Futures Tour Ready to Make History
With this much competition, it is uncertain what the 'future' will hold for each player, but the possibilities are endless. Take a look at whats in store this season:
The 2003 schedule is made up of 18 tournaments consisting of 14 events returning from last year, three inaugural tournaments and the 2003 Futures Tour Qualifying Tournament. The average purse for the 2003 season is over $66,000, up an average of $1,500 per event from last year.
Just recently, the tour named its last event to go on the schedule, the $65,000 Hunters Oak Futures Golf Classic near Baltimore, Md.. The event will be held Aug. 1-3, two weeks prior to the season-ending tournament. This is the final stretch of the race for a 2004 LPGA Tour card.
'Adding Maryland to our season schedule will enable us to gain exposure in another key market, reaffirming our tournament expansion strategy,' said Zayra F. Calderon, president and chief executive officer of the Futures Tour. 'The tour is committed to increasing awareness of our brand across the nation as well as our market share to complement the LPGA Tours overall goals for heightened exposure of the game at the local and national level.
'Our 2003 schedule, which includes the additions of a few ideal marketplaces, sets the stage for tremendous growth and awareness of the Futures Tour now and in years to come. We are positioning ourselves to expand to more communities that fit our goals and objectives.'
This is the first time in its history that the tour has traveled to Maryland and will be the 14th state visited on this seasons schedule. The Tour also expanded its schedule into two new markets, Tampa, Fla., and Merrillville, Ind.; the $65,000 Tampa Bays Next Generation Futures Golf Classic, April 4 ' 6, and the $65,000 Lake County Futures Golf Classic, May 22 ' 24, just 35 miles southeast of Chicago.
NEW TOURNAMENT TITLE SPONSOR CONNECTIONS
A record five new tournament title sponsors have signed on this year with local Futures Tour events. Most recently, International Outsourcing Services (IOS), a global outsourcing company, signed on to be the title sponsor of the Futures Tour stop in El Paso, Texas, May 2 ' 4. The new name of the event is the IOS Futures Golf Classic and it will have a purse of $70,000. Lima Memorial Hospital is now the title sponsor of the 10th anniversary tournament in Lima, Ohio, June 6 ' 8. The remaining three new title sponsors are Frye Chevrolet in Wichita, Kan., Bank of Ann Arbor in Ann Arbor, Mich., and General Electric in Albany, N.Y.
'The 2003 season welcomes five new title sponsors and each one exemplifies the strong community and charity commitment that the Futures Tour seeks in these key sponsorships,' Calderon said. 'Their support ensures the viability of each of the tournaments and the financial success of the local charity. We are pleased to have them on board and look forward to be naming more in the future.'
WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS
Nine of the 14 tournament winners from the 2002 season will be returning this year; Sue Ginter-Brooker of Appleton, Wis., Lisa Hall of Stoke-on-Trent, England, Linda Ishii of Los Angeles, Calif., Jaejean (Ro) Kang of Palo Alto, Calif., Joellyn Erdmann-Crooks of Little Chute, Wis., Liz Earley of St. Catharines, Ontario, Jimin Kang of Seoul, Korea, Mayumi Nakajima of Tokyo, Japan, and Michelle Murphy of Tacoma, Wash. Ginter-Brooker, Ishii, Earley, Jimin Kang, and Nakajima are also 2003 non-exempt members of the LPGA Tour.
DUAL TOUR CITIZENSHIP
At this time, the 2003 Futures Tour roster features 24 players with current non-exempt LPGA Tour status, including some of last years top-10 money winners Ginter-Brooker, Ishii, Michele Vinieratos of Altamonte Springs, Fla., and Lisa Strom of Huntersville, N.C. Patti Rizzo of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., a four-time LPGA champion and the 1982 LPGA Rookie of the Year, will also compete on the Futures Tour this season. Other notable Futures Tour players on the LPGA Tour are Leigh Ann Mills of Coral Springs, Fla., Luciana Bemvenuti of Atlanta, Ga., and rookies Candy Hannemann of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and Stacy Prammanasudh of Enid, Okla.
