Stephanie Wei


Back in 2009, Stephanie Wei launched a golf blog. New golf blogs pop up all the time; few of them gain any traction with readers, or have staying power. But Wei Under Par remains, and remains one of the most influential independent golf publications on the web.

It's at testament to Stephanie's talent, gumption and persistence that she managed to turn her passion into a job.

Wei grew up playing junior golf in the Pacific Northwest, where her friends and fellow-competitors included the Mackenzies (Paige and Brock) and Ryan Moore. She shared her swing coach - Joe Thiel - with Andres Gonzales and Michael Putnam, both of whom are now PGA Tour players.

Then she played on the Yale University golf team, where, during her time in New Haven, her teammates included Jeehae Lee.

Stephanie's time at Yale produced a degree in history. Her time since Yale has produced a writing career focused primarily (but not solely) on golf. She has written for numerous web publications, including Guest of a Guest and The Huffington Post.

And on the foundation of Wei Under Par, Stephanie has built a successful career as a golf journalist. She is a contributor to Golf.com, SI golf+, a freelancer - she traveled to more than 30 golf tournaments in 2012 - who has written for, among others, the Wall Street Journal. And she makes radio and television appearances.

It won't be a surprise to hear someday that one of the networks that broadcasts golf - or one of the golf networks - has scooped her up. When you're as talented, smart, insightful - and beautiful - as Stephanie is, a larger role on TV is probably in your future.

Photo: Courtesy of Stephanie Wei

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Virginia Espejo

Here's another new Ladies European Tour member for 2013: Virginia Espejo. The Spanish golfer finished tied for 20th at the final stage of LET Q-School, earning playing status for next year's schedule.

Virginia played her college golf at Southern Mississippi University. There, during her junior season, she achieved something that no other female Southern Miss golfer had done to that point: She carded a round in the 60s during tournament play.

In 2012, Virginia played five tournaments on the LET Access Series. She started her pro career off slow, missing the cut in the first three. But then she finished 38th at the Azores Ladies Open, and then 25th at the Banesto Tour Valencia.

And now she's made it through Q-School; clearly a golfer on an upward trajectory.

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Elina Nummenpaa

(Photo: elinanummenpaa.fi

Elina Nummenpaa will be playing on the Ladies European Tour in 2013 after making it through the final-stage of LET Q-School. Nummenpaa was won of the Top 30 finishers at Q-School, earning her card for next season.

Nummenpaa is a 29-year-old from Turku, Finland. She honed her skills at Nokia River Golf Club (where she even served as caddie master for four years), and as an exchange student in California during high school.

In 2012, Elina split her time between the Nordea Tour and the LET Access Series. On the LETAS, it was feast or famine for Nummenpaa in 2012: She had six missed cuts, but in those tournaments in which she survived the cut, Elina finished in the Top 10 every time. Her best showing was a tie for fourth at the Crete Ladies Open.

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Sharmila Nicollet

(Photo via @MissNicollet/Twitter.com)

Sharmila Nicollet is one the 30 golfers who "graduated" from 2012 LET Q-School, earning her card for the 2013 season on the Ladies European Tour. Nicollet finished tied for 17th at the final stage qualifier, at 9-under 351.

Nicollet turned pro in 2009 and led the regional Indian circuit in money in 2009 and 2010. She also played on the Ladies Asian Golf Tour and got into a few LET tournaments during that time and into 2011. She made it through Q-School at the end of 2011 to earn rookie status on the LET during the 2012 season. Her best finish was 36th in 2012, so it was back to Q-School. But Sharmilla is through again.

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Camilla Lennarth

(Photo: Twitter.com/@camillalennarth)

Can you guess that Camilla Lennarth is from Sweden? I bet you can!

Camilla just completed the final stage of the Ladies European Tour Q-School, and has earned her playing card for the 2013 LET. Lennarth finished the 5-round tournament at 15-under par, good for sixth place.

Lennarth played college golf at the University of Alabama, where she was a 3-time All-America selection. In 2010, she was the individual medalist and part of the winning Swedish team at the European Ladies Team Championship.

She turned pro in 2011 and won a Cactus Tour event that year. In 2012, Camilla was a member of the LPGA Futures Tour, where she posted a best finish of 5th place in the Symetra Classic.

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Maha Haddioui

Maha Haddioui was the winner of one of the two Ladies European Tour qualifying tournament (Q-School) pre-qualifiers, which gets her into the Q-School finals. She's from Morocco.

She turned pro in 2010, and in 2011 finished 25th at the Lalla Meryem Cup played in Morocco. In fact, it was played at her home course, Golf du Soleil in Agadir. And in playing that event, Maha achieved a first: She became the first Arab woman to play as a professional golfer in an event on one of the major world tours.

Maha also made the cut at the 2011 Ladies German Open on the LET but, alas, failed to get through Q-School for the 2012 season. So she's back, winning the pre-qualifier, and setting her sights on 2013 membership.

Before turning pro Haddioui played collegiately at Lynn University in Florida. There she was a Division II All-America selection four straight years, the conference Women's Golfer of the Year, and a four-time scholastic All-American.

