FRENCH LICK, Ind. — The 14th stop on the 2019 “Road to the LPGA” takes the Symetra Tour to the Donald Ross Course at French Lick Resort in the Hoosier State for the third annual Donald Ross Classic from July 11-13.
Greeting the 144-player field in French Lick, Ind. is a total purse of $225,000. 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. The winner’s share for the event is $33,750.
Defending champion Stephanie Kono (Honolulu, Hawaii) is not among the competitors, as she finished tied for 39th at the inaugural LPGA Q-Series to earn Priority List Category 14 status for the 2019 LPGA Tour season. The victory was one of seven top-20 results for Kono last year.
Action gets underway at 7:30 a.m. ET all three days with play starting off No. 1 and No. 10 tees in the first and second round. Meanwhile, all groups will head off No. 1 tee in twosomes for the final round with a trophy presentation to follow on No. 18 green.
SEVERAL COLLEGIATE TIES AT 14TH STOP
Two individuals with ties to Indiana institutions for higher education are featured among the competition in the Hoosier State and are names to keep an eye on once the event starts Thursday.
Erin Harper (Dublin, Ohio) and tournament sponsor exemption Elizabeth Tong (Thornhill, Ontario, Canada) will don the Crimson & White of Indiana University. Meanwhile, just 60 miles down the road from the host venue in northern Kentucky is the University of Louisville. Laura Restrepo (Panama City, Panama) and Molly Skapik (Miamisburg, Ohio) are the two representatives for the Cardinals.
“I have great memories of the Donald Ross Course and am very excited to be back in Indiana this week,” said Harper, who graduated this spring and ended her time in Bloomington with a 74.16 career scoring average. “Indiana University gave me the opportunity to play college golf and grow. I love French Lick Resort and look forward to playing the course again. It’s great to be back in the Hoosier state.”
COUNTRIES (AND STATES) OF THE DONALD ROSS CLASSIC
A total of 33 countries are represented this week at the Donald Ross Classic, led by the United States with 78 players then followed by Spain, Mexico, Thailand and the Republic of Korea having the next highest of six competitors apiece.
“For me, it’s an honor to represent Argentina every week,” said Delfina Acosta (Comandante Nicanor Otamendi, Argentina), a 2019 rookie coming off a season-best tied for 20th showing in the Prasco Charity Championship. “Being away from home gives me extra motivation to play well and make my family proud. Hopefully one day we’ll see the Argentine flag flying on the LPGA Tour for a long time.”
Individuals from 25 different states are also set to tee it up on the Donald Ross Course at French Lick Resort. One player hails from the host state, while California boasts the most with 17.
“I’m looking forward to competing at one of my favorite courses, as well as have friends and family come watch me play,” said tournament sponsor exemption Taylor Howerton (Evansville, Indiana), the only native to Indiana in the field. “I’ve worked hard with my swing coach Brian Symonds to prepare for my first Symetra Tour event. I plan to play the best golf I can, knowing that will leave me satisfied with the outcome no matter what.”
ROOKIES APLENTY IN THE HOOSIER STATE
Numerous professionals in their first year on the Symetra Tour have made the trek to Orange County, as 42 rookies are in the field and eager for the 14th event of the Symetra Tour season.
Among them is Patty Tavatanakit (Bangkok, Thailand), a two-time Women’s Golf Coaches Association (WGCA) First Team All-American for UCLA. Gearing up for her fifth career start as a professional, she competed in the Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic last week as a tournament sponsor exemption and earned a tied for 15th result at 20-under par overall. The performance included an 18-hole tournament scoring record 11-under par 61 in the final round on Sunday.
“With two solid finishes in the last two weeks, it has provided a lot of trust and confidence in my game,” said Tavatanakit, who captured her best Symetra Tour result yet of solo second at the Prasco Charity Championship. “I feel like I can compete on either the LPGA or Symetra Tour, and both are great stages for me to improve my skills to become the best golfer I can. Playing in big events has shaped my game, both learning how to manage the course and a mental edge.”
VOLVIK RACE FOR THE CARD UPDATE
The Symetra Tour annually awards LPGA Tour membership to the top players on the Volvik Race for the Card money list at the end of the season and will usher in the next graduating class after 23 events on the 2019 calendar.
With 13 tournaments in the books, the top-10 underwent some shifting following the Prasco Charity Championship. Nine of the 10 members from the group are in French Lick including Julieta Granada (Asuncion, Paraguay), the current No. 4 making her first start since the Island Resort Championship.
“I’m looking forward to starting the second half of my season,” said Granada, who has not missed a cut in 10 starts this season with nine top-25 results. “The goal is still the same—finish inside the top-10 and secure a full LPGA Tour card for 2020. Excited to test my game this week at the Donald Ross Course.”
From 1999-2002, the official qualifying tour of the LPGA handed out three cards. Then from 2003-2007, that number increased to five before 10 were distributed starting in 2008. Since the inaugural year, a total of 147 players have graduated to the big stage.