Three USGA Champions To Play In
Kraft Nabisco Championship

Blumenherst, Joh, Thompson among 5 players given amateur exemptions into LPGA Tour's first major of season

February 3, 2009

By David Shefter, USGA

Three reigning USGA champions, including U.S. Women's Amateur titlist Amanda Blumenherst of Scottsdale, Ariz., were among the five players to receive amateur exemptions into the 2009 Kraft Nabisco Championship, the first women's professional major of the season.

Two-time WAPL champion Tiffany Joh of San Diego has been given an amateur exemption into the 2009 Kraft Nabisco Championship. (USGA Museum)

Although the official announcement wasn't made until Monday, 2008 U.S. Girls' Junior champion Alexis Thompson of Coral Springs, Fla., who turns 14 on Feb. 10, received an e-mail from tournament officials last week, informing her of the coveted invitation . The Kraft Nabisco will be held April 2-5 at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, Calif.

Blumenherst, a senior at Duke University, received an automatic exemption as the current U.S. Women's Amateur champion.

Along with Thompson, the other players to receive exemptions include 2008 U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links champion Tiffany Joh of San Diego; 2008 U.S. Women's Amateur runner-up Azahara Munoz of Spain; and Auburn University's Candace Schepperle of Birmingham, Ala.

A three-time college player of the year, Blumenherst has enjoyed a highly successful amateur career that includes two appearances for the USA in the Curtis Cup (2006 and '08) and two selections to the USA Women's World Amateur team (2006 and '08). But last August she finally broke through to win her first individual national championship by defeating Munoz in the 36-hole Women's Amateur final at Eugene (Ore.) Country Club, 2 and 1. She also was the runner-up to current UCLA sophomore Maria Jose Uribe of Colombia at the 2007 U.S. Women's Amateur and shared low-amateur honors at the 2005 U.S. Women's Open at Newport (R.I.) Country Club. Last year she was the low amateur at the Kraft Nabisco Championship.

Joh is a senior at UCLA, where she was named the 2008 Pacific-10 Conference player of the year. Last spring Joh helped the USA win its sixth consecutive Curtis Cup Match and then a few weeks later at Erin Hills she won her second WAPL in three years , defeating 2007 U.S. Women's Open low amateur Jennifer Song of Korea in the championship match. Joh also competed with Blumenherst and Alison Walshe on the 2008 USA Women's World Amateur Team Championship squad that finished third last October in Adelaide, Australia.

Thompson is quickly rising to become one of the country's elite amateurs. Not only did she win the 2008 U.S. Girls' Junior at Hartford Golf Club , but in 2007 she became the youngest-ever qualifier for the U.S. Women's Open. Later that summer, she advanced to the quarterfinals of the U.S. Women's Amateur, becoming the youngest to ever advance to the round of eight. Last year, she qualified for the Women's Open again and made match play at the Women's Amateur, where she fell in the first round.

Thompson's torrid play continued last month in Florida where she won the South Atlantic Ladies Amateur by 13 shots and then beat Scotland's Kelsey MacDonald in the championship match of the Ione D. Jones/Doherty Women's Championship. Thompson won't be the youngest to compete at the Kraft, as twin sisters Aree and Naree Song, and 2003 U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links champion Michelle Wie all played at age 13. Aree Song, at 13 years, 1 month, remains the youngest player to win the U.S. Girls' Junior (1999), while Naree Song was the low amateur at the 2000 U.S. Women's Open.

Munoz, a senior at Arizona State University, where she won the NCAA Division I women's individual title last May by defeating Joh in a playoff, lost to Blumenherst in the 36-hole final last August at the Women's Amateur. She later helped Spain to a second-place finish at the Women's World Amateur Team Championship.

Schepperle, a junior at Auburn University, competed in the LPGA Tour's CN Canadian Open last summer and made the cut. Last month, she edged Thompson by a stroke to win the Dixie Amateur just after winning the Harder Hall Invitational.

David Shefter is a USGA Digital Media staff writer. E-mail him with questions or comments .


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