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At the Swinging Skirts Pro-Am Gala

Quite a few LPGA golfers are in Thailand for the Swinging Skirts LPGA Invitational, a charity pro-am tournament. Which was proceeded by a gala dinner/party. And you know what that means: Players posting pics on Twitter.

Here's a snap posted by Cristie Kerr:

Good to see Morgan Pressel is there, getting back in the swing as a season in which she had some injury issues.

Here's a snap posted by Sandra Gal:

Sandra wrote that she was "surrounded by blondes." Hey, that's not a bad place to be!

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Red Carpet Quintet

Here's a lovely group of ladies posting on the red carpet:

From left, they are Ladies European Tour members Carly Booth, Danielle Montgomery, Henni Zuel, Caroline Martens and Stacy Lee Bregman. They stopped to pose during a pre-tournament party for the Dubai Ladies Masters.

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Rebecca Lee-Bentham

(Photo: @RLeeBentham/Twitter.com)

Congratulations to Rebecca Lee-Bentham, co-medalist (with Moriya Jutanugarn) at the 2012 LPGA Q-School.

So we'll be seeing Rebecca on the LPGA Tour in 2013. But she won't be a rookie. Lee-Bentham was an LPGA member in 2012, getting into 14 tournaments with a best finish of 47th. She earned her tour card last year on her first attempt at Q-School.

Rebecca is from Canada (Richmond Hill, Ontario, to be exact). She won the 2010 Canadian Junior Girls Championship and 2011 Canadian Women's Amateur Championship. She spent one year on the University of Texas golf team, then turned pro late in 2011.

You can follow her on Twitter at @RLeeBentham.

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Sydnee Michaels

(Courtesy of Sydnee Michaels)

As 2012 draws near its close, Sydnee Michaels can look back on a very successful rookie season on the LPGA Tour.

The former UCLA standout made 19 starts on the LPGA and earned just under $200,000, comfortably keeping her card for near year. Sydnee's best showing of the season was seventh place at the Safeway Classic in August, and she had multiple other Top 20 finishes, too.

Those results helped her climb to No. 121 in the world rankings, an excellent result for a golfer in her first year on the LPGA. In fact, Michaels finished fourth on the Rolex Rookie of the Year points list.

As for her stats, Sydnee's best finishes on the LPGA charts were 20th place in both driving distance (259 yards) and Putts per GIR (1.8).

The photo above is from Sydnee's website, sydneemichaels.com, and you can follow her on Twitter @SydneeMichaels.

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Blair O'Neal


(Photo: @BLAIRONEAL/Twitter)

Is it too early for Christmas lights? Not at Montelucia Resort, which is where this photo of former Big Breaker Blair O'Neal was snapped.

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So Yeon Ryu

Congratulations to So Yeon Ryu who, with three tournaments to go in the 2012 LPGA season, mathematically clinched the Rookie of the Year Award.

How good has her year been? Well, she has 14 Top 10 finishes in 22 LPGA starts, including a victory at the Jamie Farr Toledo Classic. That's good stuff. As I write this, she is ninth on the money list and fourth in scoring average.

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Maggie Noel

When Maggie Noel left college with a business degree, she headed not onto the fairways of a pro golf tour, but into the business world and behind a desk.

Now, she's back in the swing and pursuing a golf career. We'll see her in the Ladies European Tour Q-School first-stage qualifier in Marrakech, Morocco, which takes place Dec. 6-9 2012.

Originally from Houston, Maggie started playing golf through the First Tee program. Her junior and high school career was impressive enough to earn a college scholarship, and she played her college golf at the University of North Texas near Dallas.

After graduating, she took a job in sales. But the lure of golf got her back into competition. In 2011, not long after returning to Houston and rededicating herself to competitive golf, Noel won the Women's TGA Texas State Amateur. Shortly after that success, she turned pro.

In 2012, Maggie has played some events on the Cactus Tour, with a high finish of third place so far. And she played in the first stage qualifier for LPGA Q-School.

As you can tell from the photos, she's also done some modeling. Hopefully, she'll do more.

You can follow Maggie on Twitter at @ShePlaysGolf. She also has a blog on Tumbler at sheplaysgolf.tumblr.com, and I highly recommend it. She doesn't post all that often, but when she does, her writing is more personal, in-depth and insightful than is typical from an athlete's blog. Bonus: More pics!

(Photos courtesy of Maggie Noel)

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Maiya Tanaka

(Photo by Kathleen Kerstenbeck/courtesy of Maiya Tanaka)

Because it's never a bad time to post a new photo of Maiya Tanaka. This one is from her most recent photoshoot.

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Chelsea Bach

(Photo by SamOunPhotography.com/courtesy of Chelsea Bach)

This is the first time we've featured Chelsea Bach on Golf Babes. Her story is an interesting one, because - especially in women's golf, where the paychecks are much smaller than on men's pro golf tours - sometimes a golfer's route to the tour life is a circuitous one.

