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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, February 14, 2008

Top pairings back-to-back for SBS Open

 •  Getting used to Pressel shouldn't be too hard

By Ann Miller
Advertiser Staff Writer

Kapalua's Morgan Pressel is playing in one of the feature groups for today's first round. She goes off the first tee at noon with Stacy Prammanasudh, who defends her title next week in the Fields Open at Hawai'i, and Suzann Pettersen, who won five times last year and was second on the money list to Lorena Ochoa.

The group just before (11:50 a.m.) has defending SBS Open champion Paula Creamer, Natalie Gulbis and former world No. 1 Annika Sorenstam.

Waikoloa's Cindy Rarick, a former Rainbow Wahine, goes off No. 1 at 8 a.m. today. Turtle Bay's Dorothy Delasin is in the last group off the first tee, at 1:40 p.m. Kailua's Bridget Dwyer goes out off No. 10, at 7:50 a.m. Dwyer, captain of UCLA's NCAA Championship team in 2004, received a sponsor's exemption this week. She normally competes on the Duramed Futures Tour and was a finalist on Big Break VI in 2006.

ANNIKA AIMING FOR NO. 1

Sorenstam, a member of the LPGA Hall of Fame and eight-time Player of the Year, is coming off her first winless season since 1994. She played only 13 events last year after suffering from disk problems. Her long layoff is part of the reason she is here for the first time, after extending her offseason through the first three SBS Opens.

Sorenstam, 37, said yesterday "the injuries are in the past" and she was able to train without pain in the offseason, and work all the kinks out.

"No more kinks," Sorenstam said. "Especially none in my neck. I feel great."

Great enough to set her goals back to the future.

"I would like to win the money list," said Sorenstam, who has done that eight times in a career where she has earned nearly $21 million $8.5 million more than anyone in history.

"I would like to win tournaments," added Sorenstam, whose 69 victories rank her third behind Kathy Whitworth (88) and Mickey Wright (82). "I would like to get back on top."

TAKING THEIR BEST SHOTS

Sorenstam and Pettersen both said the constant wind here was the one thing that sets Hawai'i events apart from most LPGA tournaments. Creamer took it a step further when explaining why she is so comfortable at Turtle Bay.

"It's pretty hard conditions out here," she said. "You have to hit a lot of shots a lot of low shots, a lot of high shots. Just the repertoire in your golf bag, you need to go deep and I think that's something that's set up really well in my game."

INCREASE IN PRIZE MONEY

The LPGA has 35 events this year, worth $60,900,000 $6 million more than last year for the same number of tournaments. It plays in nine countries and has active players from 26 countries, including 45 from South Korea.

There were no Korean players on the tour from 1994 to '97. That changed dramatically in 1998, with the impact of Se Ri Pak. South Korean golfers now make up 37 percent of the LPGA. Last year, four of the top 10 on the final money list were from South Korea and Korean golfers have won 60 times since 1998.

Last year, Pak became the first South Korean inducted into the LPGA and World Golf Hall of Fames.

JUNIOR CLINIC AT KO OLINA

Creamer and Christina Kim will host next week's Fields Open in Hawai'i Junior Clinic, presented by Kraft Foods. The clinic will be Tuesday, from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m., at the Ko Olina Golf Club practice range.

Admission and parking for the clinic is free. Creamer and Kim will demonstrate a variety of shots and speak about their love for golf, as well as the life skills and core values that are an integral part of the game.

Creamer had 13 top-10 finishes last year, starting with a victory in the SBS Open at Turtle Bay. She also became the fastest player in LPGA history to cross the $3 million mark in career earnings, reaching the milestone in 2 years, 2 months and 19 days.

Kim's best finish last year was second at the LPGA State Farm Classic, where she shot a season-low 66 in both the second and final rounds. Kim posted five more top-10 finishes for the season and crossed the $2 million mark in career earnings.

Discount tickets are on sale until Tuesday for the third annual Fields Open. The second LPGA tournament of the year is next Thursday to Saturday at Ko Olina.

Tickets can be purchased through Tuesday at the Pro-Am and Roger Dunn golf shops and Ko Olina's pro shop. They are 2-for-1, with each person to buy a pre-paid admission receiving an additional daily ticket.

Admission is $10 daily starting with Wednesday's Pro-Am. Parking will be free through the resort's main gate. For tournament information, call 671-1727.

SECTION FUNDRAISER SET

The 32nd annual AIG Hawai'i PGA Classic, the Aloha Section PGA Foundation's primary fundraiser for the year, will be March 14 at Turtle Bay Resort. The tournament annually draws 300 participants with teams competing on the Arnold Palmer and George Fazio courses.

PGA professionals will be at the driving range providing free golf tips prior to the start. Other pre-event activities include a Helicopter Golf Ball Drop with the grand prize a trip for two to the Ryder Cup. The silent auction will feature hotel and golf packages, equipment and memorabilia. There will also be a live auction for a 2008 PGA Championship package including airfare, hotel and tournament passes for two.

Entry fee is $235 per person. Tournament format is a shamble with six-person (five amateurs, one pro) teams. Sponsorship opportunities are also available.

The Aloha Section PGA Foundation is a 501 (c)(3) charitable organization created to facilitate programs such as junior golf, scholarships, golfer development, the Hawai'i Golf Hall of Fame, research and education and promotion of golf in Hawai'i.

In other foundation news:

  • The second year of the Foundation Scholarship Program will award high school seniors and current college students "who have actively participated in the game of golf and have excelled in their academic achievements." Last year seven high school seniors and two apprentices earned scholarships worth $7,000. This year's application deadline is March 10.

  • The first stop on the Aloha Section PGA Foundation Pro-Am series will be Feb. 29 at Pearl Country Club. The series raises funds for University of Hawai'i golf scholarships. Pro-Am series events are also scheduled July 11 at Makaha Resort and Oct. 10 at Hawai'i Prince. All have a 12:30 p.m. start. Castle Resorts and Hotels is title sponsor.

    Format is five-person team (one Aloha Section pro and four amateurs) with one net and one gross best-ball per hole. Total purse is approximately $6,000. Amateurs must have a USGA GHIN handicap. The event is open to the public and sponsorship opportunities are available.

    For more information, visit http://aloha.pga.com or contact the section office (593-2230).

    NOTES

    The 15th annual Guinea Kop Memorial Tournament, the major fundraiser for the O'ahu Junior Golf Association, will be March 20 at Pearl Country Club. Format is three-person team scramble. Cost is $450 per team. For more information, call 952-OJGA or email oahujuniorgolfassoc@hotmail.com.

    Steve Stricker, whose dramatic golf resurgence earned him the last two PGA Tour Comeback Player of the Year Awards, will be featured on the next Mark Rolfing's "Golf Hawai'i" show, which debuts Monday at 7 p.m. on The Golf Channel. It will also focus on Kapalua Resort.

    Reach Ann Miller at amiller@honoluluadvertiser.com.