LONGWOOD, Fla. — The 20th stop of the Symetra Tour season and fifth in the Million Dollar Drive takes the official qualifying tour of the LPGA Tour to the Sunshine State for the fifth annual IOA Golf Classic at Alaqua Country Club from Sept. 28-30.
Greeting the 108-player field in Longwood, Fla. is a total purse of $150,000, tied for the eighth highest on Tour this year. 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.
“Insurance Office of America (IOA) continues to be an active supporter of women’s equality and leadership initiatives by serving as title sponsor for three signature events on the Symetra Tour again this year,” said Mike Nichols, the Chief Business Officer of the Symetra Tour. “As we near the end of another season, we are excited to showcase IOA and their backing of these women pursuing their dreams to play on the LPGA Tour.”
With only two 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, as well as 44 of the top-45 players on the money list. In addition, 26 different countries and 22 states will be represented.
“It meant a lot to me to win and by then I had already secured my Tour card, but just to finish the season with some great results really helped me with the start of this year on the LPGA,” said Green, who has made the cut in 11 of 21 events as a rookie on the LPGA Tour, including a season-best solo third finish at the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open. “I think you have to keep the feeling in the last two events the same as the first two events. It’s a lot easier said than done, but will help with the pressure.”
Meanwhile, the event is particularly special for Florida native Carlie Carr (Casselberry, Florida). One of 10 competitors to call the host state home, she is eager to get back to an area she knows and loves.
“It feels great to be able to play in front of my home crowd,” said Carr, currently No. 56 in the Volvik Race for the Card. “Having my family and friends at Alaqua Country Club to support me this week is awesome. It kind of feels like I have a home-field advantage.”
Action gets underway at 8 a.m. ET each of the three rounds with play beginning off No. 1 and No. 10 tees for the first and second round on Friday and Saturday, respectively. All groups will head off No. 1 tee in twosomes for the final round.
GUO EARNS PKBGT EXEMPTION
One of the individuals in the IOA Golf Classic field is 17-year-old Sophie Guo (Xianju, China), who earned the Peggy Kirk Bell Girls Golf Tour (PKBGT) exemption into the event through her victory at the IOA Golf Classic Junior Qualifier on Sunday, Sept. 9.
Hosted at Alaqua Country Club, Guo posted back-to-back rounds of 2-under par 69 to finish at 4-under par overall and win her debut PKBGT event by four strokes. She also familiarized herself with this week’s host venue.
“It was an amazing experience to play with all the great golfers,” said Guo, who is set to make her first start in a professional tournament at the IOA Golf Classic. “To win the IOA Golf Classic Junior Qualifier was my goal at the start of the event. I’m so blessed and thankful that I played two solid rounds of golf and was able to win.”
An attendee of The First Academy in Orlando, Guo works with swing coach Cameron McCormick and fitness coach Craig Davies to refine her game in the pursuit of someday reaching the highest level. She said the experience of playing on the Symetra Tour will be a true highlight in her career so far.
“I’m really excited to play in my first Symetra Tour event and to meet professionals on the Tour,” Guo said. “I can’t wait for this once-in-a-lifetime experience, which brings me closer to reaching my ultimate goal.”
In addition, Guo pointed to the relationship between the Symetra Tour and PKBGT as one that truly allows aspiring professionals to reach for the stars.
“For young golfers like me, it’s truly amazing and great that we get a chance to qualify for the tournament we could only dream of before,” said Guo. “PKBGT is an amazing supporter that helps many young girls reach their goals. Although school takes a lot of my time, I still find time to work on my game and have been practicing hard to prepare.”