December 13, 2019
The first major of the year, the ANA Inspiration, today announced a new exemption category for the top-ranked player not otherwise qualified from the previous year’s final JLPGA Mercedes Rankings.
The new qualification category comes in recognition of the ever-strengthening JLPGA Tour which was highlighted earlier this year when Japan’s Hinako Shibuno claimed the 2019 AIG Women’s British Open on her Major debut. It was the 20-year-old’s first time playing competitively outside Japan and her first experience of a Major Championship, yet she held off the stellar field to complete a remarkable victory at Woburn, England in August.
The ANA Inspiration has one of the most unique qualification criteria of all the Majors, enabling an appealing and wonderfully diverse mix of experience and rising talent to gather for the season-opening Major at Mission Hills, Rancho Mirage, Calif., 2nd to 5th April 2020.
Active LPGA Tour Hall of Fame members and winners of all previous ANA Inspirations are eligible to compete while The Championship also awards sponsor invitations for top-ranked amateur players, including the previous year’s U.S. Women’s Amateur Champion, with the final amateur invitation spot going to the winner of the prestigious ANA Junior Inspiration, an AJGA sanctioned 54-hole invitational that takes place the weekend prior to the ANA Inspiration. The field is made up of 48 of the best juniors from around the world who qualify through the ANA Priority Mileage Points system.
It is notable how many of the current world’s best players started their major careers with the invaluable experience of being an amateur invite at the ANA Inspiration. The former invitees list reads like a Who’s Who of Women’s Golf and includes the likes of Michelle Wie, Georgia Hall, Lydia Ko, Angel Yin, Minjee Lee, Brooke Henderson Su Hyun Oh and Nelly Korda.
Takashi Shiki, Senior Executive Vice President of ANA, commented, “We are entering into our sixth year sponsoring this celebrated Major and, while we like to preserve the great customs and history of the event, we also work hard with our partners, the LPGA and IMG, to enhance this great tournament and this is a very positive additional qualification category. Of course, as a Japanese airline, we could be a little biased but, after witnessing the wonderful victory of a JLPGA player at the 2019 AIG Women’s British Open amongst so many fine achievements by Japanese players, we believe this adjustment will be well received by everyone.”