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Amateurs Receive Invitations to Kraft Nabisco Championship
In keeping with its tradition of honoring the world's top amateurs, the Kraft Nabisco Championship has announced that nine of the world's top amateur and college players, led by reigning U.S. Women's Amateur champion Emma Talley, have accepted invitations to participate in the 2014 tournament.
Joining Talley in the LPGA Tour's first major of the year, which takes place April 1-6 at Mission Hills Country Club, is a formidable list of accomplished amateurs. The group includes Alison Lee, who returns to the tournament after playing in 2012, and returning amateurs Ashlan Ramsey, and Angel Yin, who won the KNC Champions Junior Challenge last year to earn her way into the event. Newcomers include Minjee Lee, Su Hyun Oh, Brooke Henderson, Annie Park and Nelly Korda.
"Inviting the future stars from around the globe and giving them this kind of showcase to display their talents has always been a priority of ours and something we take very seriously," said Gabe Codding, tournament director. "As always, our fans are going to see some young players doing remarkable things that are a foreshadowing of things to come."
The No. 1-ranked amateur in the world is Minjee Lee of Australia. The 17-year-old's resume is already so impressive that two-time Kraft Nabisco Championship winner Karrie Webb said, "She's got more talent in her little finger than I ever did at 17. She should be really proud of herself. You'll definitely see a lot more of her."
In the last two months, Lee won the Women's Victorian Open, finish second in the Volvik RACV Ladies Masters on the Ladies European Tour and led the Women's Australian Open entering the final round. Lee won back-to-back Australian Amateur championships in 2013 and '14 and became the first Australian to win the U.S. Girls' Junior Championship in 2012.
Alison Lee is ranked No. 3. The Valencia native and UCLA freshman already owns two victories and a runner-up in her first five collegiate tournaments. Lee is a six-time American Junior Golf Association First-Team All-American, who amassed nine AJGA victories - including all three of her starts in 2013: the Rolex Tournament of Champions, ClubCorp Mission Hills Desert Junior (which included a first-round 63 that is an AJGA record) and Rolex Girls Junior.
The current U.S. Women's Amateur champion, a title she captured with a 2 and 1 victory over Yueer Cindy Feng at the Country Club of Charleston, Talley is making her Kraft Nabisco Championship debut. But it's the third major for Talley, who qualified for the 2011 and 2012 U.S. Women's Open, making the cut in 2012. The Alabama sophomore and Princeton, Ky., native started all 33 matches for the Crimson Tide as a freshman and is the No. 10-ranked amateur in the world.
Also making her debut is USC sophomore Annie Park, who holds the No. 2 spot behind Minjee Lee in the World Amateur Golf Rankings and has a budding rivalry with the Bruins' Lee. Park led the Trojans to their third NCAA title while winning four events, including the NCAA individual title, which she won by six strokes. A native of Levittown, N.Y., Park won the NCAA West Regional and Pac-12 Championship, becoming only the second woman to sweep conference, regional and NCAA titles in the same season.
In addition to Minjee Lee, another Aussie amateur coming to the Kraft Nabisco is Su Hyun Oh. The No. 5-ranked amateur in the world, Oh tied for fourth in the Victorian Open last month. In 2013, she reached the quarterfinals of the U.S. Women's Amateur and finished runner-up to Webb at the Australian Ladies Masters.. Oh won the Australian Girls' Amateur in 2012 and, in 2009 made headlines when the then-12-year-old became the youngest player in history to qualify for the Women's Australian Open.
Ranked No. 6, Brooke Henderson has the distinction of being the youngest player to win a professional golf tournament, the CN Canadian Women's Tour, at 14. This title added to her victories in the South Atlantic Amateur, the International Junior Orange Bowl, Sprint International, Canadian Amateur and South American Amateur. The 16-year-old native of Smiths Falls, Ontario, has verbally committed to play at the University of Florida. She is playing in her first Kraft Nabisco Championship after finishing 35th in the Manulife Financial LPGA Classic and 59th in the U.S. Women's Open in 2013.
Ranked seventh in the world, Clemson University freshman Ashlan Ramsey tied for 48th at last year's Kraft Nabisco Championship. A native of Milledgeville, Ga., Ramsey has two victories and a second in her first five collegiate tournaments. This follows a dominant amateur season throughout the Southeast in which Ramsey was runner-up in the Thunderbird Invitational, won the Georgia Women's Match Play Championship, won the Women's Eastern Golf Association Championship, won the Women's Western Golf Association Championship, was finished second in the Trans American Amateur and reached the quarterfinals of the Women's North and South Amateur Championship at Pinehurst.
One of 2013's most interesting storylines returns in 2014 with Arcadia High School freshman Angel Yin. Yin won the KNC Champions Junior Challenge last year to qualify for the Kraft Nabisco, then finished T55 in her second major championship. Yin was the youngest player in the 2012 U.S. Women's Open at 13. A two-time California Women's Amateur champion (2010, '12), Yin is the second-youngest player to win that prestigious event.
There will be a sister act in the 2014 Kraft Nabisco Championship. Nelly Korda is the 15-year-old younger sibling of LPGA rising star Jessica Korda, who's coming off her second LPGA title after winning the Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic last month. Nelly won the 2013 U.S. Women's Open sectional qualifier, and made the U.S. Women's Open cut. She and Jessica are the daughters of retired tennis star Petr Korda, who won the Australian Open the year Nelly was born - 1998.
Mariah Stackhouse of Stanford, who is the No. 11-ranked amateur in the world, also received an invitation, but declined due to a conflicting collegiate tournament for the Cardinal. "By sticking with her team, I have no doubt that with the character Mariah displayed here that we'll be seeing her here very soon," Codding said.