The stars of the LPGA head to Travis Pointe Country Club in Ann Arbor, Michigan this week, where Su Oh, and Perth teenager Minjee Lee will head up the ALPG challenge at the inaugural Volvik Championship, starting tomorrow morning Australian time.
Oh, winner of the 2015 RACV Ladies Masters in only her second start as a professional celebrated her 20th birthday on Monday and had plenty to celebrate after finishing runner-up at the Kingsmill Championship last week. The impressive young Victorian will now need to reset her 2016 goals after an impressive run of form, which has seen her improve her playing status significantly for 2016 and also secure her playing rights on the LPGA tour in 2017. She currently sits at 35th on the 2016 LPGA Money list and is ranked 61st in the Rolex Women’s World rankings
Oh’s impressive performance last week in Kingsmill comes just a month after fellow young gun Minjee Lee claimed her second career LPGA title in Hawaii at the Lotte Championship. Rising star Oh thundered home on the weekend with a final round of 6-under 65 to fall just one stroke short of Thailand’s Ariya Jutanugarn,
“It’s pretty much just lucky to be here,” Oh said after Sunday’s final round. “At the start of the year, I wasn't even in this field, so to be here and contending is really good and I'm very happy to be here.” After missing out on a Tour card by three strokes at December’s Q-School Oh was granted Category 17 status, but just six months on the former Australian Ladies Masters champion has graduated into Category 8.
“At the start of the year, I was like, I'll probably get in two or three events, but now I'm trying to see what to do just going off my ranking,” Oh said.
Oh’s original conditional status and some strong form in Monday qualifiers has earned her just six starts to this point on the LPGA Tour, but that looks set to change. Her $US119,198 pay day last week has set her up nicely for the rest of the season and she has already secured starts in every tournament heading into July’s Women’s US Open which she has also qualified for.
“I have had to do like one day at a time because I couldn’t look ahead,” said Oh. “I booked my flights next week like two days ago, so I just haven’t been able to make any plans in advance. In some ways that may have helped me, I could only look at the next day or just that week, and I just tried to play well when the opportunities came.”
Lee, in her second season on the LPGA Tour has also had a fantastic 2016 so far and currently sits in 7th place on the LPGA money list with earnings in excess of US$511,000.
World number 1 Lydia Ko will again start as tournament favourite this week, she has already won twice on the LPGA tour this year and grabbed another tournament victory on home turf at the ISPS Handa New Zealand Women’s Open in February. Ko is coming off her first start in over a month where she finished tied for 18th at the Kingsmill Championship and is looking forward to playing in Michigan for the first time “There’s no advantage to any player because it’s not like some players have played here in the years before so I think everybody’s just trying to get used to it the most we can. Volvik has been a great sponsor and a supporter of our tour so we are happy to be here supporting them”
While Ko will start this week as hot favourite, the player to beat may well be Ariya Jutanagarn. No player enters this weeks’ inaugural LPGA Volvik Championship in as good of form as the talented young Thai star as who is coming off of back-to-back victories at the Yokohama Tire LPGA Classic and the Kingsmill Championship.
The other ALPG players in the field this week are Sarah Jane Smith, Katherine Kirk, Sarah Kemp and Sarah Jane Smith.
Round 1 action can be watched on Fox Sports 3 tomorrow morning from 9am, live scores can be found at www.lpgascoring.com
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