Rancho Mirage, CA
Fifteen-year-old American Lucy Li is one of six amateur invitations to the 2018 ANA Inspiration at Mission Hills Country Club from.
Li, who rose to prominence at the age of eleven by becoming the youngest qualifier for the U.S Women’s Open, underlined her credentials last year by winning the 2017 ANA Junior Inspiration to not only earn her spot in the Championship field, but then go on to earn Low Amateur honors as the only amateur to make the cut.
Joining her in the elite group of amateurs is the 2017 U.S Amateur champion, 22-year-old American Sophia Shubert; the highest ranked invitee Lilia Vu, who sits at No. 2 on the Official World Amateur Golf Rankings; and World No. 5 Albane Valenzuela from Switzerland. Valenzuela makes her second appearance in the event having captured Low Amateur honors in 2016. She is Switzerland’s No. 1 ranked golfer and is the only amateur invitee to appear at the 2016 Olympic Games.
Rounding out the amateur invitations are Mexico’s No. 1, Maria Fassi, who will make her debut in Rancho Mirage, as well as the newly crowned Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific Golf Championship inaugural winner, Atthaya Thitikul from Thailand, who lifted the trophy last week in Singapore. No stranger to success, Thitikul is the youngest-ever Ladies European Tour winner having won The Thailand Championship last summer aged 14.
The winner of the ANA Junior Inspiration, which will be contested at Mission Hills Country Club,, will also receive a spot in the ANA Inspiration field with 48 players competing from 11 countries and 14 states including local star, Rose Zhang.
Commenting on the announcement, ANA Inspiration Executive Director Kevin Hopkins said, “We’re delighted to welcome some of the world’s best amateur golfers to Mission Hills Country Club for the 2018 ANA Inspiration and provide them with the opportunity to make history. Each of our invites has achieved on the highest stage in amateur golf and now they have the opportunity to test their skills against the best professionals in the world. They are following in the footsteps of some of the greatest champions including Lorena Ochoa, Yani Tseng and Lydia Ko, who all played this event before joining the pro ranks. We wish them the best of luck for the week.”
Mr. Hideki Kunugi, Senior Vice President of the Americas, ANA said, “The ANA Inspiration provides a perfect runway for these young women to take off in their careers. In recent years countless past champions, hall of famers and current stars on the LPGA Tour have all stated that to have such an opportunity as an Amateur is simply priceless. The experience to compete in the first major of the year is unparalleled in the game of golf. It offers memories, connections and inspires for future success. Naturally, we are thrilled to see last year’s ANA Junior Inspiration winner Lucy Li on this year’s fantastic list of amateur exemptions, proving our support of junior golf is having a real impact. We look forward to seeing all of these great amateur players join us at the ANA Inspiration.”
Commenting on her return, Lucy Li, said, “I can’t wait to return to Mission Hills knowing that I’m already in the field to play in my second ANA Inspiration. Last year is definitely one of the highlights of my career and being able to play with Michelle Wie in the first two rounds was a dream come true. The course is always in perfect condition and it’s so fun playing in front of the big crowds, I can’t thank the tournament committee enough for giving me this opportunity.”
Maria Fassi (Mexico)
Mexico’s No. 1 amateur, Maria Fassi, is a two-time Mexican Amateur champion (’15, ’16) and is currently in her third year at the University of Arkansas having joined the team in 2016, winning her first collegiate event at the Lady Puerto Rico Classic. Since the victory, she has gone on to win five individual titles and counted more than 90% of her scores toward the team total and paced Arkansas to 15 top-5 finishes, six team titles, two NCAA Regional appearances and one NCAA Championship team appearance. Fassi is a two-time selection to the All-Southeastern Conference team and has been on the Arkansas Academic Honor Roll in every semester.
Lucy Li (CA, USA)
Lucy Li made headlines at 11 years of age as the youngest qualifier for the U.S. Women’s Open, surpassing Lexi Thompson’s record. Li was also an age group winner at the inaugural Masters Drive, Chip, and Putt Championship in Augusta, Georgia. Last year Li captured the ANA Junior Inspiration before winning Low Amateur honors at the season’s first Major as the only amateur to make the halfway cut. She went on to record further victories at The PING Invitational and Rolex Tournament of Champions as well as making her debut at the Junior Solheim Cup.
Sophia Schubert (TN, USA)
Sophia Schubert made history last summer by winning the 117th U.S. Women’s Amateur Golf Championship with victory over fellow invitee, Albane Valenzuela. The win earned her exemptions in to four of the five LPGA Major Championships. Currently a Junior at the University of Texas, Schubert made the SEC All-Freshman Team in 2015 before making the Big 12 All-Tournament Team in 2016 and 2017. She makes her debut at Mission Hill Country Club.
Atthaya Thitikul (Thailand)
Atthaya Thitikul hit the headlines in February 2016 by making the cut at The Honda LPGA Thailand, just a few days after her 14th birthday. She went on to receive an invite to the Ladies European Tour Thailand Championship in July where she ran out a two-shot winner on her LET debut to become the youngest champion in Tour history, breaking a record held by Lydia Ko. She also captured the SEA Games individual and team events in Malaysia a month later before winning the inaugural Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific, in a four-way playoff to seal her ANA Inspiration debut.
Albane Valenzuela (Switzerland)
Switzerland’s No. 1 golfer, Valenzuela, is a former Low Amateur winner at the ANA Inspiration, winning the accolade in 2016 as well as also making the cut in the U.S. Women’s Open. She went on to cap a memorable season with a place in the Swiss team at the summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro where she finished T21 before joining Stanford University later that year. Last year, Valenzuela continued to rise up the World Amateur Golf Rankings with a victory at the NCAA Regional Albuquerque and a runner-up finish at the European Ladies Amateur Championship and the US Women’s Amateur. She went on to achieve Pac 12 First Team honors as well as being a selected WGCA All-American Scholar.
Lilia Vu (CA, USA)
Lilia Vu is the highest ranked amateur in the field (No. 3) after a stellar 2017 which included reaching the US Women’s Amateur Semi Finals and a runner-up finish at the Canadian Women’s Amateur Championship. A freshman at UCLA, Lilia was named a First Team All-American by the WGCA and Golfweek in 2017 and was named in the All-Pac-12 Conference First Team. Made UCLA history by winning four straight events and tied school history for most events won in a season. In 2015 she qualified for the U.S. Women’s Open, earning co-medallist honors with LPGA player, Alison Lee.
About the ANA Inspiration
The ANA Inspiration is golf’s first major and one of the LPGA Tour’s most prestigious events. Previously known as the Kraft Nabisco Championship, the tournament was founded in 1972 by David Foster and Dinah Shore and earned the designation as a major championship in 1983. Contested at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, Calif., since its inception, the ANA Inspiration holds the distinction of being the second oldest golf tournament continuously held at the same course. For many, the event is most distinguished by one of golf’s most beloved traditions: the champion’s leap into Poppie’s Pond, located adjacent to the 18th green. In 1988, the first champion’s leap into Poppie’s Pond was taken by Amy Alcott, and since has become one of the most anticipated and memorable traditions in golf. For more information on the ANAInspiration, please visit ANAinspiration.com or call 760-834-8872. On social media, visit facebook.com/ANAinspiration, twitter.com/ANAinspiration orinstagram.com/ANAinspiration.