This is the sixth year in the 24-year history of the Futures Tour that players have received automatic exemptions onto the LPGA Tour, and only the second year that five exemptions were presented. Previously the number of awarded cards was three.
Also today, the next 10 players on the money list, excluding any LPGA non-exempt members, received automatic entry into the LPGA Final Qualifying Tournament to be held December 1 - 5, at LPGA International in Daytona Beach, Fla. Those players, in order of finish, are: Emily Bastel of Upper Sandusky, Ohio; Sung Ah Yim of Seoul, Korea; Kyeong Bae of Seoul, Korea; Kris Tamulis of Naples, Fla.; Seon-Hwa Lee of Chonan, Korea; Young Jo of Suwon, Korea; Erica Blasberg of Corona, Calif.; Allison Hanna of Portland, Ore.; Naree Song of Seoul, Korea; and Michelle Murphy of Tacoma, Wash.
Kang, who is in her third season on the Futures Tour and a second-year LPGA non-exempt member, had eight top-10 finishes, including two wins. She won the Tampa Bay's Next Generation Futures Golf Classic in Florida and the Betty Puskar Futures Golf Classic in Morgantown, W. Va. She earned $51,268 in 18 starts this year and tops the Futures Tour Money List awarding her honors as the 2004 Futures Tour Player of the Year.
'After trying to Monday qualify on the LPGA last year, I decided the Futures Tour is such a great program where you can play full time and every single week, so I played here all this year,' said the 24-year old. 'The Futures Tour gives you the experience of being a professional and I wanted to take advantage of it.'
Wright, also a non-exempt member of the LPGA and a second-year Futures Tour player, finished nine times in the top 10 this year, including winning twice. Her wins came at the Isleta Casino and Resort Futures Gold Classic in Albuquerque, N.M., and the Bank of Ann Arbor Futures Golf Classic in Michigan. With $45,536 in season earnings, Wright finished second on the money list.
'Last year, I watched the top five players get their cards and a few of the players I looked up to, so I knew this was the place to go to move on to the LPGA,' said the four-time NCAA All-American Wright, who played at Pepperdine University. 'I had status on the LPGA Tour [this year], but I knew if I played on the Futures Tour one more year, I would continue to develop week in and week out and make myself a stronger player. If you come out here prepared, it is an awesome experience.'
Despite missing the cut this week, Perrot held on to her No. 3 position on the money list. The 20-year old posted six top-10 finishes, including two wins coming into the final week. She won the GMAC Futures Golf Classic on Avon, Conn., and three weeks ago, won the Albany Futures Golf Classic in New York.
Perrot, who had LPGA non-exempt status last year said, 'I have been waiting for this moment since I was eight. I had one goal -- the LPGA Tour, and I did it. It is really exciting. I played three years on the Futures Tour and now I graduated to the LPGA Tour. It is like going to college and getting a degree and moving on. The experience I gained on the Futures Tour will help me so much on the LPGA Tour.'
The youngest player in the top five, 18-year-old rookie Cho, had five top-10 finishes this season, including one runner-up finish and two wins. Her first professional win was the Michelob ULTRA Futures Charity Golf Classic in Decatur, Ill., and her second win was the Stratton Mountain Futures Classic in Vermont. She earned $38,153 in earnings and captured Futures Tour Rookie of the Year honors.
The biggest surprise of the day and week was Johnson. She started the week in 11th place on the Futures Tour Money List. In order to move into the top five, the first-year pro would have to win this week's event. In stellar fashion, Johnson came from two shots back in the final round to tie for the lead with Kris Tamulis of Naples, Fla., after regulation play. Then the 22-year old won the York Newspaper Futures Golf Classic in a playoff with a birdie. That win allowed her to sneak past Bastel, who finished tied for 27th, by only $252.
'Surprised to say the least,' said the left-handed player and recent graduate from the University of Wisconsin. 'I had no idea until my name was called at the awards ceremony. At the start of the week, I thought if I won, I might have a chance. Having said that, while playing today and in the playoff, I never thought of it. I just wanted to win. It has been a great experience competing on the Futures Tour. This Tour is a spring board into the next stage.'
Zayra F. Calderon, president and chief executive officer of the Futures Tour said, 'We are sending five great champions to the LPGA Tour and wonderful representatives of the Futures Tour and their individual countries. These players are very strong and ready to take the next step. They showed character and will follow in the footsteps of their predecessors, such as Lorena Ochoa, Grace Park, Beth Bauer and others. The Futures Tour is truly the place to grow young talent and develop them into the LPGA stars.'
The Futures Golf Tour, 'the official developmental tour of the LPGA,' has become the largest international developmental tour and the second largest women's golf tour in the world. Since 1989, Futures Tour events have raised nearly $3 million for charitable organizations. Throughout its 24-year history, membership has increased from approximately 150 North American players to more than 300 players from 29 different nations. The Tour now conducts 18 tournaments in 15 states. The top five players on the 2004 Futures Tour Money List will receive automatic exemptions for the 2005 LPGA Tour. There are more than 240 Futures Tour alumnae on the LPGA Tour and through 2003, they have won a total of 266 LPGA titles, including 28 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.