Pressel Miyazato Begin Sectional Qualifying

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- The march toward the 2005 Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) Tour begins this week for a field of 193 players at the LPGA Sectional Qualifying Tournament at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, Calif., the first of two sectional qualifiers. Standouts Ai Miyazato of Japan and amateur Morgan Pressel of Boca Raton, Fla., headline the field.
 
Miyazato, a 19-year-old star in her home country of Japan, was 17 when she became the first amateur in 30 years to win on the Japanese women's pro circuit. Last year, in her fourth tournament since turning pro, she became the youngest player to win on the LPGA of Japan Tour. She won a total of four times in 2004 and was the first Japanese teen to earn more than $1 million in a year. Earlier this season, Miyazato carded a final-round 67 to help Japan beat South Korea and the Philippines in the inaugural Women's World Cup of Golf.
 
Coincidentally, Miyazato's debut in the United States came at Mission Hills Country Club earlier this season when she received a sponsor's exemption into the Kraft Nabisco Championship and eventually tied for 44th. Miyazato tied for ninth at the HSBC Women's World Match Play Championship this summer and tied for 11th at the Weetabix Women's British Open.
 
Amateur standout Morgan Pressel, 17, begins her quest for LPGA Tour membership this week as well. Pressel burst onto the scene as a 12-year-old phenom, qualifying for the U.S. Women's Open in 2001 and, in doing so, set the record for the youngest participant ever. She has since qualified for two more U.S. Women's Opens, and this year nearly won the event, tying for second only after a miraculous birdie on the 72nd hole by Birdie Kim. She has competed in seven LPGA Tour events this season, finishing tied-for-25th or higher every time, including her tie for second at the U.S. Women's Open and a tie for fifth at the State Farm Classic.
 
In junior golf, Pressel holds 11 American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) titles, five of which are AJGA Invitationals. Her career 'AJGA Slam' can be matched by only one player in the Association's 27-year history, by Kellee Booth in the early 1990s (although Booth won four, not five, events to have this distinction). Pressel recently helped lead the U.S. Team to victory at the PING Junior Solheim Cup.
 
Consistent with the LPGA's history as being a true 'World Tour,' the 193-player field features 72 international players from 24 countries outside the United States, as well as two players from Puerto Rico. Korea is represented by the most players with 18 (up from seven in the first stage last year), followed by Canada (11), Australia (7), Sweden (6) and England (6). The remaining countries are Japan (3), Thailand (2), Italy (2), Russia (2) and the Bahamas, China, Czech Republic, Ecuador, Finland, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, Paraguay, Philippines, South Africa, Spain, Taiwan, Wales and Zimbabwe with one player each.
 
There is no shortage of homegrown talent either. Thirty-two states are represented in the first LPGA Sectional Qualifying Tournament, with California leading the way with 26 entrants, followed by Florida (15) and Texas (13) and Illinois, Michigan, Nevada and Tennessee with five each.
 
The 72-hole sectional (Sept. 20-23) will be played at the same site as the Tour's first major of the season, the Kraft Nabisco Championship, for the fourth 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.
 
The Rancho Mirage qualifier is the first of the LPGA Tour's two sectional qualifying events in 2005. The second LPGA Tour Sectional Qualifying Tournament is Oct. 4-7 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 2005 Futures Tour money list at the LPGA Final Qualifying Tournament in Daytona Beach, Fla.