in today’s chilly opening round of the LPGA Final Qualifying Tournament. Libby Smith, Reilley Rankin and Aree Song all toured LPGA International with scores of 5-under 67.

Tied one shot back at 4-under 68 are Belen Mozo of Spain and Pernilla Lindberg of Sweden.

Rankin and Song both played today on the Legends course, while Smith was one of the last groups to beat the sunset on the Champions course. Play was delayed by one hour this morning due to frost, and unseasonably cold temperatures never cracked 60 degrees.

Like many players in the field, Rankin began the round with five layers of clothing on her upper body and three layers on the lower half. By the time she signed for her bogey-free, five-birdie round, she had peeled down to two layers on the top and one on the bottom. She had also taken the lead of this week’s five-round event.

“I was dressed like I was going to live in an igloo,” said Rankin, 31, of South Carolina. “Mentally, I am pleased with my patience today. It was a good solid day.”

Song moved into a share of the lead with her six birdies and one bogey. Coming into the event after last week’s LPGA Tour Championship, Song said she tried to think about how well she has played over the last several weeks and “treat this week like just another tournament.”

“I hit it pretty well today and gave myself a lot of birdie opportunities,” said Song, 24, of South Korea. “I’m just going to play as well as I can and see where I end up. It’s still early in this tournament.”

Finishing on the Champions Course’s ninth hole, Smith stuck her approach shot to 10 feet and then drained the putt for birdie and a share of the lead. The lanky Vermonter hit 14 greens and used only 28 putts, vowing to “keep it simple” in today’s opening round.

“I struggled in Orlando last week [at the LPGA Tour Championship] because I lacked a swing thought,” said Smith, 30, who carded three birdies on both the front and back nine holes with one bogey in her round. “I’ve played these two courses enough that I’m comfortable, and so far, my misses are in the right spots.”

An All-American at the University of Southern California, Mozo produced one the day’s best rounds in spite of some late-night academic work to complete her degree in international relations. The Spaniard turned in a 15-page paper on World War II last night and then attacked the Legends Course today in her effort to earn an LPGA Tour card this week.

Lindberg, an LPGA rookie this season, came into the week saying she had to “reload on Sunday” after she missed the cut at last week’s LPGA Tour Championship and to “see this week as an opportunity, not as a disappointment that I have to be here.” The Swede carded six birdies and two bogeys in her opening round to finish one shot off the lead.

Thirty players are under par after the opening round, with a total of 46 players at even-par 72 or better.

A field of 120 players are in this week’s event, hoping to either earn membership or improve their current member status for the 2011 LPGA Tour. Sectional qualifiers, along with current LPGA Tour members attempting to improve their status for 2011, are in the field. In addition, players finishing Nos. 6-10, and the next top 10 players on the 2010 LPGA Futures Tour money list (who do not already have LPGA status), are also in the field.

The five-round qualifier will cut to the low 70 players and ties after 72 holes. Those players making the cut will compete in the final round on the Champions Course.

The top 20 players at the conclusion of the event will earn Priority in Category 11. Players finishing in the 21s-30th spots will earn Priority in Category 16, followed by 31st-40th, who will receive Priority in Category 20. All category positions will be determined by a playoff.

To follow scores of these and other contestants throughout the week, visit LPGA.com. Daily wrap stories from the Florida sectional will be posted on both LPGA.com and duramedfuturestour.com.

Notes:

Panther Prowls The Course

LPGA Tour star Paula Creamer walked much of the Champions course in today’s first round of LPGA Final Q-school to support good friend Stephanie Connelly of Maryland, who finished at even-par 72. Connelly is a member of the LPGA Futures Tour. Creamer, known as “The Pink Panther,” walked the course sporting a pair of pink UGGs boots.

Twins On Tour

LPGA Tour member Aree Song of South Korea and LPGA Futures Tour member Melissa Eaton-Jackson of South Africa, were in the same pairing today in the first round of LPGA Final Q-school. So when Aree’s identical twin sister, Naree Song, showed up on the first tee to watch her sister, Melissa took note.

“She saw my sister and said, ‘I’m a twin, too,’” laughed Song. “And that’s when I said, ‘Yes, twins have more fun.’”

Both Melissa and her sister Nicola Eaton played college golf at Louisiana State University and on the Futures Tour. Aree and Naree Song broke into professional golf together at age 17 on the LPGA Futures Tour, with Aree moving on to the LPGA and Naree now back in college and serving as a coach at Rollins College in Orlando, Fla.

Advice From the “Q-School Queen”

Reilley Rankin had not been back to LPGA Final Qualifying since 2002, so she turned to good friend and fellow LPGA Tour member Meredith Duncan for advice since Duncan has returned to Q-school for, by her own guess, “at least seven times.”

“She’s the Queen of Q-School, so I asked her for some help,” said Rankin.

And what was Duncan’s advice once the tournament started? No working out. And when the round has been completed, only hit maybe a dozen balls or play a little “Around the World” on the practice green before leaving the course.

Contact: Lisa D. Mickey, LPGA communications, 386-274-6216, or lisa.mickey@lpga.com .

Topics: Song, Aree, Rankin, Reilley

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