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Jutanugarn sisters headline the field at the Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic

By Murray Gleffe


HOBART-One year ago Thailand’s Ariya Jutanugarn struggled at Thornberry.

She shot 78 in the first round, a drive went out of bounds and another went into an adjacent fairway. She withdrew after 18 holes due to a shoulder injury.

Fast forward to 2018 and being healthy stands to make a difference for her.

Ariya is the No. 2 player in the world, has won two tournaments, and leads the tour with over $1.8 million in earnings.

She has not finished out of the top 30 in any event since late March and could be a force to reckon with at the tournament.

Her sister, Moriya, hasn’t quite put up the numbers that Ariya has, but she is still better than most of the players in the world.

She is the No. 10 ranked golfer and won the HUGEL-JTBC LA Open earlier this season.

She has made 15 of 16 cuts on the season and has shot 66 or better in 10 rounds of golf in 2018.

Though Asian born players still hold a majority of the top 10 spots, the U.S. will have Christie Kerr and Michelle Wie top the list of Americans entered into the tournament.

Kerr has won 28 tournaments worldwide and has been a professional for the past 22 years.

She has previously captured two majors, the US Open Women’s Championship and the Women’s PGA Championship.

In addition, Kerr closed with 66 in the final round last year at Thornberry to finish fifth.

Wie was a highly-regarded junior golfer who turned pro at the age of 15.

Though her career has been a rollercoaster of ups and downs, she does have five career victories including the 2014 US Open Women’s Championship.

Wie will make her Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic debut.

Both are sure to draw big crowds due to their popularity amongst fans.

Two dark house picks include a Kiwi and an Aussie.

Former No. 1 player in the world, Lydia Ko (New Zealand) has regained her form from a couple of years ago and has six top-17 finishes in the last month in a half.

Minjee Lee (Australia) has a first, second, and third place finish to her resume on tour this year.

She has the ability to go low on any type of course due to her distance and also her 75 percent accuracy off the tee.

Thirteen-year old Alexa Pano will lead a trio of sponsor exemptions who will tee it up at Thornberry Creek at Oneida.

Pano, an accomplished junior golfer, will be joined by Gabby (Barker) Lemieux and Selanee Henderson, who makes her second appearance in the tournament.

“We are thrilled to welcome Alexa, Gabby and Selanee to the Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic,” said Josh Doxtator, COO for the Oneida Golf Enterprise Corporation. “We are extremely proud of our selections as they represent excellence in their own right. Their persistence, tenacity and determination is admired and we look forward to rooting them on.”

Pano, of Lake Worth, Florida, has qualified for five USGA Championships including the U.S. Women’s Amateur at ages 11 (2016) and 12 (2017).

In 2017, she became only the third 12-year old to make the cut into match play in 117 years.

She is also the youngest-ever competitor on the LPGA of Japan, playing the Yonex Ladies Open at age 11.

Lemieux, of Caldwell, Idaho, will make her professional debut at the Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic.

She earned three victories while collegiately at Texas Tech University.

Henderson, of Apple Valley, California, will make her second appearance at the Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic.

She has played golf professionally since 2012 following a successful stint at University of California-Irvine where she was a four-time first-team All-Big West Conference selection.

Lemieux and Henderson each have Native American ancestry.

Seventeen of the top 25 players in the world are scheduled to tee it up Thursday, July 5 at Thornberry Creek at Oneida.

Tournament recap will be provided online at www.thepress.media each evening July 5-8.

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