Kiddie Corps Bolts to Top in LPGA

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It wasnt so long ago ' actually only three or four years ' that the LPGA was going through an identity crises. The PGA Tour looked like the fountain of youth with its Sergio Garcias, its Charles Howells and Matt Kuchars and Notah Begays.
 
The LPGA? They didnt have much in the category of top-flight young players. Oh, there were Karrie Webb and Se Ri Pak, but still dominating were the older players ' Juli Inkster, Meg Mallon, Rosie Jones, Beth Daniel.
 
Paula Creamer
Paula Creamer is at the front of a youth movement on the LPGA Tour.
My, my, how times have changed. Now its the PGA Tour whose well of hot young players seems to have dried up. And look at the LPGA. Its roster of impressive young talent looks like the came right out of prep school.
 
Which, in fact, they have. The list of players who are under 21 is better than its ever been. Stretch the age limit to 25 and you have most of the great young talent in the LPGA covered.
 
Start with the money list leaders from this year. Of course no one is within light years of the regal Miss, Annika Sorenstam. But beyond her, the list of leaders gets crowded in a hurry.
 
Start with the No. 2 money-winner, Paula Creamer. She took time out from the tour this summer to attend her high school graduation. She won twice and played a pivotal role for the U.S. in the Solheim Cup. Did I mention that she is just four months past her 19th birthday?
 
Cristie Kerr is the old lady at 28, and doesnt that sound a little strange? The only man on the top 10 in PGA Tour money who is younger than that is 25-year-old Garcia. In fact, after Dec. 30 when Tiger Woods turns 30, only Garcia will be in his 20s among the top 14 tour money-winners.
 
But go down the LPGAs top 10 No. 4 is Lorena Ochoa, who is just 24; so is Jeong Jang, who is No. 5; No. 6 Natalie Gulbis is only 22; No. 7 Meena Lee is 24, No. 8 Hee-Won Han is 27, and No. 9 Gloria Park is 25. You have to go all the way down to No. 10 to get to another woman in her 30s ' 36-year-old Catriona Matthew.
 
Creamer at 19 would be expected to have a very long, very successful career in the LPGA after Sorenstam finally decides to call it a career. But look at the just-completed tour-school graduates. Creamer had better not relax ' a lot of young women right around her age are coming to the tour shortly.
 
Leading the onslaught is Q-school champion Ai Miyazato, who is just 20 years old. Ai won six times in Japan this year, 12 times in the past three years. The Okinawan stands just 5-feet-2, but she makes up for her lack of size with tremendous putting and iron play.
 
How good is she? She won the Q-school by a whopping 12 strokes. That kicked the stuffings out of the old record. No one has approached this serious a drubbing since the LPGA started its Q-school in 1973.
 
Other Q-school grads were Morgan Pressel (17) and Brittany Lang (19) ' they tied for second at the U.S. Women's Open as amateurs last year ' and Julieta Granada, who has a long line of amateur titles in addition to winning on the Futures Tour this summer. Left out of the womens mix is Michelle Wie, who just turned 16.
 
Na Ri Kim, 20, and Shinobu Moromizato, 19, will add to the LPGA tour's Asian presence next year. Kim is from Seoul, South Korea, and Moromizato also is from Okinawa.
 
The men? The top 10 is composed of Garcia and a bunch of 30- and 40-year-olds. Woods, as mentioned, is just days away from his 30th birthday. Kenny Perry is 45, Bart Bryant is 43, Vijay Singh is 42. David Toms is 38, Chris DiMarco 37, Retief Goosen 36, and Phil Mickelson and Jim Furyk 35.
 
Experience, perhaps, is all-important to the male pros. To the women, however, nothing can take the place of youth.
 
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