What likely will be the most competitive qualifying round in the 24-year history of the ShopRite LPGA Classic will be held today.
Local professional Joanna Coe and 17-year-old standout Ariya Jutanugarn from Thailand are among the 31 players scheduled to vie for the final two spots in the $1.5 million Classic field. Amateur Kasey Frazier, a 2012 Absegami High School graduate, also will compete.
The action begins at 1 p.m. on the Bay Course at Stockton Seaview Hotel & Golf Club in Galloway Township. Admission is free.
"It's a great start to the week, especially with (today) being a holiday," Classic executive director Tim Erensen said. "It's a great opportunity for people to come out and see some pretty good players trying to round out the field."
Monday qualifiers are for non-exempt players and amateurs. Professionals earn exempt status, which grants them automatic admission into tournaments, based on their past performances.
Previous ShopRite qualifiers have typically consisted of about 15 golfers.
Coe, who grew up in Mays Landing and graduated from Oakcrest High School in 2007, won the Classic's 2010 qualifier. She played in the ShopRite tournament that year and in 2011 on a sponsor's exemption. She missed the 36-hole cut on both occasions. Coe, 23, currently plays on the Symetra Tour, a developmental professional tour for the LPGA.
Jutanugarn has proven to be one of the LPGA's best players this season. She's finished no worse than fourth in the five events she has played. She led the Kingsmill Championship in Virginia earlier this month after two rounds and finished third.
LPGA rules require players to be 18 to join the tour. Jutanugarn, who turns 18 Nov. 23, is expected to soon ask the LPGA to waive that rule for her.
Today's qualifier also is expected to include past LPGA winners Birdie Kim, Pat Hurst and Kris Tschetter. Kim won the 2005 U.S. Women's Open.
"I think it shows the depth of the tour," Erensen said. "It's not only getting harder to win it's getting harder to get into events."
Frazier and fellow amateur Erica Herr earned their spots by shooting the low rounds in Sunday's amateur qualifying tournament. Five amateurs competed Sunday for two spots in today's qualifier. Herr a junior at Council Rock North High School in Pennsylvania, shot an 81, while Frazier shot an 87. Frazier, a freshman at Wheeling Jesuit University in West Virginia, finished tied for 23rd at the NCAA Division II championships on May 18.
The 54-hole Classic starts Friday. Stacy Lewis is the defending champion.
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