GARDEN CITY, Kansas, September 4, 2017 - The Symetra Tour, the official qualifying Tour for the LPGA, returns to Garden City for the fourth annual Garden City Charity Classic at Buffalo Dunes. This is the 18th tournament of the 2017 season and there are just five remaining.
The 54-hole tournament begins on Friday, September 8 and concludes on Sunday, September 10. The field of 132 players from the United States and 29 countries around the globe will compete for a $150,000 total tournament purse with the winner earning an all-important $22,500.
Play will begin at 8:00 a.m. all three days of the tournament and a split-tee start will be used. The final-round will wrap at approximately 3:00 p.m. on Sunday. There will be a cut to the low 60 and ties after the second-round on Saturday.
With five tournaments left, everyone is jockeying for a spot in the top ten on the Volvik Race for the Card money list. The top 10 money earners at the end of the season earn LPGA Tour membership for the 2018 season. The season wraps with the Symetra Tour Championship in Daytona Beach, Florida from October 5-8.
The Garden City Charity Classic is the second tournament in a six-week stretch that runs all the way up to the Symetra Tour Championship. There are no more off weeks in 2017.
There are two players that have mathematically secured LPGA Tour cards at this point. No. 1 Benyapa Niphatsophon (Bangkok, Thailand), who became the third player in Tour history to crack $100,000 in single-season earnings, and No. 2 Celine Boutier (Montrouge, France), who won last week, are the only two that are safe. The separation between No. 11 Kendall Dye (Edmond, Oklahoma) and No. 10 Lindsey Weaver (Bellefontaine, Ohio) is just $1,969. No. 13 Sophia Popov (Heidelberg, Germany) is only $4,793 outside the top 10.
The Garden City Charity Classic started in 2014. All three winners of the tournament have gone onto earn their LPGA Tour cards through the Volvik Race for the Card money list. In 2014, Min Lee won with a three-day total of 6-under and finished fifth on the money list. In 2015, Vicky Hurst won her sixth career Symetra Tour event with a three-day total of 8-under and finished 8th on the money list. Last year, Dana Finkelstein won her first Tour event with a four-day score of 11-under and finished seventh. All three are currently playing on the LPGA Tour.
The field is loaded this week with nine of the top 10 on the current money list scheduled to compete. The only player not in the field is No. 3 Nanna Koerstz Madsen (Copenhagen, Denmark). Of the top 20 players on the money list, 17 are in the field this week. There are 12 players in the field that are currently LPGA Tour members.
Buffalo Dunes is a par-72 and will play 6,502 yards this week.
RECAP OF LAST WEEKCeline Boutier (Montrouge, France) posted a four-day total of 11-under at the Sioux Falls GreatLIFE Challenge in South Dakota to pick up her second win this season. Boutier moved from fourth to second on the money list and secured her LPGA Tour card for the 2018 season.
Boutier tied a Willow Run course record with an 8-under, 63 on Saturday to get in position to win the tournament. The 23-year-old has now earned the fifth most money in a single-season in Tour history ($96,748).
Boutier has seven top 10 finishes this season and has made the cut in 15 of her 16 starts.
The former French national team player was the 2013-14 WGCA National Player of the Year at Duke. She was also part of a team national championship in 2014.
NIPHATSOPHON WITH ONE OF GREAT SEASONS WITHOUT A WINBenyapa Niphatsophon, No. 1 on the money list, is just the third player in Tour history to ever earn over $100,000 ($102,288) in a single-season and has done so without the benefit of a win.
She picked up her fifth second place finish of the year last week. She has nine top 10 finishes in 15 starts. The nine top 10’s are the most on Tour.
Niphatsophon could become the first player since 1996 to lead the Volvik Race for the Card money list without a win. Last year, Ally McDonald finished second on the money list and earned $110,359 without a victory. In 1996, Vickie Odegard led the money list, but didn’t pick up a win. That year, the Tour only played 13 tournaments.
The 20-year-old currently ranks second on Tour in scoring average (69.933) and fifth in driving distance (271.567).
NO. 9 ON MONEY LIST DARQUEA WON AJGA AT BUFFALO DUNES: In 2013, before Daniela Darquea (Quito, Ecuador) went to play college golf at Miami, she played the AJGA event at Buffalo Dunes and won with a score of 5-over. It was her first AJGA victory.
Darquea is now a rookie on the Symetra Tour and one of the top players on Tour. She has one victory and four total top 10 finishes to rank ninth on the money list.
“I remember it being very windy, but the course was beautiful,” recalled Darquea. “Winning there was a very big motivator for my junior career because it was the first AJGA event I won.”
TOP JUNIOR GOLFER IN 2018 CLASS IS EXEMPTIONHailee Cooper, who Golfweek ranked as the top junior in the class of 2018, is playing this week on a sponsors exemption. In February, Cooper committed to play college golf at Texas. In 2016, Cooper won the AJGA Kansas Junior at Buffalo Dunes for her sixth AJGA title.
Cooper played on the 2015 U.S. Junior Solheim Cup team and advanced to the Round of 16 at the 2016 U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship. She played on the Junior Ryder Cup team in 2016.
Cooper advanced to match play at the 2017 U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship, but lost in the round of 64.
ROOKIES LEADING THE WAYThe top three players on the Volvik Race for the Card money list - Benyapa Niphatsophon, Celine Boutier and Nanna Koerstz Madsen - are all rookies and six of the current top 10 are rookies (No. 5 Hannah Green, No. 9 Daniela Darquea and No. 10 Lindsey Weaver are also rookies).
There are eight total rookies in the top 20 on the money list. No. 14 Ruixin Liu and No. 16 Katelyn Dambaugh are also first-year players.
Dambaugh finished third last week in Sioux Falls and moved from 29th to 16th. She joined the Tour midway through the season after graduating from South Carolina.
CHRISTINE SONG WON SECOND WEEK IN GARDEN CITY IN 2016Last year, Christine Song (Fullerton, Calif.) won the second week of the Garden City Charity Classic, which was also played at Buffalo Dunes.
“I think this course suits my game because it’s not a long hitters golf course,” said Song. “I like tough conditions and it can get windy out there. I remember I made a bunch of putts that week and coming down the stretch I birdied 16 and made a 50-footer on 17, which was pretty awesome. I had a lot of fun here last year.”
The long putt on the par-3 17th essentially put away the tournament and she won by two-strokes. It was her fifth career Symetra Tour victory.
Song ranks 21st on the money list this year and a victory this week could move her as high as sixth on the money list.
- There are players from eight different countries in the top 10 on the money list (Thailand, France, Denmark, USA, Australia, China, Canada and Ecuador).
- Paola Moreno (Colombia) ranks 12th on the money list in just ten starts. For perspective, everyone inside the top 10 with the exception of Nanna Koerstz Madsen (10 starts) has made at least 15 starts.
- Rookie Lindsey Weaver picked up her eighth top 10 finish of the year last week in Sioux Falls. Only money-leader Benyapa Niphatsophon has more (9).
- Lindsey Weaver and Emma Talley have both made 16 of 17 cuts this season. No player on Tour has made the cut in every event. Only seven players in the top 30 have played in all 17 tournaments.