Sponsor Exemptions Announced for Kia Classic


Futures Tour standout Shasta Averyhardt will be just the fourth African-American player to play an LPGA event. Big Break winner Blair O’Neal, recently featured in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, will make her LPGA debut Korean teenage sensation Julie Yang to play her first professional U.S. event

(MARCH 3, 2011 – CITY OF INDUSTRY, Calif.) – The LPGA’s Kia Classic announced today that it has extended its final two sponsor exemptions to LPGA rookie Shasta Averyhardt (pictured right) and Korean amateur Julie Yang. The tournament had previously announced its other exemption, Blair O’Neal, winner of Big Break Dominican Republic on Golf Channel.

Averyhardt, Yang and O’Neal will be part of a star-studded field of 144 of the world’s best female golfers competing in the $1.7 million Kia Classic, to be held March 21-27 at Industry Hills Golf Club at Pacific Palms. The tournament brings the LPGA back to Los Angeles for the first time in six years.

Tickets and more information are available at www.kiaclassic.com or by calling 1-888-SEE-LPGA.

“We’re thrilled to be able to offer the opportunity for these three talented, up-and-coming golfers to play in the Kia Classic and compete against the best women in the world,” tournament director Dennis Baggett said.

Averyhardt, who is of African-American and Hispanic background, is just the fourth player with African-American heritage to play in an LPGA event (the others are Althea Gibson, Renee Powell and Laree Sugg).

A 25-year-old LPGA rookie from Flint. Mich., she stands out due to her 6-foot-1 frame. After graduating from Jackson State University in 2009, she turned professional and played the Sun Coast Tour in Florida, then earned her way onto the LPGA Futures Tour. She played 10 events on the developmental tour in 2010 and also qualified for the U.S. Women’s Open.

O’Neal earned her exemption into the Kia Classic by being named Most Valuable Player of Big Break Dominican Republic on Golf Channel. A Scottsdale, Ariz. resident, O’Neal, 29, played for four years at Arizona State and turned pro in 2004. She divides her time between playing golf and modeling, and was recently featured in a print advertisement for sponsor PUMA Cobra Golf in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. To see the ad, click here >>.

Yang, a South Korea native who splits time between her home country and Phoenix, is just 15 but has amassed a golf resume well beyond her years. Last year alone, she won the English Women’s Open Stroke Play Championship, was a medalist at the Girls’ British Open Amateur Championship, was the top amateur finisher (sixth) at the Ladies European Tour Korean Masters and was the youngest competitor at the RICOH Women’s British Open.

Last year’s inaugural Kia Classic saw a sponsor exemption take home the trophy. South Korean sensation Hee Kyung Seo, now an LPGA rookie, shot 12-under-par 276 to win by six strokes and take home $255,000 in her first LPGA event.

Twenty-one of the top 25 players from the Rolex Rankings have committed to play in the Kia Classic, the first full-field event in the United States on the LPGA’s 2011 schedule.

Tournament week will feature a qualifier and practice rounds Monday, practice rounds Tuesday, a Pro-Am on Wednesday and four competitive rounds Thursday-Sunday.

Daily grounds passes are just $10 for Wednesday’s Pro-Am day and $20 for competition rounds, and weekly grounds passes are just $50. Children 17 and under will receive free admission to the Kia Classic when accompanied by a paid adult, and active military members and their families will be admitted free with military ID.

Kia Classic fans can follow the tournament through social media. The Kia Classic’s Facebook page (Kia Classic) and Twitter feed (@LPGAKiaClassic) allow fans to keep up on pre-tournament and tournament-week news, see exclusive photos and enter various contests for the chance to win Kia Classic tickets and other prizes.

Topics: Press Release, Kia Classic, Averyhardt, Shasta

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