There are 77 newcomers on the Futures Tour this season and the rookie class is made up of 32 international players traveling from 15 different countries spanning the globe such as France, Korea, New Zealand, Sweden, Ecuador, Mexico, Taiwan, Iceland, Canada and the Czech Republic. Last years Futures Tour Qualifying Tournament co-medalist Soo Young Moon of Keumsan, Korea, is also included in the rookie group. Moon, who earned non-exempt LPGA Tour status for the upcoming season, plans on competing on both Tours this year as a rookie. Other new players include: Caroline Goasguen of Montpellier, France, Marcela Leon Guerra of Monterrey, Mexico, and amateur Olof Maria Jonsdottir of Hafnarfijordur, Iceland.
LPGA ROOKIE CLASS
Of the total 24 LPGA Tour rookies this season, 15 players are current Futures Tour members or alumnae. Included in that number are Lorena Ochoa of Guadalajara, Mexico, and Christina Kim of San Jose, Calif., two of last years LPGA Tour card winners through the Futures Tour. Ochoa recorded three victories and five other top-10 finishes in 10 tournaments last year and finished first on the Futures Tour Money List to earn her exempt LPGA card. The Mexican golf prodigy has already negotiated endorsement deals of more than $1 million per year, an extraordinary accomplishment for a player who has yet to play in an LPGA event as a LPGA Tour member.
The 18-year-old Kim, who fell $242 short of Ochoa on the Tours money list with $53,460, will be the youngest player competing on the LPGA Tour this season. Last year as a rookie on the Futures Tour, she posted 12 top-10 finishes including one win and four runner-up finishes. Also joining Ochoa and Kim on the LPGA is Miriam Nagl of Berlin, Germany, who won the final 2003 LPGA exempt card by finishing third on the Futures Tours Money List. She will enjoy her second year on the LPGA Tour, but this time as an exempt player.
Formerly known as the Tampa Bay Mini Tour, the Futures Tour, 'the official developmental tour of the LPGA,' has become the largest international developmental tour and second largest womens golf tour in the world. Since 1989, Futures Tour events have raised more than $2.65 million for charitable organizations. Throughout its 23-year history, membership has increased from approximately 150 players from North America to over 300 players from 26 different countries today. For the fifth straight season, the top-three players on the 2003 Futures Tour Money List will receive an automatic exemption for the 2004 LPGA Tour. There are more than 180 alumnae currently competing on the LPGA Tour and through 2002, they represent a total of 244 LPGA victories including 27 major championships. The Futures Tour is committed to developing the skills and dreams of women golfers, establishing role models for youth and creating the LPGA stars of tomorrow.
Ryu, S.H. Park among winners at Rolex awards
NAPLES, Fla. – The Rolex Player of the Year and Vare Trophy winners won’t be determined until Sunday’s finish of the CME Group Tour Championship, but seven other awards were presented Thursday during the LPGA’s Rolex Awards dinner at the Ritz Carlton Golf Resort.
The awards and winners:
William and Mousie Powell Award – Katherine Kirk won an award given to the player “whose behavior and deeds best exemplify the spirit, ideals and values of the LPGA.” Kirk won the Thornberry Classic this year, her third LPGA title. “Some people ask me if I feel obligated to give back to the game,” Kirk said. “I think it’s a privilege.”
Heather Farr Perseverance Award – Tiffany Joh, who had surgery to remove a malignant melanoma earlier this year, thanked the Farr family and all those who supported Joh through her diagnosis and recovery.
“I found a great quote from Ram Dass, `We are all just walking each other home,’” Joh said. “I’ve really come to understand the value of all my relationships, no matter how fleeting or profound they seem.”
The Commissioner’s Award – Roberta Bowman, outgoing chair of the LPGA Board of Directors, was honored for her service the last six years. LPGA commissioner Mike Whan called her “my friend, my boss and my hero.” Bowman deflected the praise for her back on to the tour, thanking Whan, LPGA staff, players, sponsors, fans and the media.
“The world needs more role models for little girls,” Bowman said. “And they don’t need to look much farther than the LPGA.”
