WINTER HAVEN, Fla.— A total of 132 players will take on the challenge that the Country Club of Winter Haven presents starting Friday with the first round of the 11th annual Florida’s Natural Charity Classic.
Three featured groups highlight the competition for the second event of the 2019 Symetra Tour season.
Daniela Iacobelli, Lauren Kim, Erica Popson (No. 1 tee, 9:06 a.m.)
The defending champion of Florida’s Natural Charity Classic jumpstarts this group, as Lauren Kim (Los Altos, California) earned her first professional win in Winter Haven last year. An alumna of Stanford University, she led the Cardinal to the program’s first NCAA Division I Women’s Golf National Championship title in 2015 and is coming off a T31 result at the inaugural SKYiGOLF Championship.
Meanwhile, Daniela Iacobelli (Melbourne, Florida) was runner-up at the 2018 edition of the Florida’s Natural Charity Classic. The 2007 NCAA Division II Women’s Golf National Championship individual title winner for Florida Institute of Technology, Iacobelli is a two-time Symetra Tour champion at the 2012 Symetra Tour Championship and 2015 Tullymore Classic with a total of 19 career top-10 finishes.
Rounding out the group is local product Erica Popson (Davenport, Florida). A University of Tennessee alumna, Popson grew up 15 miles from this week’s tournament venue and her best performance at the Florida’s Natural Charity Classic is T5 in 2017. She also stepped into the winner’s circle on the “Road to the LPGA” for the first time at the 2016 Symetra Classic.
Demi Runas, Karen Chung, Leona Maguire (No. 1 tee, 1:35 p.m.)
Each player in this trio had a solid showing in North Port for the first event of the season and will be looking to build off the momentum. Demi Runas (Torrance, California) ended week one T10. The three-time Big West Conference Player of the Year while at the University of California, Davis was a 2014 Symetra Tour graduate and hopes to continue emulating past success.
In addition, Karen Chung (Livingston, New Jersey) is coming off a big season opener where she finished solo fourth. Entering her second year on the Symetra Tour, Chung finished at No. 17 in the Volvik Race for the Card last season thanks to three top-10s, including a season-best T2 at the French Lick Resort for the Donald Ross Classic.
Finally, Leona Maguire (County Cavan, Ireland) is another player to keep an eye on as she went T25 to kick off her first full season on the Symetra Tour. A four-time Women’s Golf Coaches Association (WGCA) First Team All-American for Duke University, Maguire made her Symetra Tour debut in June 2018 when she finished T3 at the Forsyth Classic.
Sharmila Nicollet, Paula Reto, Amy Boulden (No. 10 tee, 9:28 a.m.)
When she tees it up on Friday, Sharmila Nicollet (Bangalore, India) will be making her first career start on the Symetra Tour. She turned pro in 2009 at the age of 18 and is a 15-time Women’s Golf Association of India (WGAI) winner, as well as the 2010 Player of the Year.
Another member of this featured group is Paula Reto (Bloemfontein, South Africa), who turned pro in June 2013 and has competed primarily on the LPGA Tour since 2014, recording a career-best solo third result that year at the Yokohama Tire LPGA Classic. Reto also represented her native country at the 2016 Summer Olympic Games where she ended T16.
Amy Boulden (Llandudno, Wales) is also in her first full campaign on the Symetra Tour and started things off with a T34 showing last week. The 2014 Ladies European Tour (LET) Rookie of the Year, Boulden finished T1 at the Second Stage of the 2018 LPGA Qualifying Tournament to advance to the inaugural LPGA Q-Series at Pinehurst Resort.