Among those international players are some of the Evian Ladies European Tours (LET) strongest contenders: Raquel Carriedo (Zaragoza, Spain), Karin Icher (Chateauroux, France), Paula Marti (Barcelona, Spain), Nicole Perrot (Vina del Mar, Chile), Suzann Pettersen (Oslo, Norway) and Iben Tinning (Copenhagen, Denmark).
Europes top young stars have successfully jumped ship and will play on the LPGA Tour as members in 2003. Its a huge loss for the LET but a tremendous gain for LPGA Tour Commissioner Ty Votaw and the strength of the LPGA Tour.
Tinning, a member of the 2002 Solheim Cup European Team who won twice on the LET in 2002, is excited about playing on the LPGA Tour. The thing is, if you want to improve your game, I am sorry to say, you need to play more tournaments, and at the moment we (LET) have only got 14. Her back-to-back wins this season at the Ladies Irish Open and the La Perla Italian Open increased her popularity in Europe.
If we had 25 tournaments, I would never go over here and play, but we dont have that. Even though Tinning knows what she had to do for her profession, its not in line with her heart. I think if you are born in Europe, you want to stay in Europe.
Tinning earned non-exempt status after recording scores of 72-73-70-73-288 to finish at even par at the LPGA International-Legends Course in Daytona Beach, Fla. during the final Qualifying School in October.
Carriedo won the Tenerife Ladies Open and recorded three other top-10s during the season while Icher won the Caja Duero Open de Espana.
Other 2003 European rookies include Nikki Campbell of Ontario, Canada, Candy Hannemann (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), Linda Ishii (Chiba, Japan), Jimin Kang (Seoul, Korea), Soo Young Kim
A grand total of 23 players have exempt status in 2003, 11 of which are rookies. Young Kim (Kangwondo, Korea), Young-A Yang (Seoul, Korea), Angela Jerman (Denver, Co.), Georgina Simpson (Dewsbury, England), Carriedo (Spain), Pettersen (Norway), Soo Young Kim (Chung-Nam, Korea), Young-A Yang (Korea) and Carrie Roberts ' formerly Summerhays - (Herber City, Utah) all earned exempt status through Q-School.
Raquel Carriedo and Suzann Pettersen, who will be sorely missed on the LET, are destined to make a big splash on the LPGA Tour. Both were members of the 2002 Solheim Cup European Squad, making notable contributions to the team.
The nine players mentioned above are joined by 20-year-old Lorena Ochoa of Guadalajara, Mexico and Christina Kim of San Jose, Calif. Both earned their status for the coming year by finishing in the top two positions on the 2002 Futures Tour money list.
'I cant wait to start to play on LPGA Tour,' Ochoa said.
This has been my dream since I have been playing golf as well as a dream of my family and of all of Mexico. And I finally did it.
Ochoa was the No. 1 ranked college player from the University of Arizona in 2001. She won three times and was runner-up in four tournaments on the Futures Tour this year.
The first professional event Ochoa competed in, as an amateur, was the 2000 U.S. Womens Open where she recorded scores of 75-78-153 to miss the cut. She went on to receive a sponsor exemption at the 2001 Welchs/Circle K Championship in Tucson, where she finished tied for seventh place, and two weeks later was invited to play in the Kraft Nabisco Championship. Her success as an amateur prompted her to leave school early and turn pro.
Having no home on the LPGA Tour, Ochoa played her first year as a pro on the Futures Tour.
'The Futures Tour allowed me to achieve this goal and I think the Tour is the best way to get to the LPGA and at the same time gain much needed experience, she said. The competition out here is really fierce and week to week the players are gunning for the top spot.'
A total of 48 players will compete under non-exempt conditional status in 2003. Among them are 15 members of the 2003 rookie class including Europes Tinning, Marti, Perrot, and Icher.
Australian Nikke Campbell, Candy Hannemann (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), Linda Ishii (Chiba, Japan), Jimin Kang (Seoul, Korea), Ji-Yeon (Jinnie)Lee (Seoul, Korea), Soo Young Moon (Keumsan, Korea), Ashley Palmer Winn (Monroe, LA.), Hyun Soon Park (Gong-Ju, Korea), Stacy Prammanasudh (Enid, OK), and Lisa Strom (Aberdeen, S.D.) make up the rest of the 15 rookies chomping at the bit to make their mark on the LPGA Tour.