Ellen Griffin Rolex Award and Nancy Lopez Golf Achievement Award – Sandy LaBauve, who founded the LPGA-USGA Girls’ Golf program, was honored as the first person to win both these awards.
The Griffin Award honors golf teachers and the Lopez Award honors an LPGA professional who emulates the values Lopez demonstrated. LaBauve is the daughter of Jack and Sherry Lumpkin, both teachers of the game.
“This program doesn’t belong to me,” LaBauve said of LPGA-Girls’ Golf. “I merely planted the seed. The fruit belongs to all of us.”
Rolex Annika Major Award – So Yeon Ryu won the award, named for Annika Sorenstam, for the best overall performance in women’s major championships this year. She won the ANA Inspiration and tied for third at the U.S. Women’s Open.
“It’s such an honor to win an award named after Annika Sorenstam,” Ryu told Sorenstam during the presentation. “It’s a special award for me.”
Rolex Rookie of the Year Award – Sung Hyun Park won the honor, telling the audience in a message translated from Korean that she was disappointed failing to win the KLPGA’s Rookie of the Year Award and was grateful for a dream come true getting the chance to win it on the LPGA.
Def. champ Fitzpatrick grabs lead at Euro finale
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Defending champion Matthew Fitzpatrick shot a second straight 5-under-par 67 to secure a one-stroke lead halfway through the European Tour's season-ending Tour Championship on Friday.
At 10 under after two rounds on the Earth course of Jumeirah Golf Estate, Fitzpatrick leads English compatriot Tyrrell Hatton, whom he beat by one shot to win the title last year.
Hatton moved into contention with a brilliant 9-under 63, a round soured only by a closing bogey on the par-5 18th hole.
In the Race to Dubai, main protagonists Tommy Fleetwood and Justin Rose experienced contrasting emotions to their opening rounds. Fleetwood boosted his chances by rising into a tie for 11th at 6 under after a 65. Rose endured a three-putt bogey on the 18th to finish with a 70, and dropped on the leaderboard so he's just two shots ahead of Fleetwood.
Masters champion Sergio Garcia, the only other player with a chance to win the Order of Merit, stayed in contention by adding a 69 to his opening 70 to be one shot behind Fleetwood.
Fleetwood needs to equal or better Rose's finishing position to claim the title. If Rose doesn't finish in the top five and Garcia doesn't win, Fleetwood will have done enough.
Fitzpatrick made two bogeys but eagled the 14th, and five birdies contributed to his 67.
Overnight leader Patrick Reed is now three back following an even-par 72. Reed is in the field thanks to a European Tour regulation that allows the Presidents Cup to count as an official event, thus allowing him to meet his quota of tournaments played.
Fitzpatrick was helped immensely also by the 18th, where Hatton, Rose, and Reed all made bogeys. Fitzpatrick birdied the hole for a second straight day with a 25-foot putt.
''I said to my caddie, we were putting really, really well all week so far,'' Fitzpatrick said.
''The thing is, you get so many fast putts around here, even uphill into the green, they are still running at 12, 13 (on the stimpmeter) even. You've just got to be really sort of careful. Every putt is effectively a two-putt. You've got to control your pace well and limit your mistakes, because it's easy to three-putt out here.''
Rose, hoping to win a third straight tournament after triumphs in China and Turkey, was disappointed with his finish despite playing solid golf from tee to green.
''To make six (on 18) just ends the day on the wrong note, but other than that, I played really well on the back nine,'' Rose said.
''I was aware of the scores and who had done what today. But listen, halfway stage, I'd probably have signed up for that if somebody said on Wednesday you would be in this position after two rounds. It's a position you can build on the weekend.''
Fleetwood resurrected his chances of winning the Order of Merit with a 65, eight shots better than his opening round. His only bogey of the day came on the seventh after an errant drive, but that was the only mistake on a solid day that saw him make eight birdies.
Fleetwood spent hours on the putting green after his first round.
''I needed a low one today for (a tournament win and the Order of Merit),'' he said. ''Luckily, I got a good score.''
