LPGA Set to Make Headlines in 2003


DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. ' After a record-setting and much-publicized 2002 season, its anyones guess as to the stories that will unfold in 2003 for the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA). One thing is certain'the LPGA Tours 53rd season should offer an array of interesting and exciting headlines from start to finish. Heres a small sampling of what to look for this season.

Annika Sorenstam Annika Sorenstam -- The LPGAs all-time leading money winner, who set or tied 20 records in 2002, is showing no signs of slowing down. Sorenstam, who has 42 career wins and will officially qualify for the LPGA Tour Hall of Fame at the completion of her 15th event in 2003, will also be the first woman since Babe Zaharias in 1945 to play in a PGA Tour event. Sorenstam will test her skills and unprecedented talent at the Bank of America Colonial, May 22-25, in Ft. Worth, Texas. At the Kraft Nabisco Championship, Sorenstam will attempt to become the first player ever to accomplish a three-peat at a major championship.
Suzy Whaley -- The LPGA Teaching and Club Professional (T&CP) member who played on the LPGA Tour in 1990 and 1993 will play in the PGA Tours Greater Hartford Open, June 24-27, after qualifying for the event by winning the 2002 Connecticut Section PGA Championship. Whaley will also get tournament experience when she plays back-to-back LPGA events in June. Whaley captured the 2002 GOLF FOR WOMEN Magazine LPGA T&CP Championship title, which allows her to play in the McDonalds LPGA Championship Presented by AIG, June 5-8. Whaley will then play in the Giant Eagle LPGA Classic, June 13-15, in Vienna, Ohio, on a sponsors exemption. She also has accepted a sponsor exemption to play in the Michelob Light Open at Kingsmill, May 1-4.
Rookie class -- With 24 LPGA rookies (11 exempt, 17 international), success is in the cards for these newcomers, and the battle for the Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year will be tight. Five players from the 2002 European Solheim Cup Team are now members of the LPGA Tour: Raquel Carriedo; Karine Icher; Paula Marti; Iben Tinning; and Suzann Pettersen. Two rookies gained exempt status for the 2003 season by finishing first and second on last seasons Futures Tour money list: Lorena Ochoa; and Christina Kim, 18, the youngest player on the LPGA Tour. Ochoa had a record setting amateur career that included 12 collegiate victories at the University of Arizona, eight of which came in 10 events in her sophomore year.
The Solheim Cup -- The 2003 Solheim Cup will be back on European soil when the best U.S.-born players from the LPGA Tour and the best European- born players from the Evian Ladies European Tour (LET) tee it up for the events eighth staging. The Solheim Cup will be held Sept. 12-14 at Barsebck Golf and Country Club in Malmo, Sweden. The United States will defend its title after winning the 2002 Solheim Cup at Interlachen Country Club in Edina, Minn., 15 1/2 to 12 1/2. The U.S. Team has won five of seven Solheim Cups, but both of Europes victories came overseas, in 1992 and 2000.
LPGA Tour and World Golf Halls of Fame -- Annika Sorenstam will be inducted into the LPGA Tour Hall of Fame after her 15th LPGA Tour event, while Karrie Webb will be qualify during the 2005 season. Both have received the requisite number of points to qualify (27) and are merely waiting to fulfill the 10-year membership requirement. A handful of other players are on the verge of getting those priceless points needed to reach the prestigious LPGA Tour and World Golf Halls of Fame. Laura Davies has 25 points, which makes her just one major championship win shy of gaining entrance into the LPGA Tour and World Golf Halls of Fame. After just five years on Tour, Se Ri Pak has 22 points. If she repeats her 2002 successes, when she won five tournaments and earned six points, all that will stand in her way is the Hall of Fames 10-year membership requirement, which she would meet in 2007. And Dottie Pepper, looking to get back on track after shoulder surgery sidelined her in 2002, has 21 points. A player receives one point for each LPGA official tournament win and two for each LPGA major tournament victory. One point is given for each Vare Trophy or Rolex Player of the Year honor earned. Entrance into the LPGA Tour Hall of Fame is limited to players who meet the following criteria: must be an active LPGA Tour member for 10 years; much have won/been awarded at least one LPGA major championship, the Vare Trophy or Rolex Player of the Year honors; and must have earned 27 points.
LPGA strategic business plan, year two -- The 2003 season will mark the second year of the LPGAs five-year strategic business plan, which is focused on growing the associations fan base and elevating the celebrity status of its players. Anchored by a Fans First strategy, the LPGAs strategic business plan has goals of increasing tournament attendance 15 percent and television viewership 10 percent annually. In its first year, the plan proved successful, as tournament attendance rose 13 percent and television viewership increased by 20 percent on both network and cable outlets. Fans First initiatives such as DeKuyper Peachtrees Peachtree Pavilions ' sampling of Jim Beam Brands Co. products offered at 10 events throughout the season ' will give LPGA fans new and exciting ways to enjoy their tournament experience.
Career Grand Slam and Super Career Grand Slam -- Five players have achieved the prestigious LPGA Career Grand Slam: Louise Suggs; Mickey Wright; Pat Bradley; Juli Inkster; and Karrie Webb. Webb, who completed the Career Grand Slam in 2002 when she won the McDonalds LPGA Championship Presented by AIG, became the first player in LPGA history to achieve the Super Career Grand Slam when she won the 2003 Weetabix Womens British Open. Those active players closing in on the Career Grand Slam include Laura Davies, Meg Mallon, Se Ri Pak and Jan Stephenson, who all need to win the Kraft Nabisco Championship. If Pak accomplishes this task either this season or next, she would become the youngest player in LPGA history to complete the Career Grand Slam (Webb currently owns that record). LPGA Tour Hall of Famers Patty Sheehan and Betsy King both need to win the Weetabix Womens British Open to win the Career Grand Slam. Those closing in on the Super Career Grand Slam include Inkster, who only needs to win the Weetabix Womens British Open, and Laura Davies, Mallon and Stephenson, who need to win the Kraft Nabisco Championship and the Weetabix Womens British Open.
Michelle Wie -- Wie became the youngest player to qualify for an LPGA tournament at the age of 12 when she Monday qualified for the LPGA Takefuji Classic in 2002. The young phenom, who is now 510 and 13 years old, is taking the golf world by storm, attempting to qualify for PGA Tour events and capturing the eye of many LPGA tournament directors. Wie has received sponsor exemptions to the Kraft Nabisco Championship, the Chick-fil-A Charity Championship hosted by Nancy Lopez, ShopRite LPGA Classic, the Jamie Farr Kroger Classic Presented by ALLTEL and the Safeway Classic. With drives approaching 300 yards, this teen should be one to watch this season and in the years to come.