LONGWOOD, Fla. — There’s something special about being a defending champion at a tournament and from Sept. 28-30 at Alaqua Country Club, two past winners of the IOA Golf Classic will tee it up as part of the 108-player field.
In 2014, it was Kendall Dye (Edmond, Oklahoma) raising the trophy in the Sunshine State at 11-under par overall.
“Experience is everything, knowing the golf course and how it could change from the morning to afternoon conditions,” said Dye, who currently resides in Tampa, just over 100 miles from this week’s host venue.
Coming off her second win of the Symetra Tour season and fourth career victory on the official qualifying tour of the LPGA Tour, Dye is hoping to continue the run of good fortune.
“Winning is addictive and once you accomplish it, you see yourself doing it more and more because it seems more attainable,” Dye said. “I’ve had success here, my caddy has won twice here since he is a professional golfer. You need to be smart and place yourself, make the putts.”
Meanwhile, Jackie Stoelting (Vero Beach, Florida) captured the third edition of this event in 2015. She went 12-under par overall that year to secure her second career Symetra Tour win.
“I love the course and it’s not far from home, so I have family and friends who are able to come watch,” said Stoelting. “This was my first win with my dad on the bag and he will be caddying again. Hopefully we can have a repeat of a few years ago.”
Currently No. 118 on the LPGA Tour official money list, Stoelting is in the 101-150 range that will be exempt into Q-Series from Oct. 22 through Nov. 3 at Pinehurst Resort. Now set to make her second start this year on the Symetra Tour, Stoelting has two objectives she is trying to achieve: stay in competitive form and work her way into the Symetra Tour Championship.
“I’m fortunate that I can keep playing out here to keep momentum going and my game is feeling great,” Stoelting said. “The course is really tight and driving accuracy is key. That is one of my best stats, so as long as I can keep that up I’ll be able to give myself lots of chances. It’s always fun returning to a course you’ve won at, to draw back on those memories.”
THAMMARAKS DONATES WINNINGS TO MEMORIAL FUND
Before a tied for 35th finish in the Guardian Championship on the Senator Course at Capitol Hill of the Robert Trent Jones (RTJ) Golf Trail, Prima Thammaraks (Bangkok, Thailand) knew she was playing for something greater than herself no matter the result.
Following the tragic passing of Celia Barquin Arozamena (Puente San Miguel, Spain) last week, the lone Iowa State University alumna on the Symetra Tour found it difficult to process.
“She was in my thoughts a lot of times on the golf course,” said Thammaraks. “With everything that happened, it was really hard to function or get back into a routine. By the time Friday came, I honestly didn’t know how I was going to play. All I could think about was her and what she would have wanted was for us to do our best.”
The result in Prattville, Ala. earned Thammaraks $1,198 and moved her up one spot in the Volvik Race for the Card to No. 38. However, none of that mattered in a moment where all she went back to was losing a fellow member of the Cyclones women’s golf program and someone she hosted on a recruiting visit to Ames, Iowa.
So she did something about it, donating her winnings to the “Remembering Celia Memorial Fund” with the collections directed to the family of Barquin Arozamena to honor her memory.
“It’s not the amount of money that really counts, but everything I did was for her and it only feels right,” Thammaraks said.
What also has meaning is the Iowa State hats that New Era donated and players wore last week, and will continue to sport the rest of the season. Even more, it’s the the red and yellow memorial ribbons, which keep the legacy of Barquin Arozamena alive and well.
“I’m going to keep the ribbon on my putter cover and every time I see it, I’m going to think about her,” Thammaraks said. “It’s kind of a wake-up call. We complain about things—tournament schedule, courses, weather—but you’re out here doing the thing you love most. Celia did that better than anybody else until her very last day. Every time you want to complain, think about that. The only thing you can do is represent her and carry on what she stood for.”
MCPHERSON PLAYS WITH GOOSEN IN PRO-AM EVENT
It’s not everyday a two-time U.S. Open champion plays in a Pro-Am event, but that was the case today as Retief Goosen paired with Kristy McPherson (Conway, South Carolina) to form a dynamic duo at Alaqua Country Club.
Goosen captured the 2001 and 2004 U.S. Open. The South African also found himself in the top-10 of the Official World Golf Ranking for over 250 weeks between 2001 and 2007.
“It was really cool, makes your Pro-Am a little different,” said McPherson, currently No. 29 in the Volvik Race for the Card. “I always enjoy Pro-Am days, you never really know who you are going to get and then to get a two-time U.S. Open champion, made my day very easy. You can definitely see why he has won 36 times as a professional worldwide.”
While Goosen may have not played in five weeks, McPherson said he doesn’t miss the middle of the clubface very often. Seeing how he competes might have just been the inspiration she needs to make a charge this weekend at the fifth annual IOA Golf Classic.
“I didn’t want to make him feel like he was in a Pro-Am or pick his brain too much, but to watch him and his process on a complete day-off where he is not grinding at all, his routine and how he approached every shot, golf course management, it was awesome,” McPherson said. “He still does better than everybody else is going to do and you can learn from that, especially how he stays in it. To get to watch someone that can hit the shots and control the ball the way he can, the sound was different and it was a lot of fun to sit back and watch.”