LPGAs Stars Gather for First Major

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Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, Calif., has been home to the Nabisco Championship since 1972. This week the 6,520 yard par-72 course plays host to 91 pros along with five lucky amateurs who have ventured to the Palm Springs area ' home of the sacred Cahuilla Indians mineral springs ' with hopes of capturing the first LPGA major of the season.
 
The late Dinah Shores crown is much coveted and all will be vying for it along with the lions share of the $1.5 million purse.
 

Defending champion Annika Sorenstam took home the title last year. It was the third of her eight victories last season. Sorenstam and her score of 7-under-par held off Karrie Webb, Janice Moodie, Dottie Pepper, Akiko Fukushima and Rachel Teske ' all of whom finished the event in a five-way tie for second at 10-under.
 
Fellow competitors Webb and Se Ri Pak will see to it that Sorenstam has her work cut out for her this week. It will be no easy task to defend a title with these two in the field.
 
Pak has raised the bar this year and looks to take over for Sorenstam. I am tired of second place. I want to be No. 1,' Pak said at her first event back this season. I want to win the first major of the year. For me, it is a great tournament, the Nabisco.

Legend Nancy Lopez, who recently announced that this would be her final full season, will play this week. Lopez won the Championship in 1981 with a two-stroke victory over Carolyn Hill.
 
Reigning U.S. Womens Amateur champion and University of Arizona sophomore Meridith Duncan and Mexicos Lorena Ochoa, another Arizone collegian, received two of the five sponsor exemptions into this years field.
 
Rounding out the other three spots are Nicole Perrot of Santiago, Chile and Aree and Naree Wongluekiet. This will be the third appearance for the 15-year-old Wongluekiet twins. Ochoa was low amateur at the conclusion of the 2001 Nabisco Championship while Perrot is the reigning U.S. Girls Junior champion.
 
The Championship has also invited Suzann Pettersen of Norway, Karine Ichor of France, Raquel Carriedo of Spain, Yuri Fudoh and Chieko Amanuma of Japan to compete this week based on their performances on their respective tours. Carriedo bears watching although she is currently suffering from a bout with tendonitis in her left wrist that may do her a disservice this week.