In addition to Acker-Macosko, 26 other Futures Tour players qualified for the next year's LPGA Tour. Of that number, Soo Young Kim of Chung Nam, South Korea, Loraine Lambert of Queensland, Australia, Hilary Homeyer of Edina, Minn., and Young-A Yang of Taegu, South Korea, each placed among the top 23 to gain exempt status. Twenty-two other Futures Tour players received non-exempt conditional status by finishing among the next 35 players and ties.
Acker-Macosko, a nonexempt LPGA Tour member this past season, was tied for 10th with three other players after 54-holes with a 212 (-4), 11 shots short of Lovander. Her red hot front nine including four birdies on two, five, eight, and nine, draining respective 12, 20, 40, and 15-foot putts. Continuing on the back side, Acker-Macosko bogeyed 13, but followed up with a pair of birdies on 16 and 17. Despite an additional bogey on 18, she was able to finish with a four-under-par 68.
'It is just a relief that it is finally over,' beamed the 33-year-old Acker-Macosko after her round. 'I was very nervous yesterday, but today I felt good the minute I stepped onto the first tee. For the two weeks leading up to this tournament, I practiced with my two coaches, John Benson and my father Darrell and it really paid off. I came out this week completely focused and very positive. It is just an incredible feeling to get my exempt card again. I'm really looking forward to starting the season.'
In four tournaments on the Futures Tour last year, Acker-Macosko posted two top-10 finishes, including losing in a three-way playoff at the Coleman Golf Classic in Wichita, Kan. She finished 29th on the Tour's money list with $11,994. In 15 starts on the 2002 LPGA Tour, her best finish was a tie for 21st at the Kellogg-Keebler Classic in Chesterfield, Mo. Acker-Macosko's season earnings totaled $28,234.
Acker-Macosko has been a member of the LPGA Tour since 1996 and competed with exempt status in 1997 and 1999. In 2000, she played part time because she was recovering from knee surgery and took the entire 2001 season after giving birth to her son Ben. After nearly two years, Acker-Macosko finally returned this season as a full-time player and was joined by husband and caddie Ron and their son, Ben.
Acker-Macosko added, 'I had a really complicated birth and coming back this season, I really did not know what to expect of myself and how I would play. I could only practice three hours a week, while other players would do that in one day. I was juggling being a mom and a full-time professional golfer.
It was very difficult to get back to the level I was competing at with such minimal time to dedicate to my game. I knew it was going to be a really long year and I had to get used to a lot of adjustments.'
Despite being prepared and focused for this week's tournament, she felt even more pressure to reach her goal of gaining exempt status. Her husband Ron recently left his job as an athletic director at Concord College in West Virginia and they realized their only option was to earn a full exemption.
'Now that Ron is my full-time caddie, I really had no other choice but to get my exempt card back,' stated a relieved Acker-Macosko. 'That put a lot of pressure on the both of us, but we were able to handle it very well. We agreed that whatever happened would happen and we would deal with any outcome. Once I started playing, everything started to fall into place. Looking back to the beginning of last year, I can say that this is a great ending to a really bad dream.'
All 27 players who qualified this week accompany Futures Tour players Lorena Ochoa of Guadalajara, Mexico, Christina Kim of San Jose, Calif., and Miriam Nagl of Berlin, Germany, as members of the 2003 LPGA Tour. The trio earned exempt status by placing among the top three on the Futures Tour Money List following the York Newspaper Company Futures Classic in mid-August.