The Symetra Tour, Road to the LPGA, begins the final stretch of the 2016 season with the second annual Murphy USA El Dorado Shootout at Mystic Creek Golf Club from Friday, September 30 through Sunday, October 2. There are just three events remaining in the 2016 season, which concludes October 13-16 in Daytona Beach, Florida with the Symetra Tour Championship. The top 10 on the final Volvik Race for the Card money list with earn LPGA Tour membership for the 2017 season.
First-round play begins at 7:45 a.m. on Friday. There will be a cut to the low 60 and ties following second-round play on Saturday. The final-round will begin at 8:00 a.m. on Sunday and a split tee start will be used. The estimated finishing time is 2:30 p.m. central and the trophy ceremony will take place shortly following the final putt on the 18th green.
The field of 119 professionals and one amateur from the United States and 23 countries around the globe will compete for a total tournament purse of $100,000. The winner will pocket $15,000.
The final sprint to earn an LPGA Tour card is a thrilling race to follow. Number ten on the money list, Clariss Guce (Artesia, Calif.), is just $1,448 in front of number 11, Laura Gonzalez Escallon (La Hulpe, Belgium). Further, number six Marissa Steen (West Chester, Ohio) is just $4,770 ahead of number 12 Nelly Korda (Bradenton, Florida), the younger sister of 4-time LPGA winner, Jessica Korda.
Only 11 through 15 on the money list can potentially jump into the top 10 with a win this week in El Dorado. Erynne Lee, who ranks 15th, would increase to her total to $64,835, which is just ahead of Guce at tenth.
The field is very strong this week as the entire top 10 on the money list will compete. In fact, the top 17 on the money list are in the field. There are also 22 LPGA Tour members that will tee it up this week.
The only player in the field from the state of Arkansas is Megan Vaughn of Lake Village, which is two hours due east from El Dorado. Vaughn has played in just one Symetra Tour event this season. She played her college golf at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and was twice selected to the All-Sun Belt Conference team.
ARKANSAS AND BORDERING CONNECTIONSThere are several players with strong ties to the area including Emily Tubert, who was a three-time All-American at Arkansas and was the recipient of the 2014 Dinah Shore Trophy. Tubert currently ranks 31st on the money list with two top ten finishes this year. Julia Roth played college golf in Arkansas at Central Arkansas (more on her below) and Rebecka Surtevall (Stockholm, Sweden) starred at Arkansas Tech in Russellville. Surtevall is one of the most decorated golfers in Arkansas Tech history. She captured individual titles at the Golfweek Fall Invitational, Great American Conference Preview and Holiday Inn Express Central Region Invitational as a senior to complete her four-year career with 13 collegiate tournament victories.
Surtevall was named to the 2015 Women’s Golf Coaches Association NCAA Division II All-America First Team.
There are three former LSU Tigers in the field including the No. 1 player on the money list, Madelene Sagstrom, who was the 2015 SEC Player of the Year. Sagstrom has dominated the Symetra Tour this year with two wins and ten top 10 finishes in 13 starts. The Swede continues to shatter the single-season earnings record and has a $48,568 cushion on second on the money list. Sagstrom can lock up both Symetra Player of the Year and Gaelle Truet Rookie of the Year with a strong finish this week. The other two LSU Tigers are Lindsay Gahm and Tessa Teachman.
CHAMP AND RUNNER-UP BACK IN FIELDJackie Stoelting did not win in her first 82 starts on the Symetra Tour (2008-2014). She did however have a tremendous amount of success with 18 top 10 finishes during that time frame. In 2014, she earned her card through the Symetra Tour, but wasn’t able to keep her LPGA card so she came to the Murphy USA El Dorado Shootout and picked up her first career win. She now has four career wins.
Stoelting returns to Mystic Creek this week to defend.
“It would mean everything to me to be able to win again,” said Stoelting. “I’m going to bring my husband this year to caddy and I love the golf course. Hopefully I’ll be in the same position and contending on the weekend.”
Stoelting was the only player in the field that finished under-par last year with rounds of 73, 70 and 70.
