EL DORADO, Ark. — The 18th stop of the Symetra Tour season and third in the Million Dollar Drive takes the official qualifying tour of the LPGA Tour to the Natural State for the fourth annual Murphy USA El Dorado Shootout at Mystic Creek Golf Club from Sept. 14-16.
Greeting the 132-player field in El Dorado, Ark. is a total purse of $150,000, tied for the eighth highest on Tour this season. Individuals are set to compete in a 54-hole stroke play format with a cut to the low 60 players and ties after 36 holes.
“We’re getting down to crunch time and the race to earn LPGA Tour membership is tighter than it ever has been in recent memory,” said Mike Nichols, the Chief Business Officer of the Symetra Tour. “An immaculate venue awaits the competitors in El Dorado, as well as a sponsor in Murphy USA that has made a goal of helping grow women’s professional golf. It should be an all-around fantastic week.”
With only four tournaments now left on the “Road to the LPGA,” the Million Dollar Drive is the run of six consecutive events to end the season. They have a cumulative purse of greater than $1 million, roughly one-third of the total prize money for 2018.
Defending champion Hannah Green (Perth, Australia) is not among the competitors this week, as she was a 2017 Symetra Tour graduate. All members of the current Volvik Race for the Card top-10 are set to tee it up in Arkansas, as well as 33 of the top-35 players on the money list. In addition, 28 different countries and 23 states will be represented.
Meanwhile, the event is particularly special for University of Arkansas alumna Regina Plasencia (Guadalajara, Mexico). One of two competitors with ties to the host state—the other being sponsor exemption Summar Roachell (Conway, Arkansas)—she is eager to get back to an area she knows and loves.
“I am always excited to be in Arkansas because it feels like home here,” said Plasencia, currently No. 65 in the Volvik Race for the Card. “I played for the University of Arkansas for four years and now I’m here playing as a professional, it’s unbelievable. I can’t wait to start the tournament and hear those ‘Go Hogs’ cheers again on the course like my college days.”
Furthermore, most recent Symetra Tour champion Allyssa Ferrell (Edgerton, Wisconsin) looks to become the first two-time winner this year following her victory at the Garden City Charity Classic.
“I have not made a cut here, so I hope since I have been playing better that I don’t look like an idiot again,” Ferrell said laughingly. “The weird part is I love the course and it is so pretty, so unique and different, but every year it hates me. I look like I don’t know how to play golf when I come to El Dorado. I’m going to try to do the same thing I have been doing for the last month.”
Action gets underway at 7:15 a.m. CT for the first and second rounds on Friday and Saturday, respectively. Final round play is set for a 7:30 a.m. CT start and all three days, groups will begin off No. 1 and No. 10 tees in threesomes.
STOELTING AMONG COMPETITORS IN THE NATURAL STATE
A four-time Symetra Tour champion with 27 career top-10 finishes, Jackie Stoelting (Vero Beach, Florida) will make her first start since 2016 on the official qualifying tour of the LPGA this week at the Murphy USA El Dorado Shootout.
Having spent this season and last on the big stage, she returns looking to capture some magic from her past success.
“I feel like I had a consistent year on the LPGA, but I missed six cuts each by one stroke and several of those I missed shooting even par or better,” said Stoelting, who is No. 117 on the LPGA Tour official money list. “Six shots could have been the difference of keeping my full card, instead I finish with conditional status for next year and the way status has changed, I need to go to Q-Series to better it.”
Individuals from Nos. 101-150 on the LPGA Tour official money list are exempt into Q-Series, which will take place at Pinehurst Resort from Oct. 22 through Nov. 3.
Meanwhile, Stoelting is also among the competitors in the field for the IOA Golf Classic from Sept. 28-30 in Longwood, Fla. at Alaqua Country Club. That means both of her Symetra Tour starts this year are at tournaments she won in 2015.
“There’s definitely a little incentive to perform well somewhere I’ve won before with a lot of great memories I can draw on,” Stoelting said. “I’m fortunate that I have the ability to play in Symetra Tour events leading up to Q-Series because it is the best preparation to keep my game ready. The talent is better each year and a lot of these girls will be at Q-Series. It will be good to stay in competitive mode, so come October I know I’ve done everything I could to stay sharp.”
With a goal of making enough money to get into the Symetra Tour Championship in Daytona Beach, Fla. from Oct. 4-7 at LPGA International, there is no better place to begin on that path than a familiar setting. Much like her first season on the LPGA in 2015 when Stoelting didn’t see the results she wanted and played in three Symetra Tour events before the LPGA Qualifying Tournament Final Stage, the Florida Southern College alumna now looks to Mystic Creek Golf Club in hopes of boosting her game.
“When I came to Mystic Creek in 2015, I absolutely fell in love with it and winning here changed everything for me,” said Stoelting. “Of course I would love to win again, but I also want to play consistent golf. I feel really great about my game, even though on paper it hasn’t been the best year for cuts. I’ve stayed in touch over the years with my host family and the tournament starter, John Ralston. He’s been a huge supporter of mine and texts me before almost every event. The community has really embraced me as their first champion and it feels like a home away from home.”