Making her professional debut in the tours first event in Lakeland will be teenager Naree Song, who at 17, will be the youngest tour member in 2004.
Song, now of Orlando, Fla., won the 2001 Kosaido Thailand Ladies Open as an amateur. Better known as Naree Song Wongluekiet -- one of the two Thai-Korean twin sisters who began playing LPGA Tour events by age 12 -- Naree will attempt to earn her LPGA Tour status this season to join sister Aree, who is playing the LPGA Tour.
The sisters each received special permission to play on their respective professional tours this year as 17-year-olds until their 18th birthday on May 1. Typically, the legal starting age for members of the LPGA and the Futures Tour is 18.
Duke University senior Virada Nirapathpongporn of Thailand will join the developmental tour following the NCAA Womens Golf Championship this spring.
Also joining the Futures Tour in 2004 will be: Becky Lucidi of Poway, Calif., the 2002 U.S. Womens Amateur Champion and a recent graduate of the University of Southern California. She is a former college teammate Mikaela Parmlid of Sweden, who won the individual title at the 2003 NCAA Womens Golf Championship as a member of the Southern Cal national champion team. Parmlid is both a non-exempt LPGA Tour and Futures Tour rookie.
Tri-medalists from the Futures Tour Qualifying Tournament last November will also be among this years membership. They are: Summer Sirmons of Cuthbert, Ga., who played at the University of Georgia; Courtney Wood of Brentwood, Tenn., presently an amateur completing her senior season at Vanderbilt University; and Sung Ah Yim of Seoul, Korea, the 2001 Korean Womens Amateur Champion.
The Futures Tours 24th season will feature an 18-tournament schedule that spans 15 states and begins in Florida, moves to the Southwest, Midwest, Northeast, New England, then travels down the Eastern Seaboard to culminate Aug. 27-29, at the season-ending York Newspaper Company Futures Classic in York, Penn.
Once again, Futures Tour members will compete for five fully exempt LPGA Tour cards, which will be awarded to the top five players on the Futures Tour Money List at the conclusion of the York tournament. The cards will entitle top Futures players to compete as full members on the 2005 LPGA Tour.
In addition, Futures Tour members ranked sixth through 15th in season earnings at the conclusion of the York event will automatically advance into the LPGAs Final Qualifying Tournament in December. Last year, a total of 29 Futures Tour players earned LPGA Tour status, further demonstrating the tours designation as 'the official developmental tour of the LPGA.'
The Tour will compete for more than $1.2 million, with five tournaments increasing purse size by up to $10,000. Eight tournaments will offer purses of $70,000, giving the tour a record 10 of 18 tournaments at $70,000 or higher. Two tournaments -- the Isleta Casino & Resort Futures Gold Classic in Albuquerque, N.M., and the York tournament -- will offer a $75,000 purse.