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USGA Adds International Qualifying for U.S. Women's Open
In recognition of the global growth and strength of women's golf, the United States Golf Association (USGA) is introducing international qualifying for the U.S. Women's Open Championship, beginning in 2014. This year's U.S. Women's Open will be conducted June 19-22 on the No. 2 course at Pinehurst Resort & Country Club in the Village of Pinehurst, N.C. For the first time ever, the Women's Open will be held the week after the U.S. Open takes place on the same layout.
"The USGA has long been committed to presenting the U.S. Women's Open as the premier event in international women's golf," said USGA president Thomas J. O'Toole Jr. "With the addition of international qualifying, we are happy to expand the championship field to include more of the very best players from across the globe. We extend many thanks to our friends and partners around the world for their efforts in helping us accomplish this mission."
Fourteen foreign-born players have won the U.S. Women's Open a total of 18 times, including two-time and defending champion Inbee Park, of South Korea. Uruguay's Fay Crocker won the 1955 U.S. Women's Open, becoming the first international winner in championship history. In recent years, international players have dominated the leaderboard, taking seven of the last nine championships and 13 of the past 19. Koreans have won five of the last six.
Officials from the China Golf Association, Japan Golf Association, Korea Golf Association and Ladies European Tour will conduct international qualifying for the U.S. Women's Open, which will be held at four sites on Monday, May 19. Asia will have three qualifying sites - CGA Nanshan International Training Centre (Garden Course) in the People's Republic of China, Higashi Nagoya Country Club in Japan and Woo Jeong Hills Country Club in Korea. Buckinghamshire Golf Club in England will host European qualifying.
CGA Nanshan International opened in 2008 and was designed by IMG Design. The Garden Course hosted the 2011-13 OneAsia Nanshan China Masters and held the 2013 Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship.
"Golf is a very popular sport in China, and we are very happy to have a U.S. Women's Open qualifying site in our home country, with the joint effort made by the USGA and the CGA," said Zhang Xiaoning, vice president and secretary general of the China Golf Association.
"This will definitely promote the development of women's golf in China and broaden the influence of the China LPGA Tour. We truly appreciate the help and support from the USGA toward the development of golf in China and we certainly hope that more USGA events will come into China in the future, providing opportunities to Chinese female golfers and hopefully allowing more Chinese women to succeed, like what Shanshan Feng achieved in her professional golf career."
Buckinghamshire Golf Club was designed by two-time European Ryder Cup captain John Jacobs and opened in 1992. Since 2012, it has been the home of the ISPS Handa Ladies European Masters. It has also hosted numerous European and European Senior Tour events, and is the site of the Ladies European Tour home offices.
"We are honored to host the inaugural Women's Open qualifying opportunity in Europe," said Ivan Peter Khodabakhsh, chief executive officer of the Ladies European Tour. "Our players are equally thrilled that the USGA has brought championship qualifying to the United Kingdom and abroad. European players have a strong history of success at the U.S. Women's Open, and we hope that Laura Davies, Catherine Lacoste, Liselotte Neumann, Alison Nicholas and Annika Sorenstam will soon have another European counterpart on the list of Women's Open champions."
Higashi Nagoya Country Club was designed by Giichi Sato and opened in 1964. It has hosted several Japanese national championships, including the 1985 Japan Open, the 1993 Japan Women's Open and the 2012 Japan Senior Open.
"We are very pleased that the USGA is bringing U.S. Women's Open qualifying to Japan," said Taizo Kawata of the Japan Golf Association. "With players like Ai Miyazato and Ayako Okamoto as role models, more and more Japanese women are learning the game of golf. We hope that this chance to compete in the top event in women's golf provides even more opportunities to our players."
Woo Jeong Hills Country Club was designed by Perry Dye and opened in 1993. Since 2003, it has been the host site of the Kolon Korea Open. "Since Se Ri Pak's historic victory in 1998, Korean women have enjoyed tremendous success at the U.S. Women's Open and across professional golf," said Kwang-soo Hur, president of the Korea Golf Association. "We are very happy that more Korean players will have the opportunity to try to qualify for this most prestigious championship."
Also, effective in 2014, the USGA Handicap Index® limit for the U.S. Women's Open has been lowered to 2.4 from 4.4. The change comes in recognition of the rapid and tremendous growth of women's amateur golf, and will serve to strengthen the 69th U.S. Women's Open field.
The Handicap Index limit was set at 4.4 for the 1972 U.S. Women's Open, and has remained unchanged. Since then, more than 350 amateur golfers have qualified for the championship, including future winners Paula Creamer, Kathy (Baker) Guadagnino, Juli Inkster, Cristie Kerr, Murle Lindstrom, Hilary Lunke, Inbee Park, Annika Sorenstam and Hollis Stacy. Four amateurs have finished second: Nancy Lopez (1975); Jenny Chuasiriporn (1998, in a playoff); and Brittany Lang and Morgan Pressel (2005). Catherine Lacoste (1967) is the only amateur player to win the Women's Open.
The U.S. Women's Open is one of 13 national championships conducted annually by the USGA. It is open to professional female golfers and amateur females with a USGA Handicap Index not exceeding 2.4. The championship was first conducted in 1946 and boasts an impressive list of winners, including Babe Didrikson Zaharias, Betsy Rawls, Mickey Wright, Hollis Stacy, Amy Alcott, Meg Mallon, Annika Sorenstam, Se Ri Pak, Juli Inkster, Cristie Kerr, Paula Creamer and Inbee Park.
The above report is courtesy of the USGA. For more information, visit www.usga.org.