LPGA Heads West for Emotional Week at Safeway Classic


PORTLAND, Ore. - This week on the LPGA Tour will be like none other for the 144 players descending on Columbia Edgewater Country Club for the Safeway Classic. It was there where a full field of tour players found themselves on Sept. 11, 2001, when terrorists attacked the United States. The 2001 Safeway Classic was cancelled due to the tragedy and players were left stranded, some thousands of miles away from home, searching for ways to deal with the shock.
For those reasons, and more, this week's $1 million, 54-hole event will be an emotional one for the LPGA Tour. Players will be wearing special red, white and blue ribbons during tournament week, and tour members and pro-am participants will pay tribute to the victims of Sept. 11 with a moment of silence on Wednesday at noon. U.S. flags and players dressed in red, white and blue will also be seen in abundance at the club throughout the week.
The tournament is an important one for many players as the Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year award will be determined, and U.S. and European Solheim Cup team members will be tuning up for next week's battle at The Solheim Cup at Interlachen Country Club in Edina, Minn. The Safeway Classic is also one of the LPGA's oldest tournaments, dating back to 1972, but was an unofficial event from 1977-82 before regaining official status in 1983.
The tournament is also the final event for players to earn money toward securing exempt status for the 2003 season. Players finishing in the top 90 on the LPGA money list at the end of the Safeway Classic earn exempt status for next season.
Beth Bauer heads into this week with a 137-point lead over Natalie Gulbis in the race for the Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year award. The two Americans have been in a neck-and-neck battle for the LPGA's top rookie award for the majority of the 2002 season. If they finish first and second for the Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year honors, it would be the first time two Americans did so since 1995, when Pat Hurst finished five points ahead of Tracy Hanson.
In preparation for next week's showdown, 18 of 24 Solheim Cup participants are competing - nine U.S. team members and nine European team members, including sponsor exemptions Karine Icher and Suzann Pettersen.
In addition, nine tournament champions from 2002 are competing this week and nine past Safeway Classic champions are teeing it up. Those past champions, led by Korea's Mi Hyun Kim, who won the 2000 event and is the de facto defending champion, are LPGA Tour Hall of Famers JoAnne Carner (1974, 1983), Nancy Lopez (1985, 1987, 1992) and Betsy King (1988); Donna Andrews (1993); Alison Nicholas (1995); Chris Johnson (1997); Danielle Ammaccapane (1998); and LPGA Tour Hall of Famer Juli Inkster (1999). For Lopez, this will be the second-to-last tournament of her 2002 Farewell Tour.
Kim won the 2000 event in a two-hole, sudden-death playoff over countrywoman Jeong Jang after the duo finished tied at 215 (-1) after 54 holes, marking the first time in LPGA history that Koreans finished a tournament first and second. This will be the 12th straight year the tournament has been played at Columbia Edgewater Country Club and the 17th one overall as an official event.