Futures Tour Ready to Kick Off 2003 Season

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LAKELAND, Fla. -- As the 23rd Futures Golf Tour season officially opens, the excitement of the Tour has risen to an all time high. Bringing with them successful junior, amateur, and collegiate accomplishments, more than 250 national and international players from 26 different countries are set to contend for a top spot on the Futures Tour money list.
 
With this much competition, it is uncertain what the 'FUTURE' will hold for each player, but the possibilities are endless. Take a look at what's in store this season.
 
SOLID SCHEDULE
 
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, in Queenstown, Md., 45 miles southeast of Baltimore. The event will be held at Hunters Oak Golf Club Aug. 1-3, two weeks prior to the season-ending tournament. As history has shown, rivalry among players will undoubtedly intensify as the season comes to a close, giving local fans the chance to watch the final stretch of the dramatic 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,' stated 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 Tour's 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 season's schedule. The Tour also expanded its schedule into two new markets, Tampa, Fla., and Merrillville, Ind.; the $65,000 Tampa Bay's 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 year's 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.
 
FRESH FACES
 
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 year's 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 year's 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 Tour's 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 Tour's Money List. She will enjoy her second year on the LPGA Tour, but this time as an exempt player.