by Beth Ann Nichols, Golfweek
A victory at the U.S. Women’s Amateur last summer punched Hannah O’Sullivan’s ticket to the ANA Inspiration. She headlines a group of talented amateurs invited to play at Mission Hills Country Club March 28-April 3 in Rancho Mirage, Calif.
One year ago O’Sullivan, 17, became the youngest player to win a Symetra Tour event, the Gateway Classic, not far from her home in Chandler, Ariz. O’Sullivan will be joined by five other amateurs who have accepted invitations to the year’s first major, Golfweek has learned. The talented list includes:
• Sierra Brooks, 17, of Sorrento, Fla. – Runner-up to O’Sullivan at the 2015 U.S. Women’s Amateur and No. 4 in the World Amateur Golf Rankings (WAGR). Brooks went undefeated for Team USA at the Junior Solheim Cup.
• Karen Chung, 20, Livingston, N.J. – USC junior is No. 12 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings and recent winner of the ANNIKA Intercollegiate.
• Bronte Law, 20, Stockport, England – UCLA junior won her second English Women's Amateur last summer and was named the 2015 Pac-12 POY. Currently ranked No. 3 by Golfweek in college golf.
• Leona Maguire, 21, Cavan, Ireland – Duke sophomore was named best amateur and collegiate player in 2015. She’s currently ranked No. 1 in the WAGR and No. 2 in the college golf. Finished runner-up at the Ladies European Masters as an amaeteur.
• Albane Valenzuela, 18, Geneva, Swizterland – The 12th-ranked amateur in the world won the 2015 Orange Bowl and Doral-Publix Junior as well as the Spanish Amateur Stroke Play. Made her first major championship appearance at the 2015 Evian.
Earlier this week O'Sullivan and Brooks were named to the 2016 U.S. Curtis Cup team, which features five 17-year-olds.
The final spot will be awarded to the winner of the ANA Junior Inspiration, to be contested on Monday, March 28. In past years, participants of the junior event were restricted to the Southern California area. Now, organizers have expanded the event to include juniors from gateway cities across the country. Those cities include: Los Angeles, San Jose, San Francisco, Seattle, Vancouver, Chicago, New York, Washington D.C., Houston and Honolulu.
Past winners include LPGA player Alison Lee, Angel Yin of the Ladies European Tour and Haley Moore, who shot 2-under 70 to win the junior challenge last year in a playoff and then went on to make the cut at the ANA Inspiration.