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Amy Yang set for ANZ Ladies Masters defence

South Korean teenager Amy Yang defends this week's AUD$800,000 ANZ Ladies Masters at Royal Pines Resort on the Australian Gold Coast, from February 8 th -11 th .

The shy 17-year-old, who won the tournament last year as a 16-year-old amateur, is excited for a number of reasons.

Firstly, because she is defending champion, secondly, because is now professional and has the opportunity to take home a first prize cheque for AUD$120,000 and thirdly, because her grandparents have travelled from Korea to watch her play golf for the first time.

It will be a different experience this time round for Yang, who is on leave from Year 12 at nearby Robina High School .

Last year she was a complete unknown when she sensationally beat Catherine Cartwright in a one-hole play-off to become the youngest winner in Ladies European Tour history. This year she will play her first two rounds with the World number four Cristie Kerr and former European no.1 Paula Marti.

Last week, she played two rounds with World number three Karrie Webb, the eventual champion of the MFS Women's Australian Open. Brad Beecher, an experienced caddy, has taken over caddy duties from her father.

Yang, who has played in three tournaments since turning professional in October, finished joint fourth in the Dubai Ladies Masters, third in the Mauritius Open (a non-official LET event) and 20 th at last week's MFS Women's Australian Open.

She plans to play in nine Ladies European Tour (LET) events this year and will juggle her golf with her school studies.

The LET gave me a good opportunity with a three year full exemption and I thought that was a good chance to follow Europe before going to the States, said Yang, adding: I'm a little bit nervous now!

Webb, who has won this event five times, including four times in a row from 1999 to 2001 and also in 2005, said she never contemplated turning professional when she was 17.

I was never ready to be a professional golfer at 17 and I never would have contemplated it. I played fairly well in a few of the professional tournaments when I was 17 or 18 but it's a different mind set to the kids these days and they are ready to play when they are 17, said Webb.

I doubt very much that someone like an Amy Yang will still be playing in 30 years time because there's much more opportunity and money to be made. You're probably not going to want to. I don't see myself playing at 47.

Webb, 32, arrived at the ANZ Ladies Masters feeling tired after her win last week at The Royal Sydney Golf Club. She admitted that being in contention for her first victory of the season had taken its toll on her energy levels.

I think the only time last year that I had to play after I had won a tournament was after I won the Evian Masters and then I played the British Open and missed the cut by a million, she said. For me it's not as easy. I have to make a concerted effort to watch how much I do.

Australian number one Webb has stated her intention to become the World number one again, but top American golfer Cristie Kerr also has that mantle in sight and is keen to let it be known.

Kerr, 29, who won three LPGA tournaments in 2006 and also set the lowest round of the season, a 10-under 61 in the John Hammons Classic in September, will be playing her first tournament of the year at Royal Pines. The last time she played in the event was in 2000, when Webb won both the ANZ Ladies Masters and the Women's Australian Open titles.

She said: I would like to be world number one at some point in my career. I think I've got my best shot of doing that in my next six years. I'll be 35 by then and starting a family would be a priority by then.

This is my first event back in 2007 and I can tell you there's probably going to be a little bit of rust on the clubs that I've got to knock off. But you know, Karrie Webb, I respect her tremendously. She's so young, only in her 30s and in the Hall of Fame. That's no small accomplishment.

I've been to Royal Pines probably four or fives times and I know the golf course fairly well. I have to say it's in the best shape I've ever seen it so they've done a great job preparing the course.

February 7, 2007

 




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