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SQUAW CREEK QUALIFIER Thailand to Tampa, these twins show they're no amateurs



Published: Sun, July 14, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The 16-year-old sisters have already competed in other LPGA tournaments.

VIENNA -- The Giant Eagle LPGA Classic has one of the best fields of lady professionals in the 13-year history of the event.

Two of the best amateur players in the country could join them.

Naree and Aree Wongluekiet, 16-year-old twin sisters, originally from Thailand and now residing in Tampa, Fla., are in the Mahoning Valley this week.

Naree is already in the tournament with a sponsors exemption. Aree will try to join her sister in the field through the tournament's Monday qualifier at 1 p.m. at Squaw Creek Country Club.

Both sisters have already played in LPGA tournaments.

Naree, who won five national amateur tournaments the past two years, is ranked No. 4 in the country by Golfweek/Titleist rankings.

She finished tied for 29th place in the recent Wegman's Rochester LPGA Championships. In July, 2000, as a 14-year-old, she finished 40th in the U.S. Women's Open to become the youngest low amateur in LPGA history.

She also won the Kosaido Thailand Ladies Open on the Asian Circuit in 2001 and that same year finished tied for sixth place in the Futures Tour Qualifying School.

This past January she won the Ladies South Atlantic Amateur and became the youngest winner in that tournament's history.

Strong showing

Aree doesn't take a back seat to her sister.

She was the 1999 U.S. Girls Junior Champion and the youngest USGA champion in history. She won 15 national junior tournaments between 1999 and 2001 and is ranked No. 3 at Golfweek/Titleist.

In March of 2000, she finished tied for 10th place in the LPGA's first major tournament of the year, the Nabisco LPGA Championships and on Sunday's final round was paired in the final group with Dottie Pepper and Karrie Webb.

Also in 2000, she became the youngest semifinalist in U.S. Women's Amateur history and finished 13th in the Safeway LPGA Classic.

She has made three cuts in the four LPGA events she has competed. In May, she received the 2002 Nancy Lopez Award, presented to the best female amateur golfer in the country.

Aree will be trying for the one spot in the tournament that is available through Monday's qualifier.

She has already indicated that if she does not qualify on Monday, she will remain at the tournament and caddie for her sister.

Other exemption

The other tournament sponsor exemption was awarded to Lieschen Eller, an assistant professional at Naples National Golf club in Naples, Fla.

Eller turned professional in 1996 and played on the Futures Tour four of the last six years. In 2002 she won the U.S. Women's Open Qualifier in West Palm Beach, Fla. and qualified for the 2001 McDonald's LPGA Championships by winning the LPGA Southeast Teaching and Club Professional Division Championships.




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