Strong International Field On Tap

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NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. ' Perhaps there is no better place to showcase the international flavor of the LPGA Tour than at a tournament with the word international in the title.
 
During this weeks Asahi Ryokuken International Championship at Mount Vintage, Scotlands Janice Moodie defends her title against a field that includes players from 19 countries outside the United States. All told, 61 of the 144 athletes competing for the $1.3 million purse hold an international passport.
 
The LPGAs world tour descends upon Mount Vintage Plantation Golf Club in North Augusta, S.C., May 8-11. Moodie, who notched an impressive seven-stroke victory in last years event, will be looking to continue the streak of international wins on the LPGA Tour.
 
Every 2003 LPGA Tour event has been won by a player from outside the United States, and five of the six winners are in the field this week: Wendy Doolan, Australia; Candie Kung, Taiwan; Patricia Meunier- Lebouc, France; Grace Park and two-time 2003 champion Se Ri Pak, Korea.
 
Of the 19 countries represented this week, Korea leads the way with 14 players. Second is Australia with seven, followed by England with six. The remaining countries are Sweden (5); Canada and Scotland (4); France and Italy (3); Germany, Japan and Taiwan (2); and one player each from Columbia, India, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Philippines and Spain.
 
Youd have to go back to Aug. 18, 2002, to find the last U.S. winner on Tour, Meg Mallon. Mallon, in the field this week, finished sixth at the 2001 Asahi Ryokuken International Championship at Mount Vintage and is currently 17th on the ADT Official Money List.
 
She is one of many strong U.S. players in the Asahi Ryokuken International Championship at Mount Vintage field, including LPGA Tour Hall of Famers Beth Daniel and Betsy King. Beth Bauer and Dorothy Delasin, the 2002 and 2000 Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Years, respectively, lead a talented group of young Americans in the field, namely Heather Bowie, who is currently 13th on the ADT Official Money List; two-time LPGA champion Laura Diaz; and Cristie Kerr, currently sixth on the ADT Official Money List and a runner-up at last weeks Michelob Light Open at Kingsmill.
 
The two Asahi Ryokuken International Championship at Mount Vintage sponsor exemptions balance the U.S.- international theme nicely. Amateur Paula Creamer, 16, from Pleasanton, Calif., makes her LPGA debut. Creamer, a student of the famed David Leadbetter Golf Academy in Bradenton, Fla., is the top-ranked girls junior player in America, according to Golfweeks Sagarin ratings. She won her fourth consecutive AJGA event three weeks ago.
 
Japans Riko Higashio, a member of the Japan Ladies Professional Golfers Association, will be competing in her seventh LPGA event. Her best finish was a tie for 28th at the 2000 Weetabix Womens British Open. Higashio was a top-ranked collegiate player at the University of Florida from 1995-98.
 
Last years Asahi Ryokuken International Championship at Mount Vintage was plagued by bad weather on the weekend, but Moodie relied on her Scottish roots to battle the tough conditions, posting rounds of 70-66-67 to lead by four heading into the final round. Laura Davies was Moodies closest competitor, but the Brit could only muster a 73 on Sunday and no one else mounted a charge. Moodie shot 70 for her fourth-consecutive under-par round and won by seven shots, the largest margin of victory at a 72-hole event last year. It was Moodies second career LPGA win. Rosie Jones and Annika Sorenstam tied for third.
 
Statistical Preview of the Asahi Ryokuken International