RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. -- In keeping with its cherished tradition of honoring the world's top amateur players, the Kraft Nabisco Championship is pleased to announce 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 Kraft Nabisco Championship, the LPGA's first major championship of the year which takes place April 1-6 at Mission Hills Country Club, is a formidable list of accomplished amateurs, including 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 of the Kraft Nabisco Championship. "As always, our fans are going to see some young players doing remarkable things that are a foreshadowing of things to come."
One of those is the No. 1-ranked amateur in the world, Minjee Lee of Australia. The 17-year-old Lee's resume is already so glittering 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." Just in the last two months, the golf world has already seen Lee win the Women's Victorian Open, finish second in the Volvik RACV Ladies Masters on the Ladies European Tour and lead the LPGA's ISPS HANDA Women's Australian Open going into the final round. Lee won back-to-back Australian Amateur Championships in 2013 and 2014 and became the first Australian to win the U.S. Girls' Junior Championship, when she captured that title in 2012.
Another glittering resume belongs to Alison Lee, the world's No. 3-ranked amateur player. The Valencia native and UCLA freshman already owns two victories and a runner-up in her first five collegiate tournaments. Lee was 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, the ClubCorp Mission Hills Desert Junior (which included a first-round 63 that is an AJGA record) and the 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, Emma Talley will make her Kraft Nabisco Championship debut. This will be the third major championship 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 is the No. 10-ranked amateur in the world and started all 33 matches for the Crimson Tide as a freshman.
Also making her event debut is USC sophomore Annie Park, who holds the No. 2 spot behind Minjee Lee in the World Amateur Golf Rankings and a budding rivalry with the Bruins' Lee that promises to be a treat for golf fans for years to come. Park is coming off one of the most incredible seasons ever enjoyed by a collegiate golfer, much less a freshman. She led the Trojans to their third NCAA title while winning four individual events. Included in that was the NCAA Women's Golf 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.
If Minjee Lee wasn't enough to bode well for the future of Australian golf, there's 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 Karrie Webb at the LET's Volvik Australian Ladies Masters.. This, on top of her Australian Girls' Amateur victory in 2012 and the headlines she made in 2009, when the then-12-year-old Oh became the youngest player in history to qualify for the Women's Australian Open.
Brooke Henderson owns the No. 6 spot on the World Amateur Golf Rankings. She also owns the status as the youngest player to win a professional golf tournament, when she won on the CN Canadian Women's Tour at 14. This joined victories at the South Atlantic Amateur, the International Junior Orange Bowl, the Sprint International, the Canadian Amateur and the South American Amateur on Henderson's crowded mantle. A 16-year-old native of Smiths Falls, Ontario, Henderson has verbally committed to 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 amateur rankings, Clemson University freshman Ashlan Ramsey tied for 48th in last year's Kraft Nabisco Championship. A native of Milledgeville, Ga., Ramsey owns 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 runner up 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 in the person of Arcadia High School freshman Angel Yin. All Yin did last year was win the KNC Champions Junior Challenge to qualify for the Kraft Nabisco Championship, then finish 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, 2012), 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 sister of LPGA rising star Jessica Korda, who is coming off her second career LPGA title when she won the Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic last month. Nelly Korda won the 2013 U.S. Women's Open sectional qualifier, then made the U.S. Women's Open cut. She is the daughter 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, 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.
About the Kraft Nabisco Championship
The Kraft Nabisco Championship is golf's first major and one of the LPGA Tour's most prestigious events. Founded in 1972 by David Foster and Dinah Shore, the Kraft Nabisco Championship earned the designation as a major tournament in 1983. Contested at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, Calif., since its inception, the Championship holds the distinction of being the second oldest golf tournament continuously held at the same course. For many, the event is most distinguished by one of golf's most beloved traditions: the champion's leap into Poppie's Pond, located adjacent to the 18th green. In 1988, the first champion's leap into Poppie's Pond was taken by Amy Alcott, and since has become one of the most anticipated and memorable traditions in golf. For more information on the Kraft Nabisco Championship, please visit www.KNCGolf.com
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