STOCKBRIDGE, Ga. -- Virada Nirapathpongporn, whose list of accomplishments in the golf world is nearly as long as her name, has been selected as the recipient of the fifth annual Nancy Lopez Award. Named after one of the greatest and most respected women golfers in history, the award is presented annually to the world's most outstanding female amateur. The inaugural winner was Kellee Booth, who is now an LPGA Tour professional. In 2001, Aree Wongluekiet (now Aree Song) captured the award. A year later, the winner was Meredith Duncan, also now an LPGA professional. And last year Lorena Ochoa, who would go on to claim LPGA Rookie-of-the-Year honors, earned the award.
The award is a key facet of the relationship between Nancy Lopez and the Chick-fil-A Charity Championship hosted by Nancy Lopez. As the event's official host, Lopez will present the award to Nirapathpongporn at a gala banquet to be held Wednesday night (April 28) of tournament week. Along with the award comes a sponsor invitation to compete in the tournament. In addition, the tournament is donating $1,000 in Nirapathpongporn's name to Duke University, which she attends.
The talented native of Bangkok, Thailand enjoyed a remarkable year capped off by a win at the U.S. Woman's Amateur Championship. She also finished second at the U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links Championship and 60th at the U.S. Women's Open. In between she was a major star on the Duke University women's team, one of the finest collegiate squads ever assembled. She finished in the top 10 all but two of her college events, one of the latter being an 11th at the NCAA Championship. She was ranked first in GolfWeek's women's amateur ranking for 2003.
She was also the 2002 NCAA individual champion and owns Duke records for scores on 18 holes (65), 54 holes ( 207) and 72 holes (279). She is the only Duke player to earn first team NGCA All-America accolades in her first three years. Nirapathpongporn is a two-time NGCA Academic All-America and a member of ACC 50th anniversary golf team.
'It is great to receive this honor from Nancy Lopez. Obviously everyone knows she is a legend in women's golf. To add my name to the list of past winners with Lorena Ochoa, Meredith Duncan, Aree Song and Kellee Booth is tremendous. I look forward to attending the tournament and meeting Nancy Lopez. It is a wonderful honor for me and my family as I have worked so hard to get to this point.'
Nirapathpongporn was selected from a list of 10 extraordinarily talented and distinguished international candidates. The Nancy Lopez Award Executive Committee which chaired the award consists of Chairman Mike Waldron (Executive Director of the Georgia State Golf Association), Judy Bell (Past President of the United States Golf Association), Nancy Lopez (LPGA Hall of Fame Member), Rob Neal (V.P. of Business Affairs for the LPGA), Betsy Rawls (LPGA Hall of Fame Member), Steve Robinson (Senior V.P., CMO, Chick-fil-A, Inc.), Mickey Walker (Former Captain European Solheim Cup Team) and J.T. Williams (President, Metro South Golf Charities-Atlanta).The Executive Committee selected approximately 70 international golf industry experts who compiled the list of candidates. The committee members and industry experts participated in the voting.
'Having my name associated with this prestigious award and with the tournament is a huge honor for me,' said Ms. Lopez. 'I have wonderful memories of competing in amateur golf. Virada is a great credit to collegiate and women's golf and, I'm sure, will enjoy a long and successful career.'