Field Set for LPGA Sectional Q-School

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LPGA logo for LeaderboardsDAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- The field for the LPGA Sectional Qualifying Tournament at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, Calif., has been finalized, and 199 hopefuls will begin their march toward the LPGA Tour in two weeks at the Sept. 21-24 qualifier. Among the players who will battle for a spot in the LPGA Final Qualifying Tournament (Dec. 1-5) are amateur standouts Paula Creamer and Leigh Ann Hardin, as well as 2003 U.S. Women's Amateur Championship winner Virada Nirapathpongporn.

The 72-hole sectional will be played at the same site as the Tour's first major of the 2004 season, the Kraft Nabisco Championship, for the third consecutive year. The field will be cut to the low 70 players and ties after 36 holes. After four rounds, the top 30 players and ties will advance to the LPGA Tour's Final Qualifying Tournament at LPGA International's Legends Course in Daytona Beach, Fla.

Creamer and Hardin are two of the 22 amateurs who will attempt to qualify for the LPGA Tour this year (four additional amateurs are entered into the second sectional, Oct. 5-8, in Venice, Fla.). Nirapathpongporn of Thailand is one of 75 players from outside the United States in the California sectional (an additional seven international players are entered into the Venice field).

Creamer, who celebrated her 18th birthday on Aug. 5 and is the nation's third-ranked amateur, has competed in nine LPGA Tour events from 2003 04. She came within one stroke of a sudden-death playoff with Cristie Kerr at this year's ShopRite LPGA Classic, ultimately finishing tied for second and posting the best finish for an amateur in an LPGA event since Jenny Chuasiraporn was a runner-up at the 1998 U.S. Women's Open.

Creamer was a member of the victorious 2004 U.S. Curtis Cup Team and is a two-time member of the U.S. Junior Solheim Cup Team (2002-03). Creamer was a semifinalist at both the 2003 and 2004 Girls' Juniors and Women's Amateurs, and tied for low-amateur honors at the 2004 U.S. Women's Open, finishing tied for 13th. She has won 11 American Junior Golf Association events and was named the AJGA Player of the Year for 2003.

Hardin, a 22-year-old graduate of Duke University, has competed in seven LPGA tournaments in her career, with a best finish of 51st at the 2003 U.S. Women's Open. Currently ranked second on the Golfweek/Titleist Women's Amateur Rankings, Hardin was the 1998 USGA Girls' Junior champion, 2000 U.S. Women's Amateur Championship medalist and 2002 U.S. Curtis Cup Team member (she was an alternate in 2004). At Duke University, Hardin was a member of the 2002 NCAA Championship team and served as captain of the golf team in 2003-04.

Hardin is joined by fellow Blue Devil teammate Nirapathpongporn, who also graduated from Duke this spring, but has since turned professional and has been competing on the Futures Tour, where she has posted two top-10 finishes. Nirapathpongporn is a four-time NCAA First-Team All-American selection (2000-03) and the won the 2002 NCAA individual championship.
 
In 2003, she won the U.S. Women's Amateur Championship and was runner-up at the Women's Amateur Public Links Championship. Nirapathpongporn holds Duke University's scoring records for 18 holes (65), 54 holes (207) and 72 holes(279) and received the 2004 Nancy Lopez Award for her outstanding 2003 amateur performance. Nirapathpongporn has competed in seven LPGA events, with her best finishing coming at the 2003 Kraft Nabisco Championship, where she tied for 21st.

Consistent with the LPGA's history as being a true 'World Tour,' the 199-player field features players from 24 countries outside the United States, as well as a player from Puerto Rico. Canada is represented by the most players with 11, followed by Australia (9), England (7) and Korea (7). Four additional Korean players will join the field for the LPGA Sectional Qualifying Tournament in Venice, along with a player from France, Argentina and the Bahamas.

The Rancho Mirage qualifier is the first of the LPGA Tour's two sectional qualifying events in 2004. The second LPGA Tour Sectional Qualifying Tournament is Oct. 5-8 at Plantation Golf and Country Club's Bobcat and Panther courses in Venice, Fla. The top 30 finishers and ties from the California qualifier will join the top 30 players and ties from the Venice sectional qualifier, current LPGA Tour members attempting to improve their status and the 10 players from the 2004 Futures Tour money list at the LPGA Final Qualifying Tournament.