Scotland's Pam Wright sneaked a conditional card at the LPGA qualifying school in Florida last week as the European players suffered mixed fortunes in their bid to get a foothold on the lucrative US circuit.
Wright, who finished a shot inside the necessary mark, is now guaranteed a few starts in 2002, a 13th season in America for the 1989 Rookie of the Year.
It's been a rocky ride over the past few years for the 37-year-old from Aboyne following a serious of injuries. In fact, she spent a good 18 months completely out of the game.
'But I still love playing so that's why I went back to the Tour school,' said Wright, who will again be Dale Reid's vice-captain when Europe defends
the Solheim Cup at Interlachen in Minnesota next September.
As for the victory spoils at the Tour school, they went to another Briton who has been a Rookie of the Year but has suffered with injuries in recent years, namely Sue Strudwick.
Strudwick has won twice in Europe, was the 1993 LPGA Rookie of the Year and once lost in a play-off on the American circuit. But, at the age of 36,
she's hoping her latest success will herald a upturn in more recent fortunes.
Strudwick, from Staffordshire, had a horrendous 2000 season. She hurt her back at the Australian Masters in February forcing a two-month lay-off and then, in August she broke her left foot and missed the rest of the season.
This season she has struggled to return from the catalogue of injuries, and finished 108th on the money list with just over $54,000. But it proved to be a fruitful return to the harrowing ordeal that is the four round qualifying school.
It was the first time that she had been forced back since her original visit in 1992, but she took it all in her stride, and a seven under par 281 total over the tough LPGA International course at Daytona Beach earned the
token $6,000 first prize and, more importantly, full playing right for next year.
'Last year was just awful with all the injuries, but winning the Tour school is a real boost,' said Strudwick, who put her injury-time spell to good use by taking a computer course and she is now a certified Microsoft webmaster.
'I did what I had to do over the four days and now I can look forward to a full 2002 season.'
But what she would really love to do is return to winning ways on a full circuit. She won the 1989 French Open and the 1991 AGF Paris Open in Europe before heading to the States, while it was in 1996 that she came closest to an LPGA breakthrough when she lost a four way play-off for the Edina Realty Classic.
Meanwhile, Austria's Natascha Fink was the other European player to gain full exempt status at the qualifying school, but another eight - England's Johanna Head, Lora Fairclough and Caroline Hall, Wales' Karen Davies, France's Marine Monnet, Italy's Giulia Sergas, Swede Asa Gottmo and Spain's Ana Belen Sanchez - joined Wright in earning conditional cards.
The big shock was the failure of Evian Tour Order of Merit winner, Raquel Carriedo. The Spaniard, suffering from 'flu, missed a conditional card by a shot.
But it means that she will be around for another full season in Europe - and that at least is good news for the Evian circuit that is due to start
with the Australian Masters and Australian Open in February.
The LPGA Tour makes a belated start - the three Florida events in January have all been lost from the schedule - in Hawaii in February.
|| 22 - OCTOBER 2001