Han Happily Back in the Big Apple

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LPGA logo for LeaderboardsNEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. -- Hee-Won Han, defending champion of the Sybase Classic Presented by Lincoln Mercury, may want to add a new slogan to the side of her golf bag.
 
The line from the famous Frank Sinatra song that pays tribute to New York City may require some extra stitching, but If I can make it there, Ill make it anywhere could not ring more true for the fourth-year LPGA pro.
 
Two years ago at the Sybase Classic Presented by Lincoln Mercury, which is a short jaunt north of The Big Apple, Han lost in a playoff to Gloria Park. But last year things were different. Han and savvy veteran Meg Mallon shared a five-shot, final-round lead, and it was Han who emerged the victor and became a Rolex First-Time Winner.
 
She made it, and the win served as a springboard to her season as Han would also win the Wendys Championship for Children and finish fourth on the ADT Official Money List. She was no longer a winless pro, but one of the Tours emerging stars, and now is back where it all began to defend the first LPGA title of her career.
 
The surroundings in the New York City suburb and the nearly century-old course and historic clubhouse will all look the same to Han, but there is one significant change to the tournament that will cause her eyes and the rest of the LPGA pros to widen.
 
A year ago the purse was $950,000, but with the continual support of Sybase, it has swelled to $1.25 million this year. The winners share is now $187,500 compared to the $142,000 Han collected in 2003, and a talented field has gathered to compete for the hefty first-place check. Five tournament winners from 2004'Cristie Kerr, Se Ri Pak, Grace Park, Jennifer Rosales and Karen Stupples'are all in the field, as well as LPGA and World Golf Halls of Fame members Beth Daniel and Betsy King.
 
Aree Song, the talented first-year player who has a commanding lead in the Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year race, is set for a special week. Arees identical twin sister, Naree, has been granted a sponsor exemption, and this will mark the first time the sisters have competed on the LPGA Tour together as professionals.
 
The duo has been a sponsor exemption combo dating back to 2000, but this year, Aree has been competing on the LPGA Tour, while Naree toils on the Futures Tour.
 
By the final round last year, Han and Mallon had separated themselves from the field and were set for a Sunday showdown that never rally happened. Han carded a final-round 71 (E) to secure the win, while Mallon labored to a closing 2-over-par 73.
 
Related links:
  • Full Coverage - Sybase Big Apple Classic