After playing many sports while growing up in a small town in Illinois, Chelsea turned her focus to golf in time to win the 2002 Illinois Girls Junior State Championship. A four-year collegiate career followed, three seasons at Illinois State and one at Eastern Illinois.

But Chelsea didn't immediately pursue the life of a tour golfer. Instead, she detoured into the life of a club and teaching professional. She enrolled in the PGA Golf Management University Program and began pursuing her Class A certification to become a golf instructor.

That entailed a move to Arizona. And you know what they have in Arizona? Lots of great golf courses and good weather. Pro tour events. And the Cactus Tour.

She worked in the golf industry for a couple years, but her love for playing competitively kept coming back.

In 2011, Bach entered LPGA Q-School and earned status on the Futures Tour, where she made her debut earlier this year.

So now Chelsea is back pursuing the life of a tour professional as a career. In 2012, she's played on the Women's Canadian Tour, Cactus Tour and Symetra Tour (Futures Tour).

Check out her website at chelseabach.com, or follow her on Twitter at @CB_Golf.

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Paula Creamer's 2013 Calendar

It's that time of year again: The time when Paula Creamer's calendar for the coming year is released by Golf Digest Japan. Paula shoots a calendar every year for GDJ; alas, it is only offered for sale in Japan. But if you keep an eye on eBay and other online auction/reseller sites, you might be able to pick one up. Or, if you can read Japanese, check out this page.

Lexi Thompson

(Photo credit: @Lexi/Twitter.com)

Lexi Thompson is all dressed up to attend the Hana Bank Championship gala dinner. She seems a little overdressed for that staff bag ... but her spikes are nice.

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Cheyenne, Sandra and the Hana Bank Formal

It's Hana Bank Championship week on the LPGA Tour, and the folks at Hana Bank always post some great photos on their Facebook page. For example, here's Cheyenne Woods, playing on a sponsor exemption:

And Sandra Gal:

The Hana Bank Championship also throws a pro-am party that many of the players get dressed up for. Hee Young Park posted this pic on Twitter:

From left, that's Azahara Munoz, Park, Vicky Hurst, Jodi Ewart, Cindy Lacrosse and Jessica Korda.

The tournament also stages a fashion show with golfers as models. Here's a photo posted on Twitter by Michelle Wie:

From left, that's Wie, Na Yeon Choi, Sandra Gal and Hee Young Park.

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Sime Darby Gala

The Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia is the first stop on the LPGA's Asian Swing for 2012. One of the nice things about many of the international events is they tend to have gala parties for the players. Those players get glammed up, and some of them like to share photos on Twitters. Like these:

(Photo credit: @natalie_gulbis/Twitter.com)

(Photo credit: @Brittany1golf/Twitter.com)

(Photo credit: @Lexi/Twitter.com)

(Photo credit: @themichellewie/Twitter.com)

The dresses worn by Natalie, Paula and Michelle were handmade from Malaysian materials in the traditional way. We also see above Lexi Thompson, plus Brittany Lincicome, Sandra Gal and Jessica Korda.

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Stacey Keating

(Photo: Courtesy of Ladies European Tour)

Two in a row for Stacey Keating. The 26-year-old Australian won her second consecutive tournament on the Ladies European Tour, earning the win at the 2012 Lacoste Ladies Open de France. That follows on the heels of Keating's win two weeks at the Ladies Spanish Open.

And those two wins follow Keating's disqualification from the Women's British Open for signing an incorrect scorecard. Nice way to make up for a DQ! Keating told the LET:

"After the disappointment of the British I was really low in confidence, but obviously not now, so I'm very happy. I've been playing well leading up to the British as well so it was just how I was going to handle it mentally as well I guess.

"I had no expectations because I was so disappointed and that hurt me a lot. Nothing on the golf course can hurt me like that now."

Stacey received the trophy from the president of Lacoste, with European Ryder Cup captain Jose Maria Olazabal on hand to lend a hand. And one of Keating's heroes, Lorena Ochoa, was also there to help congratulate her. Ochoa made one of her now-rare playing appearances in the tournament, finishing tied for 22nd.

Read more from the LET

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Win McMurry

(Photos courtesy of Birdy & Grace, used with permission)

Win McMurry is best-known for her role on the Golf Channel. But she's also a "golf industry ambassador" for the women's apparel company Birdy & Grace.

Birdy & Grace founder Sharon Sunoo says this of the brand's collections:

"Golf clothes for her should be an effortless balance between practicality and femininity while keeping the spirit of timeless style alive…clean lines, powerful use of color, pattern and texture, super fit and tasteful detailing."

And Win adds, "I love the femininity that Birdy & Grace brings to the game of golf. When you put on one of their ultra-soft, figure-flattering polos you instantly feel beautiful. As the saying goes - when you look pretty, you feel pretty, you play pretty."

I'm not sure if that really is a saying, but coming from Win, we'll go along with it. The photo below shows McMurry modeling a top from the Birdy & Grace Spring 2013 collection, the Jamie Camp Polo in gloss. You can find more info about the collection (and photos of Win modeling it) at the Birdy & Grace website.

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