Laura Gonzalez Escallon and Ally McDonald are over 5,000 miles from Garden City, Kansas and the Garden City Charity Classic presented by Mariah Fund this week. They are both competing in the final LPGA major of the 2016 season – The Evian Championship at Evian-les-Bains, France.
They qualified for the major through the inaugural Symetra Tour qualifier at the FireKeepers Casino Hotel Championship in Battle Creek, Michigan. The top two finishers earned exemptions and Gonzalez Escallon won while McDonald came in second.
“It feels really good to be here, I’m really excited," said Gonzalez Escallon, who ranks 10th on the Symetra Tour’s Volvik Race for the Card money list. “Everything is so beautiful and organized."
Gonzalez Escallon played in Garden City last week so she flew to Evian on Monday and had to make a pair of connections. She arrived in France on Tuesday and played nine holes on Wednesday morning.
“I walked the course yesterday and watched some of my friends play to get an idea of how the course plays,” said Gonzalez Escallon. “The rest of the day today will be a practice day.”
Gonzalez Escallon, who hails from nearby Belgium, will have her longtime coach on her bag in France.
“He hasn’t seen me play since the start of the Symetra Tour season,” said the former Purdue All-American. “We’ve been working hard on FaceTime, Skype, video so it is really good to work together in person.”
It will be her first LPGA Tour event.
Meanwhile, McDonald did not play last week in Garden City and flew out early to France to get acclimated.
“I’m ready and I think my game is where it needs to be,” explained McDonald, who has six top 10 finishes on the Symetra Tour this year. “I’ve heard all about the greens and how challenging they are so I think it will be all about placement. I’m just out here to relax, have fun, enjoy the views and hopefully put four really good rounds together.”
McDonald, who is from the small town of Fulton, Mississippi, is experiencing her first trip outside the United States.
“The flight from Atlanta to Amsterdam was so long and I tried to sleep, but I think I slept all of Saturday when I got here,” said McDonald. “Playing overseas is a little different, but it has been a good adjustment so far.”
This is not McDonald’s first LPGA major championship. She played in the 2014 and 2015 U.S. Women’s Open’s.
“My first U.S. Open was my first time being around everyone and it was a very star-struck experience,” admitted McDonald. “I grew up watching these players, but now that I have four LPGA events under my belt so you just deal with it and think that I’m going to be out here next year competing with them.”
McDonald currently ranks third on the Volvik Race for the Card money list and is in a comfortable spot to finish in the top 10.
“I’m going to stick to my game plan, which has worked so far this year,” said McDonald. “The golf courses are a little different (on Symetra Tour), but if I play the way I am capable, I can score out here.”
McDonald said she’d like to make the cut and thinks a realistic goal would be to squeeze into the top 30.