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LPGA | SPAIN’S AZAHARA MUNOZ IS LPGA’S R.O.Y

LPGA | SPAIN’S AZAHARA MUNOZ IS LPGA’S R.O.Y

Munoz clinches Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year Race–

Other LPGA races still up for grabs heading into Lorena Ochoa Invitational–

story courtesy lpga news release–

Daytona Beach, Fla., November 8, 2010 – With two events left on the LPGA Tour 2010 schedule, Spain’s Azahara Munoz has clinched the Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year award. Munoz, a graduate of Arizona StateUniversity who captured the 2008 NCAA Individual Women’s Golf Championship and led the Sun Devils team to a NCAA National Championship in 2009, has been a model of consistency during her rookie campaign, posting two top-10 finishes and 10 additional top-25s. She has an insurmountable 313-point lead on fellow rookie Amanda Blumenherst of the United States, as a Tour win counts for 150 points.

Munoz will receive the Louise Suggs Trophy during the Rolex Reception on Friday, December 3 at the 2010 LPGA Tour Championship, to be contested Decenmber 2-5 at Grand Cypress Golf Club in Orlando, Florida. She also tees it up this week at the Lorena Ochoa Invitational.

“I am really happy that I won the Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year,” Munoz said. “It is what all the rookies want to accomplish and you only have the chance to do it once in your life.  I never really set the goal for myself at the beginning of the year, but as the year progressed, it became one of my top goals.”

While Munoz has clinched, nearly every other season-ending award remains up for grabs. Jiyai Shin tightened the Rolex Player of the Year Award race with her win at the Mizuno Classic on Sunday, and she has given herself a little extra breathing room in the Race for No. 1 in the Rolex Rankings. However, Shin will not play this week inGuadalajara, Mexico, opening the door for rivals Yani Tseng (who shot up four places to No. 2 in the Rolex Rankings following her runner-up finish in Japan), Cristie Kerr, Ai Miyazato, Suzann Petersen and Na Yeon Choi, all of whom will play this week at the Lorena Ochoa Invitational. For the latest on the Rolex Rankings, go to:www.RolexRankings.com. For the latest on the other LPGA races, go to: www.LPGA.com.

The Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year award, named for LPGA Founder and LPGA and World Golf Halls of Fame member Louise Suggs, was established in 1962. Since its inception, nine award winners became members of the LPGA and World Golf Halls of Fame: Joanne Carner (1970), Amy Alcott (1975), Nancy Lopez (1978), Beth Daniel (1979), Patty Sheehan (1981), Juli Inkster (1984), Annika Sorenstam (1994), Karrie Webb (1996) and Se Ri Pak (1998). Shin won the Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year award last season.

“’I am particularly honored and humbled to win an award named for one of the LPGA Founders, Louise Suggs,” Munoz said. “Ms. Suggs and the other 12 founders made it possible for me to chase my dream of playing the LPGA Tour.”

Munoz’s season-best finish is a tie for fourth at the Bell Micro LPGA Classic. She posted a second top-10 at the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic Presented by Kroger. Munoz also finished in the top 20 in all three majors in which she played, including a tie for 11th at the LPGA Championship Presented by Wegmans and ties for 19th at both the U.S. Women’s Open and RICOH Women’s British Open. Munoz is currently No. 44 in the Rolex Rankings and 28th on the LPGA Official money list. She is tied for 16th (with Michelle Wie) in scoring average (71.23) and tied for 14th (with In-Kyung Kim) in number of rounds in the 60’s (19).

Munoz was one of three impressive rookies from Spain vying for the Rolex Rookie of the Year title. Fellow Spaniards Beatriz Recari, who won the CVS/pharmacy LPGA Challenge, and Maria Hernandez currently stand 3rd and 5th in the standings, respectively, with Recari competing with Munoz this week in Mexico. Blumenherst led the race earlier in the season, posting two top-10 finishes in her first six starts as a rookie. France’s Gwladys Nocera also factored into the race, posting two top-10’s, including a runner-up finish behind Recari at the CVS tournament. She’s now 4th in the Rookie race and also plays this week in Mexico.

Munoz learned to play the game of golf as a child growing up in Spain. Coaxed by her neighborhood friends to attend free Saturday golf clinics, Munoz loved the game from the beginning. She quickly became an accomplished junior player. Munoz won the 2002 Spanish Amateur Championship and the 2004 Girls’ British Open Amateur Championship. She represented Europe at the PING Junior Solheim Cup in 2002, 2003 and 2005.   As a member of the Spanish National Team, Munoz was able to benefit from the guidance and tutelage of the team’s coach, Marta Figueras-Dotti, who was the first player from Spain to win an LPGA tournament.

During her college years playing for Arizona State University, Munoz captured the 2008 NCAA Individual Championship and led the Sun Devils team to a NCAA National Championship in 2009. She was the runner-up at the 2008 U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship and the winner of the 2009 British Ladies Amateur Championship.

Munoz turned professional in 2009 and proceeded to win the Madrid Ladies Masters on the Ladies European Tour (LET).  She finished fifth at the 2009 LPGA Final Qualifying Tournament to earn her berth on the LPGA Tour.

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