NAPLES, FLORIDA – The ANA Inspiration, the LPGA’s most iconic major championship, announced today that it will be making a major upgrade and expanding its ANA Junior Inspiration tournament. For the first time in its history, the ANA Junior Inspiration will become an official American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) Invitational based on AJGA Rankings points, set to take place March 24-26, 2017, at Mission Hills Country Club.
The upgrade will result in a stellar field consisting of a diverse and elite group of female junior golfers from around the world. Players will compete over 54 holes for the unparalleled opportunity of earning the final coveted spot in the ANA Inspiration. Created to help young golf careers take-off and reach new heights, the inspiring junior event is completely unique, with no other major in the world of golf affording such an opportunity to the next generation of players.
In previous years, the ANA Junior Inspiration had extended invites only to female junior golfers from Southern California. In 2016, the tournament took its first progressive leap forward by extending additional invites to 10 female junior golfers from ANA’s North American gateway cities.
In an effort to further expand the ANA Junior Inspiration in 2017, and inspire the next generation of female golfers, ANA, Japan’s largest airline, has worked in partnership with the AJGA to develop what is now one of the most exciting events in junior golf. Rising young female golfers from around the world will get the once in a lifetime opportunity to realize their own inspired journey in the LPGA’s first major of the year.
“When ANA took its first step toward expanding the ANA Junior Inspiration last year, we were all deeply inspired by all of the young talent we saw from across North America and we knew that we had to grow this tournament further in 2017. It’s like our own network and routes in North America which also keep expanding and improve,” said Mr. Hideki Kunugi, Senior Vice President of the Americas, ANA. “As the title sponsor of the ANA Inspiration and the Official Airline of the LPGA, we take seriously our responsibility in fostering the next generation of women’s golf and therefore, we’re excited about having created this coveted tournament alongside the LPGA and AJGA.”
“I think the evolution of the ANA Junior Inspiration is a great example of how a tournament and sponsor can inspire the next generation of golfers,” said 2016 ANA Inspiration champion Lydia Ko. “Through this relationship with the AJGA, girls around the country now have the opportunity to compete for a spot in the ANA Inspiration and play alongside the best golfers in the world at one of the LPGA’s most iconic venues.”
The 2017 ANA Junior Inspiration will consist of 40 AJGA girls competing across the first 36 holes, before being joined by 20 LPGA Legends for the final 18 holes. Eleven girls, one from each of the following ANA gateway cities in North America – Los Angeles, San Jose, San Francisco, Seattle, Vancouver, Chicago, New York, Washington D.C., Mexico City, Houston and Honolulu, will be selected through the “ANA Priority Mileage” point system, which will be based off of current points accumulated in the AJGA Rankings. The remaining twenty-nine girls will be selected through an overall ranking using the same “ANA Priority Mileage” point system. If any of the gateway city qualifiers are also in the top 29 overall, the next highest ranked golfer in the overall list will be invited as part of the top 29.
Players will now be invited from far and wide around the world to compete at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, California.
“The AJGA is thrilled to partner with ANA, the ANA Inspiration and Mission Hills Country Club to host an exciting new Invitational, the ANA Junior Inspiration,” said AJGA Executive Director Stephen Hamblin. “Many past champions of the ANA Inspiration such as Annika Sorenstam, Morgan Pressel, Yani Tseng, Stacy Lewis, Inbee Park, Grace Park, Dottie Pepper and Betsy King, have ties to the AJGA as alumnae, supporters or award recipients. We are excited to give AJGA members the opportunity to compete on one of the LPGA Tour’s biggest stages at the ANA Inspiration.”
In addition to the change in qualifying, the format of the ANA Junior Inspiration has also been upgraded and expanded to provide a tougher test of tournament golf. Rather than the traditional 18 holes, the 40 AJGA junior girls will play 36 holes on Saturday, March 25 on the difficult Pete Dye course at Mission Hills Country Club. Players will then get to test their nerves and walk in the footsteps of their LPGA idols for the third and final round on the championship prepared Mission Hills Dinah Shore Tournament Course, the same course as the ANA Inspiration. The winner of the ANA Junior Inspiration will receive the final spot in the 2017 ANA Inspiration and will continue on her inspired journey playing alongside the best in the game.
“Winning the inaugural ANA Junior Inspiration in Rancho Mirage is one of my favorite golf memories and getting the chance to play with the best on tour really prepared me for future success,” said LPGA star and 2013 AJGA player of the year Alison Lee. “The opportunity that ANA is extending to 40 juniors is the chance of a lifetime to pursue their inspired journey and I can’t wait to meet the 2017 ANA Junior Inspiration champion.”
The new ANA Junior Inspiration format is just the first of a number of inspiring new initiatives to be introduced by ANA in 2017. Further announcements are planned in the coming months, including the announcement of the ANA Junior Inspiration final field.
“It’s incredible to see a sponsor like ANA spearhead an initiative like this. It has only been two years since ANA announced they would become the title sponsor of the ANA Inspiration,” said ANA Inspiration Tournament Director Gabe Codding. “From day one, they have looked to build on the decades of history, while also looking for ways to show their deep values of supporting women and youth. It has been a great honor to work alongside ANA and with the AJGA in this process and we’re excited on the impact this will have on the future greats of women’s golf.”
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 ANA Inspiration, please visit ANAinspiration.com or call 760-834-8872. On social media, visit facebook.com/ANAinspiration, twitter.com/ANAinspiration or instagram.com/ANAinspiration.