ALBANY, N.Y. — The 16th stop on the 2019 “Road to the LPGA” takes the Symetra Tour to Capital Hills at Albany in the Empire State for the first edition of The CDPHP Open from July 26-28. Previously known as the Fuccillo Kia Classic of NY, new title sponsor Capital District Physicians’ Health Plan, Inc. (CDPHP) takes over to keep women’s professional golf in the Capital Region for a 35th consecutive year.
From 1984-1998, the event was contested at Town of Colonie Golf Course in Schenectady before a one-year hiatus. Then it spent two years each at Western Turnpike Golf Course and Orchard Creek Golf Club, before settling in for good at Capital Hills Golf Course in 2004.
Greeting the 144-player field in the capital of New York is a total purse of $125,000. 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 $18,750. Defending champion Kendall Dye (Edmond, Oklahoma) is not among the competitors, as she was a 2018 Symetra Tour graduate. The victory in Albany was the first of two for the University of Oklahoma alumna last season and helped her finish at No. 7 in the Volvik Race for the Card.
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.
COLLEGIATE CONNECTIONS AT 16TH STOP
Two individuals with ties to New York institutions for higher education are featured among competition in the Empire State and players to keep an eye on once the event starts Friday.
Tournament sponsor exemption and amateur Sara Riso (Hamburg, New York) concluded her time at Siena College in the spring. Meanwhile, the lone Symetra Tour professional with a connection is 2014 Columbia University graduate Michelle Piyapattra (Eastvale, California). A three-time All-Ivy League First Team selection for the Lions, she was also named the 2012 Ivy League Player of the Year. Piyapattra ended her collegiate career with a 75.51 scoring average and six tournament wins.
“I love coming back to the East Coast and when we play anywhere in the state of New York, everybody is somehow connected to Columbia or New York City, so it gives a more local vibe,” said Piyapattra. “Being on the golf team at Columbia University and playing in the Ivy League created a strong appreciation for the game. After spending so much time in the city for school, going to the golf course for a relaxing and quiet round was a great break from the busy urban life.”
Now in her fifth year on the “Road to the LPGA,” Piyapattra has played the weekend in seven straight starts with four top-15 finishes and a season-best tied for fourth result at the Donald Ross Classic.
“I am proud to be a Columbia alumna and show it is possible to pursue a career in professional golf after graduating from such a tough academic university where there isn’t as great an emphasis on athletics,” Piyapattra said. “I was fortunate to have a supportive coach in Kari Williams, who really made an effort to provide the same opportunities that other golfers at top athletic programs would have. It would be so special for me to do well in Albany, especially knowing there are some CU Lions rooting for me.”
COUNTRIES (AND STATES) OF THE CDPHP OPEN
A total of 31 countries are represented this week at The CDPHP Open, led by the United States with 73 players then followed by Canada having the next highest of nine competitors.
“I have so much pride representing Israel and the Jewish people,” said Laetitia Beck (Caesarea, Israel), the lone native of Israel competing on the Symetra Tour. “Playing on the LPGA and the Symetra Tours reminds me of how strong my culture is, especially the support I receive from the Jewish communities in the United States and Canada. As the first Israeli on the LPGA, our flag is finally represented in women’s golf, but it also provides self-respect for the determined and motivated journey I took to get here.”
Individuals from 25 different states are also set to tee it up at Capital Hills Golf Course. Four players hail from the host state, while California boasts the most with 16.
“It’s really awesome being back in New York and I have so many great memories playing in junior events all across the state,” said Nannette Hill (Pelham Manor, New York). “When I was a kid, my dad took me to different tournaments and created some of my fondest memories. It’s extra special coming back to compete in New York, especially now as a professional representing this great state and my hometown.”
ROOKIES APLENTY IN THE EMPIRE STATE
Numerous professionals in their first year on the Symetra Tour have made the trek to Albany County, as 49 rookies are in the field and eager for the 16th event of the Symetra Tour season.
Among them is Sydney Legacy (Lexington, South Carolina), who ended No. 3 in Clemson University program history for career stroke average at 74.74. After missing the cut in each of her first five starts as a pro, Legacy has made it to the weekend three times over her last five events played. That stretch includes a season-best tied for 10th showing in the Danielle Downey Credit Union Classic.
“My rookie year has definitely been a learning experience, but it is nice having veteran players to help us out,” said Legacy. “It’s a cool feeling to have recorded my first top-10 and that provides great confidence for the rest of the season.”
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 15 tournaments in the books, the top-10 underwent some shifting following the fifth annual Danielle Downey Credit Union Classic. Seven members from the group are in Albany including Esther Lee (Los Alamitos, California), currently ranked No. 8 and coming off three straight top-five finishes.
“Last week was really important for the money list since we’re entering the final third of the year,” said Lee, who has six top-10 results this season. “Coming off another tied for third is definitely a confidence booster and I’ve been close to the top of the leaderboard for a few weeks now. I’m hoping to take that good momentum into the remaining events and eventually find the winner’s circle. Every shot from now on becomes even more important and one shot closer to achieving my ultimate goal.”
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.