“Winning was a huge boost of confidence for my career,” said Stoelting this week. “I really wanted to see if I could find the love for the game again after losing my LPGA card and I sure did in El Dorado. I was so excited to get my breakthrough and it couldn’t have come at a more beautiful golf course.”
Stoelting has had a really strong year on Tour this year and is a virtual lock to earn her LPGA card again for 2017. She ranks second on the money list with two wins and six total top 10 finishes. Stoelting has 26 career top 10 finishes on the Symetra Tour.
The runner-up last year, Ally McDonald, was playing on a sponsors exemption and making her Symetra Tour debut. Fast forward a year and she is one of the top players on Tour, ranking third on the Volvik Race for the Card money list and a near-lock to earn a Tour card.
“I’m really excited to get back to the El Dorado area, as I recall from last year I was just really surprised at how the community came together since it was a first year event,” said McDonald. “Murphy USA really got me started with that sponsors exemption last year.”
McDonald’s hometown of Fulton, Mississippi is just under six hours northeast from El Dorado.
“My whole family got to come out last year and not many Symetra Tour events allow my grandparents to come out,” explained McDonald. “My mom will of course be there, my dad, maybe my brother and all my grandparents will be coming.”
McDonald has six top 10 finishes this year, but the one thing she has mentioned repeatedly is her desire to pick up a win before the end of the season.
CENTRAL ARKANSAS STAR RETURNS, BRINGS CURRENT PLAYER TO CADDY
Julia Roth (Karlskrona, Sweden) played her college golf in the state of Arkansas at Central Arkansas in Conway. Roth was the 2013 Southland Conference Player of the Year and was a three-time All-Southland Conference selection. She returns to the state looking to improve upon a T46 finish at the Murphy USA El Dorado Shootout last year.
“I’m super excited to be back in Arkansas,” said Roth, who actually spent her off week in Conway. “It’s almost like coming home.”
If all goes as planned, Roth will have current UCA golfer, Emma Svensson, as her caddy this week.
“If they get back from their tournament in Colorado on time, she will come caddy,” said Roth. “If not, the team and my coach will come watch one of the days. It’s always fun to have support out there.”
Roth, who has five top 25 finishes this year, heaped praise on Mystic Creek.
“I honestly think it’s the best course we play all year, by far,” said Roth. “It’s a true challenge and it will test all parts of our game. The condition of the course last year was unreal.”
MYSTIC CREEK PROVIDES ‘LPGA-LIKE’ TESTAsk any Symetra Tour professional that played Mystic Creek last year and although challenging, they will rave about the test.
Natalie Sheary (Bridgeport, Connecticut), who currently ranks 19th on the money list, said that Mystic Creek is “one of the best tests on Tour” this week.
“It’s an LPGA type golf course,” said Sheary. “It gives us a taste of what we can expect at the next level.”
Sheary went onto to say that Mystic Creek requires all aspects of the game to be on.
“The course requires good ball striking, a hot putter, good course management and most of all, patience,” Sheary continued. “The greens are tough. This is the type of course that you can’t get away with mediocre ball striking. If you can score here (Mystic Creek), you can play anywhere.”
TWO OLYMPIANS IN FIELD THIS WEEKThere are two 2016 Olympians that are in the field – Stephanie Meadow (Ireland) and Alejandra Llaneza (Mexico). Both qualified for the Rio Olympics and will play in El Dorado. Meadow finished T31 in Rio while Llaneza finished T44.Meadow has split time this year between the LPGA and Symetra Tour. She has played in seven Symetra Tour tournaments and nine LPGA events. Meadow finished in the top 20 in the last two Symetra Tour events.
Llaneza graduated from the Symetra Tour to the LPGA in 2015 by finishing seventh on the Volvik Race for the Card money list. Her best finish on the LPGA Tour this year is a tie for 32nd at the Kingsmill Championship presented by JTBC.
- The two sponsor exemptions this week are Lauren Kim, who won a national title at Stanford, and Minami Levonowich, who played college golf at Kansas.
- Six 2015 Symetra Tour graduates finished T9 or better last year at Mystic Creek (Jackie Stoelting, Daniela Iacobelli, Casey Grice, Rachel Rohanna, Lee Lopez and Alejandra Llaneza).