Closing eagle gives Kirk 1-shot lead in RSM
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. - Chris Kirk holed an 18-foot putt for eagle on his final hole for a 9-under 63 and a one-shot lead Thursday in the RSM Classic.
Kirk played the par 5s on the Plantation Course at Sea Island Golf Club in 5 under.
''I kind of hit my putter on the fringe a little bit and I wasn't sure it was going to get there, but that was just kind of the day that it was,'' Kirk said. ''Even when I thought it wasn't quite going to work out, it still went in the middle of the hole.''
The seven lowest scores of the opening round came on the Plantation Course during a picturesque afternoon on the Golden Isles. Sporting a University of Georgia hat Thursday, Kirk won at Sea Island four years ago for the second of his four PGA Tour victories.
''It's a big Georgia territory out here on St. Simons,'' Kirk said. ''Hopefully, my hat will bring me some luck the rest of the week.''
The tournament is the final PGA Tour event of the calendar year, and Kirk is sorting out equipment changes.
''I'm still trying to get it all worked out and figure out what I want to do going forward,'' Kirk said. ''But keep shooting 9 under, so I won't have to worry about it too much.'
Joel Dahmen had a 64.
''I think it played a little easier today,'' Dahmen said. ''The wind was down, greens were a little softer over here on the Plantation side. But just kept the ball in front of me and made a bunch of 8- to 10-footers.
''I've been rolling it pretty good,'' Swafford said. ''Took some time off, which was nice, after China. I was kind of frustrated with the golf a little bit. Took a little time off and got back into it. Something just kind of started clicking, but knew I don't have to be crazy aggressive and just give myself a chance.''
Sea Island resident Hudson Swafford was at 65 at the Plantation along with Jason Kokrak and Brian Gay.
''I feel like I've been rolling it pretty good,'' Swafford said. ''Took some time off, which was nice, after China. I was kind of frustrated with the golf a little bit. Took a little time off and got back into it. Something just kind of started clicking, but knew I don't have to be crazy aggressive and just give myself a chance.''
He played alongside fellow former Georgia players Bubba Watson and Brian Harman.
''We are right in the heart of Dawgs' territory, mine and Harman's backyard, so it's kind of nice,'' Swafford said.
Though, his caddie wore an Auburn shirt.
''We don't need to talk about that,'' said Swafford, not needing to be reminded that Auburn beat Georgia in football last week.
Nick Watney and Brice Garnett each had a 5-under 65 on the Seaside Course, which will be used for the final two rounds.
Brandt Snedeker opened with a 67 in his first return from a sternum injury that sidelined him since the Travelers in June.
Harman shot 69, and Watson had a 71.
Co-leader Smith credits Foley's influence
NAPLES, Fla. – Sarah Jane Smith is making the most of the devoted efforts of Sean Foley this week.
Foley’s prize pupil, Justin Rose, is in the hunt at the World Tour Championship in the United Arab Emirates, looking to win the European Tour’s Race to Dubai, but Foley isn’t there with him.
Foley promised to help Smith this week, and he’s living up to the pledge, making the trip to Naples.
“At 33, Sarah is in her prime,” Foley told GolfChannel.com. “She is going to hold a trophy at some point. She is too skilled not to win.”
Foley's extra attention is paying off for Smith.
With a 6-under-par 66, Smith moved into early contention to make her first LPGA title memorable at the CME Group Tour Championship. She’s tied for the first-round lead with Taiwan rookie Peiyun Chien.
“I just seem to play my best with him,” Smith said.
Foley, the former coach to Tiger Woods, was No. 10 in Golf Digest’s Top 100 teacher rankings released this fall.
Foley sees a lot coming together in Smith’s game. She is a 12-year veteran building some momentum. She tied for third at the Women’s Australian Open earlier this year and is coming off three consecutive top-15 finishes in Asia. She is sixth on tour in birdies this season.
“As a coach, you try to get a player to see something in themselves that is already there,” Foley said.
Rose, by the way, opened with a 6-under-par 66 in Dubai and is one shot off the lead.