Qualifiers battle to fulfil dream

JOHN HERBERT -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 10:42 AM ET

They came to London for a shot at the big time.

Ashley Hoagland flew in from Tampa. Ria Quiazon and her dad, Rene, are from San Francisco. Sarah Martin is from the Detroit area. Meredith Ward is from Chicago.

Some are from the London and area -- Lisa Maunu, Maggie Steciuk, Lindsey Edmunds, Angie Green and Karly Pinder.

They all have the same dream. They want to play on the LPGA Tour for big money.

Today, 53 women are playing for the final four spots in the $1.7-million US Canadian Women's Open, which begins Thursday at the London Hunt and Country Club.

The field of 156 players includes 16 Canadians, eight players who finished in the Top 10 at yesterday's British Open in England and LPGA stars Se Ri Pak, Lorie Kane, Meg Mallon, Cristie Kerr and Natalie Gublis.

One of those Canadians is Jessica Shepley.

The 23-year-old lives in Oakville but spent her early years in London attending public school at John Dearness. Her family moved to Toronto when she was nine, but not before Shepley got her start on the Junior Tyson Tour.

She can't wait for Thursday.

Today is for tour hopefuls.

They are the players who bounce from town to town -- some call them rabbits -- just hoping to land a precious spot in LPGA events through Monday qualifying.

Hoagland, 23, who is from Palmetto, Fla., arrived in London Saturday night full of hope and excitement.

"I have this great host family (Rhonda King) who sent me some postcards about London,'' said the rookie pro, who has won about $20,000 splitting her time between the LPGA Tour and the Futures Tour.

"It's great living in a home because I'm a people person and I'd rather be in a house than a hotel sitting by myself. It seems like a cool city.''

Many of the players have host families offered to them by the tournament committee.

For these young women having somebody help them get around London, feed them, cheer for them and save them expense money is a great feature. For them, there are no courtesy cars, travelling coach, agent, cheering fans or sports psychologist to help deal with their demons.

Hoagland played the course yesterday for the first time.

Fortunately, she landed a very good caddie/club member to guide her around and explain the course. Tom Faulds, a London physician, was at one time one of Ontario's top amateurs.

Ria Quiazon, 25, came to London with her father, who is a mortgage broker in San Francisco. He has taken a working vacation to caddie.

"He calls this his London branch this week."

A former junior state champion, Quiazon has been playing as a professional for almost three years, mostly on the Futures Tour in the U.S. Although she hasn't been very successful, Quiazon said she plans to keep trying to make it to the LPGA Tour full time.

"As long as I feel I keep getting better, I'm going to do it. And I think I am."

She said she came to London because Canadian tournaments are so well run.

"I needed a boost; something to give myself more confidence," she said. "I played on the Canadian Tour last year and I loved those events. They take a lot of pride in their national championship, so that's why I'm here.''

Meredith Ward, 26, is in her rookie year.

She flew into Detroit from Chicago, where she had left her car, then drove to London. She has a host family. Ed Finlan and his son, Ben, who is caddying for Ward, brought her to the course yesterday.

Ward has played in four LPGA events this year and hopes to get into the tournament today -- or as an alternate. She is also fifth on the alternate list and could get in if players withdraw before Thursday.

Most of the big-name players are expected to begin arriving this afternoon from the British Open.

The group will include Kerr, who tied for second, Kane and Beth Daniel, who shared sixth, and Julieta Granada, who finished eighth. They could play some holes at the club after 5 p.m. tonight when the course reopens for practice play after the qualifying tournament.

Also on today is the women's-only pro-am. The field includes LPGA players, including Canadian Dawn Coe Jones, who tees off at 9 a.m. from the 10th tee.

Admission today is free.

OPEN QUALIFYING

The draw for today's qualifying tournament at the London Hunt and Country Club. The top four finishers receive exemptions into the Canadian Women's Open beginning Thursday (a-denotes amateur):

FIRST TEE

1:00 p.m.: Louise Zylstra, Tiarra Honce; 1:10: Susie Redman, D'Rae Ward, Jessica Blackley; 1:20: Allison Blomquist, Perry Swenson, Kelly Cap; 1:30: a-Ashley Sholer, Julie Cashaback, a-Seema Sadekar; 1:40: Marlene Davis, Ria Quiazon, a-Judy Dotten; 1:50: Katie Ferguson, Cindy Pasechnik, a-Denise Munzlinger; 2:00: Jeannine Fiorito, a-Nonie Marler, Janice Gibson; 2:10: Marcela Leon, Gina Lee, Carmer Hajjar; 2:20: a-Helen Jung, Ashley Hoagland, Sarah Martin

10TH TEE

1:00 p.m.: Carmen Bandea, Ashley Young, Meredith Ward; 1:10: Alison Wright, a-Ashley Bickerton, Julie Turner-Peluso; 1:20: Holly Tothe, Lanie Cahill, ; a-Maggie Steciuk; 1:30: a-Kim Carrington, Sylvie Schetagne, a-Ashley Davis; 1:40: Stephanie Donkin, a-Jade Polonich, a-Lindsey Edmunds; 1:50: a-Karly Pinder, Tara Bateman, Lisa Ferrero; 2:00: a-Lisa Maunu, Rhonda Fleury, Annie Mallory; 2:10: Angie Green, Jennifer Greggain, Santie Koch; 2:20: Cuyler Hedley, Janell Howland, Claudia Beauchesne


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