DAYTONA BEACH, Florida, October 4, 2017 - The Symetra Tour, the official qualifying Tour for the LPGA, is in Daytona Beach for the final event of the 2017 season. The top 10 money-earners at the end of the Symetra Tour Championship will earn LPGA Tour cards for the 2018 season.
The Symetra Tour Championship is a 72-hole tournament that starts on Thursday, October 5 and concludes on Sunday, October 8. There will be a cut to the low 60 and ties following second-round play on Friday, October 6.
After 21 events in 14 states around the country, the top 108 rising stars in women’s golf are at LPGA International to vie for a share of the $200,000 purse and the winner’s payout of $30,000. The field includes players from the United States and 23 countries around the globe.
Play will start at 8:00 a.m. all four rounds. The final-round will be broadcast on Facebook Live from 1:00-3:00 p.m. with host Amy Rogers and analyst Gail Graham, a two-time LPGA Tour winner.
The battle to get into the top 10 will be as fierce as ever. While the top 10 has created more separation from the rest than in years past, everyone in the top 23 still has a mathematical chance to finish inside the top 10. If No. 23 on the money list, Laura Wearn (Charlotte, N.C.), wins the $30,000 she would move to $61,914, which is $114 more than No. 10, Emma Talley (Princeton, Ky.), has currently earned. Talley is $7,639 in front of No. 11 Daniela Darquea (Quito, Ecuador).
POTAWATOMI CUP EVENTS WIN ELOISE TRAINOR AWARD
There are four Symetra Tour tournaments that are sponsored by Potawatomi Nation tribes and they are all routinely considered some of the top events on Tour. The Potawatomi Cup was created four years ago as a way to sweeten the pot at the events sponsored by the tribes. Each year, a $40,000 pot of bonus money was awarded to players based on performance at the four events.
On Tuesday at the Daytona International Speedway, Symetra Tour Chief Business Officer Mike Nichols awarded the Eloise Trainor Award to the Potawatomi Nation tribes that support the Symetra Tour. The award is given annually to an individual or group that has made a significant contribution to women’s golf. The Symetra Tour established the award in 1999 in honor of the tour’s founder and former president, Eloise Trainor, who retired on June 23, 1999. Island Resort Championship Tournament Director, Sue Harris, was in Daytona Beach to accept the award on behalf of all the Potawatomi Cup tournaments.
“The Potawatomi Cup events are without question some of our best events on Tour and they have raised the bar for what it means to host a Symetra Tour event,” said Nichols. “They really make our players feel like superstars and deserve this award because they have helped so many women realize their LPGA dreams.”
There are nine players that have won Potawatomi Cup events currently competing on the LPGA Tour (Jackie Stoelting, Brooke Henderson, Sherman Santiwiwatthanaphong, Dani Holmqvist, Kim Kaufman, Laura Gonzalez Escallon, Madeleine Sheils, Min Seo Kwak and Annie Park).
The four current Potawatomi Cup events are the Four Winds Invitational in South Bend, Indiana, the Island Resort Championship in Harris, Michigan, the FireKeepers Casino Hotel Championship in Battle Creek, Michigan and the PHC Classic in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
The Island Resort Championship was the first Potawatomi event that came on board in 2011. They have given out nearly $900,000 in prize money over seven years. A year later, the Four Winds Invitational at Blackthorn Golf Club came to be. They have awarded $900,000 in prize money in six years. The FireKeepers Casino Hotel Championship was born in 2014 and has awarded $400,000 over four years. The PHC Classic in Milwaukee is the latest Potawatomi Cup event and has awarded $300,000 in prize money.
The Symetra Tour had a fifth Potawatomi event in 2014 and 2015 in Mayetta, Kansas at Prairie Band Casino & Resort and awarded $200,000.
Since 2011, the Potawatomi Cup events have awarded nearly $2.9 million dollars in prize money.
“The Potawatomi Nation tribes really get behind the Symetra Tour and each tribe has helped us attract other bands over the years,” said Nichols. “We just wanted to show them our appreciation and look forward to sending more players to the LPGA through Potawatomi events.”
LAURA WEARN WINS HEATHER WILBUR AWARD
Laura Wearn (Charlotte, N.C.) had back surgery in 2015 and was forced to stay off the golf course for much of the year. In 2016, she returned and captured her first win (Gosling’s Dark ‘n Stormy Classic) and this year has moved up to No. 23 on the Volvik Race for the Card money list. She has two top 10 finishes.
“I wasn’t expecting it, I was a little bit caught off guard, but it (the award) was a really nice surprise,” said Wearn, while on the range at LPGA International. “Last night, Tom Marra (Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer, Symetra) came up to me and said he knew Heather and what a great person she was so it is just an honor to get an award in her name.”
