Ochoa Kim and Nagl Exempt for 2003 LPGA Tour


YORK, Pa., ' Futures Golf Tour rookie sensations Lorena Ochoa of Guadalajara, Mexico, and Christina Kim of San Jose, Calif., and second-year Futures Tour player Miriam Nagl of Berlin, Germany, qualified Monday as LPGA Tour exempt members for the 2003 season by finishing in the top three on the Futures Tour money list. This is the fourth year in the 22-year history of the Futures Tour that players have received automatic exemptions onto the LPGA Tour.
Also Monday, players ranked fourth through 10th on the money list received automatic entry into the LPGA Final Qualifying Tournament to be held Oct. 8 ' 11 at LPGA International in Daytona Beach, Fla. Those players, in order of finish, are Sue Ginter-Brooker of Appleton, Wis., Michele Vinieratos of Altamonte Springs, Fla., Lisa Hall of Stoke-on-Trent, England, Melinda Price of Jupiter, Fla., Lisa Strom of North Wales, Pa., Linda Ishii of Los Angeles, Calif., and Nicole Materne of Spokane, Wash.
Ochoa, who turned professional in late May, had eight top-10 finishes in just 10 tournaments, including three wins. Her first win came three weeks after turning professional at the JWA/Michelob Light Futures Charity Golf Classic in Decatur, Ill. She went on to capture the Ann Arbor Futures Classic in Ann Arbor, Mich., and then just a week ago won the Betty Puskar Futures Golf Classic in Morgantown, W. Va., to solidify her place in the top three. Her tie for 13th this week allowed her to top the Futures Tour money list with $53,702 and take home Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year honors, edging Kim by just $242.
'I cant wait to start to play on LPGA Tour,' said the 20-year-old Ochoa, who was runner-up in four tournaments this year. 'This has been my dream since I have been playing golf as well as a dream of my family and of all of Mexico. And I finally did it.
'The Futures Tour allowed me to achieve this goal and I think the Tour is the best way to get to the LPGA and at the same time gain much needed experience. The competition out here is really fierce and week to week the players are gunning for the top spot.'
Kim, who played in eight Futures Tour events last season as an amateur, had a very consistent year, competing in 18 tournaments and posting 12 top-10 finishes, including four runners-up and one win. Her victory came at the Hewlett-Packard Garden State Futures Summer Classic in Manalapan, N.J. Since June, Kim was leading the money list until Ochoa won the Morgantown event. She finished second on the Futures Tour Money List with $53,460.
The 18-year-old Kim said, 'It is an incredible feeling to get my LPGA Tour card. I cant put it to words, the feeling has overcome me and I am lost for words. All I know now is that turning professional this year and playing on the Futures Tour was the right decision. The Futures Tour is far more than getting a Tour card, it is a place to learn how to win, learn how to be a player, and you learn how to be professional.'
The third spot came down to the very last tournament. Heading into the season finale York Newspaper Company Futures Classic in York, Pa., Nagl was in third with five players having the opportunity to take her spot. She finished tied for 21st and held off any charges. Nagl had seven top-10 finishes in 17 tournaments including two wins, the Grand Rapids Futures Classic in Grand Rapids, Mich., and the Capital Region Futures Classic in Albany, N.Y. Her total earnings were $39,099.
'I would be lying if I told you that I was not thinking about the top three this week, but I decided that I had to go out and play my own game and the golf course like I had all year and just see what happened,' said the 21-year-old Nagl. 'Getting my LPGA Tour card means that I have accomplished one of my dreams. It has also proved to me that what I have worked on all year has paid off. Now I know that I can go on the LPGA Tour and contend.'
Zayra F. Calderon, president and chief executive officer of the Futures Tour, said, 'We are sending three outstanding players onto the LPGA Tour. They are young accomplished golfers and great representatives of womens golf. Their energy and drive is certain to make a mark on the LPGA.'