Laura Martin is one of 144 players looking to win the inaugural Four Winds Invitational at Blackthorn this weekend. (Leader Publications Photo/AMELIO RODRIGUEZ)

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Four Winds Invitational begins Friday

Published 11:44am Thursday, August 9, 2012

SOUTH BEND — Friday morning some of the best up and coming golfers in the world will step onto the tee box at Blackthorn Golf Club to take part in the inaugural Four Winds Invitational.

The 144-player field will be looking for a piece of the LPGA Smetra Tour’s biggest purse of $150,000 with $22,500 going to the winner.

Because the purse if the biggest on the 2012 tour, the field will consist of nine out of the 10 players currently in the Volvik Race for the Card top 10.

The Race for the Card spotlights movement on the tour’s 2012 season money list. Placers finishing in the top 10 at the conclusion of the year will earn exempt status on the 2013 LPGA Tour.

Among those set to compete at Blackthorn beginning at 7:45 a.m. Friday are No. 1 Esther Choe, No. 2 Victoria Elizabeth, No. 4 Nicole Smith, No. 5 Jaclyn Sweeney, No. 6 Jean Chua, No. 7 Megan McChrystal, No. 8 Sara Brown, No. 9 Lauren Doughtie and No. 10 Sara Maude Juneau.

Six of those players already own a tour victory this year, while Choe won back-to-back events in April.

While the top 10 money earners will draw most of the attention this weekend, it’s players like former Indiana standout Laura Martin of West Chester, Ohio, who have their sights set on not only earning a big payday, but reaching the top 10 to earn that exemption for next season.

Martin will tee off with Joy Trotter (Chino Hills, Calif.) and Birdie Kim (Seoul, South Korea) Friday at 9:25 a.m.

Martin was part of the media day back in May at Blackthorn and spoke about how much this new stop means to the tour and what people can expect.

“Ultimately I want to be in the top 10 on the money list so at the end of the year I can get my LPGA card,” she said. “We’re so excited. I’ve never seen the course before so I’m excited to get a peek at the course. But I’m also excited to be in South Bend. It’s a great community.

“Typically our purses range from $100,000 to $125,000. This tops the charts. Somehow they’ve raised enough money to get the purse to $150,000, which is amazing. It helps us out as players, it helps out the community and I’m excited to be a part of it.”

The Four Winds Invitational begins Friday morning and runs through Sunday.

Tickets are $10 per person for each day. Tickets can be purchased at area McDonalds as well as online at blackthorngolf.com.

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