The Heather Wilbur Spirit Award was established in 2003 in honor of former Symetra Tour player Heather Wilbur, who lost her battle with leukemia in 2003. Wilbur was also the first recipient of the award. The award honors the player that best exemplifies dedication, courage, perseverance and love of the game and spirit toward achieving goals as a professional golfer.
Wearn is still just two years removed from back surgery. She played in just one Symetra Tour event in 2015.
“I wouldn’t expect when I had surgery two years ago that I’d be here today (with a chance at an LPGA card),” said Wearn. “I’m really lucky with my surgeon and physical therapist that have helped me get back. I feel 100 percent and I feel like I’m a better player than I was two years ago. I hope that next year is even better than this year.”
Allison Emrey, one of Wearn’s closest friends on Tour, presented her with the award. Emrey talked about Wearn’s love of the game and desire to play and chase her dream.
“I just really love the game and I love being around the people I play with,” said Wearn. “I’ve made so many great friends out here. I think it also helps that I grew up playing other sports. I didn’t focus on golf until high school and college so I haven’t gotten burned out. I’m lucky that each year I like it more and more.”
- 2016 – Ally McDonald
- 2015 – Casey Grice
- 2014 – Min Seo Kwak
- 2013 – Melissa Eaton
- 2012 – Nicole Jeray
- 2011 – Izzy Beisiegel
- 2010 – Mo Martin
- 2009 – Malinda Johnson
- 2008 – Katie Fraley
- 2007 – Jenny Hansen
- 2006 – Katie Connelly
- 2005 – Salimah Mussani
- 2004 – Lindsay Wright
- 2003 – Heather Wilbur
YU LIU WINS SYMETRA RISING AWARDYu Liu (Beijing, China), who ranks No. 8 on the Volvik Race for the Card money list, won the Symetra Rising Star award, which is given to the player that shows the most improvement from the year prior.
Liu is one of the hardest working players on Tour. She likely leads the Tour in hours spent in the practice areas. She also uses the mirrors in the hotel gyms from time-to-time to focus on her drivers.
“I’ve really tried to practice smart and put in the work in the right place,” said Liu, who won the Tullymore Classic earlier this season. “I’ve taken a lot of good advice from coaches, players and just try to learn from them. I always try to play with someone that is better than me and always try to learn.”
Liu has earned $71,354 this year in 20 starts. She has eight top 10 finishes. Liu finished 34th on the money list in 2016 and earned just $25,095.
“It’s a really great recognition for the past year because I’ve really done a lot of work in the offseason and during the season,” said Liu. “I always try to give my 100 percent every week and it has really paid off. Looking back a year ago at Q-School, I feel like a different player.”
Technically, Liu has made changes, but her confidence is at an all-time high on the course.
“I feel a lot more comfortable with my swing on the golf course and my short game has been a lot more consistent,” said Liu. “A year ago, I never thought I could be in contention every week, that was just really far away for me. This year, I feel like I always have a chance at a big week. It really feels good.”
Liu is more than $15,000 ahead of No. 11 on the money list and is in a great spot to secure her LPGA card.
“I’m really, really excited even though this is my sixth tournament in a row,” said Liu. “I feel like I haven’t gotten enough rest, but I am very pumped. I just can’t wait to get it started. I’m just hoping for top 10 and the LPGA.”
- 2016 - Laura Gonzalez Escallon
- 2015 - Brittany Benvenuto
- 2014 - Alice H. Kim
- 2013 - Melissa Eaton
- 2012 - Shasta Averyhardt
PENSKE AWARDS HANDED OUTSymetra Tour partner, Penske, also handed out the year-end driving awards at the pro-am party. Kendall Dye (Edmond, Oklahoma) won the Penske Total Driving Experience award while Natalie Sheary won the Penske Driving Accuracy Advantage award.
John Balan, Director of Penske Truck Leasing, presented the players with the awards.
Dye and Sheary will both receive $500 for winning the Penske awards.
Dye, who ranks 13th on the money list with one victory this season, ranks 42nd on Tour in driving accuracy and 20th in driving distance. Meanwhile, Sheary led the Tour in driving accuracy by hitting 92.1 percent of fairways.
“I have worked hard with my swing coach Andy O’Brien the last two seasons making my long game as consistent as possible,” said Sheary. “I am happy with the results so far, and am excited about the continued improvement that we look to make. Being recognized as one of the most accurate players on tour showcases that we are moving in the right direction in bringing my game to the next level. I am excited with our progress and hope to be able to add some additional distance during the off-season to compliment my current ball striking. As always it’s a team effort, and I am very proud to have Andy, Callaway Golf and my club-fitter Todd Daigneault’s continued support.