The LPGA's 2004 rookie class is an illustration of the tour's standing as a true 'World Tour,' as the 29 players hail from 11 different countries. The group includes a 17-year-old, a 35-year-old, a lefty, five married women and one mother of two.
Of the 29 rookies, 26 qualified for the 2004 tour via the LPGA sectional and
final qualifying tournaments, with the final two - Ju Kim and Reilley
Rankin - qualifying by finishing in the top five on the 2003 Futures Tour
money list. Add in Shi Hyun Ahn of Korea, winner of last week's CJ Nine
Bridges Classic Presented by Sports Today, and the list becomes even more
impressive. Kim and Rankin, along with 11 other rookies from the LPGA Final
Qualifying Tournament, will be exempt in 2004, with the other 16 rookies
holding non-exempt status.
Perhaps the most highly touted of the lot is 17-year-old Aree Song, who has
been a mainstay in LPGA events for the past four seasons. Song has competed
in 16 LPGA events since 2000, including last week's CJ Nine Bridges Classic
Presented by Sports Today. She has made the cut in 12 of those events, with
her top finish coming at this year's U.S. Women's Open, where she finished
Ahn, a 19-year-old rookie on the Korean LPGA Tour, held off Se Ri Pak,
Gloria Park, Laura Davies and Grace Park by three strokes to become the
first non-LPGA member to win an LPGA event since Karrie Webb won the 1995
Weetabix Women's British Open. She will be one of 16 non-exempt rookies in
Kelly Lagedrost from Brooksville, Fla., will join Angela Buzminski as the
only two left-handed golfers on tour next year, while Juli Hilton of
Saratoga, Calif., joins the LPGA's list of mothers on Tour. The 12 rookies
from the United States come from 10 different states, while Korea has the
most number of rookies, five, of the 10 international countries claiming
The 2004 rookie class also includes Meredith Duncan, the 2001 U.S. Women's
Amateur champion and former U.S. Curtis Cup Team member, and Katherine Hull
of Australia, the 2003 NCAA Player of the Year and 2003 Dinah Shore Award
recipient. In addition, Vikki Laing (Scotland), a member of the 2002 Great
Britain and Ireland Curtis Cup Team, and Mikaela Parmlid (Sweden), the 2003
NCAA individual champion at the University of Southern California, are also
among the 29 rookies.
The LPGA will feature the 2004 rookie class in a four-part series in both
the LPGA News Release and on LPGA.com in February. The following is a list
of the rookie class in its entirety.