Reigning U.S. Women's Amateur champ to play in year's first women's major February 7, 2013 By David Shefter, USGA

Reigning U.S. Women's Amateur champion Lydia Ko, the world's top-ranked female amateur, has been invited to play in the Kraft Nabisco Championship this April. (USGA/Steve Gibbons)

Reigning U.S. Women’s Amateur champion Lydia Ko, 15, of New Zealand, is one of six amateur golfers with USGA championship experience to receive an invitation to play in the 2013 Kraft Nabisco Championship.

A total of nine players received invitations to the year’s first women’s professional major championship, which will be played April 4-7 at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, Calif.

Ko, who received the McCormack Medal as the top-ranked golfer in the World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR) for 2011 and 2012, made headlines when she became the youngest champion in LPGA Tour history at the Canadian Women’s Open in 2012. That victory came a few weeks after she defeated Jaye Marie Green in the 36-hole championship match of the U.S. Women’s Amateur conducted at The Country Club in suburban Cleveland. Ko also claimed the 2012 Bing Lee/Samsung Women’s NSW Open in Australia at the age of 14, and, last summer was the low amateur at the U.S. Women’s Open at Blackwolf Run in Kohler, Wis.

And on Feb. 10, Ko collected her third win in a professional event, claiming the ISPS Handa New Zealand Women's Open by one stroke over American Amelia Lewis. 

Ko will be joined at the Kraft by 2010 U.S. Girls’ Junior champion Doris Chen, 2012 USA Curtis Cup Team member Lindy Duncan, 2012 U.S. Girls’ Junior runner-up Alison Lee, 2012 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links runner-up Ashlan Ramsey and 2012 Great Britain and Ireland Curtis Cup Team member Stephanie Meadow.

In 2010, Chen defeated Kaitlyn Dambaugh to win the Girls’ Junior title at The Country Club of North Carolina in the Village of Pinehurst. She is a sophomore at the University of Southern California, where she posted five top-10 finishes last season as a freshman, including a win at the Pacific-12 Conference Championship.

Duncan is a senior at Duke University, where last season she became the third Blue Devil to earn National Golf Coaches Association Player of the Year honors. She has also earned first-team All-America honors in her first three seasons.

Lee, one of three amateurs to play all 72 holes at last year’s U.S. Women’s Open, is ranked among the top 10 in the WAGR. She lost to Minjee Lee, of Australia, in the 36-hole final of the U.S. Girls’ Junior last July at Lake Merced Golf Club in Daly, City, Calif., 1 down. The Valencia (Calif.) High senior, who also made the cut at the 2009 U.S. Women’s Open, is headed to UCLA in the fall. Lee played in last year’s Kraft after earning a spot through a special junior qualifier.

Ramsey, who will be a member of Clemson’s first women’s golf team this fall, lost to Kyung Kim in the WAPL championship match last June at Neshanic Valley Golf Course in Neshanic Station, N.J. The native of Milledgeville, Ga., is a two-time American Junior Golf Association Rolex All-American.

Meadow, of Northern Ireland, won the 2012 Ladies British Open Amateur Championship and clinched the winning point at The Nairn Golf Club in Scotland to help GB&I claim the Curtis Cup for the first time since 1996. The University of Alabama junior All-American helped the Crimson Tide win the 2012 NCAA Division I title last spring and was the 2011 Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Year.

The other three invitees are Georgia Hall, 16, of England; Isabelle Lendl, the daughter of tennis Hall of Famer Ivan Lendl; and Camilla Hedberg, of Spain. Lendl and Hedberg are teammates on the University of Florida women’s golf team.

“Providing the future stars of women’s golf the chance to play alongside their professional heroes in the first major championship of the year has always been a point of pride for the Kraft Nabisco Championship,” said David Blake-Thomas, the executive director and chairman for the Kraft Nabisco Championship. “We are proud to be able to provide these great young players from around the world with this important step in their careers, and look forward to joining golf fans in cheering them on.”