GARDEN CITY, Kan. — The 20th stop on the 2019 “Road to the LPGA” takes the Symetra Tour to Buffalo Dunes Golf Course in the Sunflower State for the sixth annual Garden City Charity Classic from September 6-8. It is the second tournament in the Million Dollar March, the stretch of five events to end the season with a cumulative purse of $1 million.
Greeting the 132-player field in Garden City is a total purse of $175,000. 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 $26,250.
Defending champion Allyssa Ferrell (Edgerton, Wisconsin) is not among the competitors, as she retired from professional golf following the FireKeepers Casino Hotel Championship last month. The victory in western Kansas was one of four top-20 finishes for the Michigan State University alumna and helped her end the year at No. 25 in the Volvik Race for the Card.
Action gets underway at 8:00 a.m. CT all three days with play starting off No. 1 and No. 10 tees in each round.
FOUR SPONSOR EXEMPTIONS ROUND OUT FIELD
Rounding out the competitors in western Kansas is four tournament sponsor exemptions in Portland Rosen (Sugar Land, Texas), Kelly Whaley (Palm Beach Gardens, Florida), Darian Zachek (Deming, New Mexico) and Maddy Rayner (Southlake, Texas).
Whaley made her professional debut in July at the Danielle Downey Credit Union Classic and ended tied for 20th after sharing the 18-hole lead. This will be her third start on the Symetra Tour in 2019 and also continue to help prepare the University of North Carolina alumna for Stage II of the LPGA Qualifying Tournament next month.
“The strong play on the Symetra Tour affords all players the chance to test their skills against top players that share the goal of competing on the LPGA Tour,” said Whaley, who finished 4-over par in Sioux Falls last week. “Each time I have the opportunity to play at this level, I learn more about my game and how to improve my skills. Being on the road is also something that is becoming easier and I’m so appreciative of the sponsors providing me these chances.”
Meanwhile, the event is extra special for Rosen as her father Rocket continues to battle Lou Gehrig’s disease, or ALS. It will also mark the third time she tees it up on the “Road to the LPGA” this season.
“My dad surprised me here a year ago, so it holds a close place in my heart,” Rosen said. “I have such a burning desire to be competing again and that’s why I have sent my applications to sponsors of several tournaments. I’m so thankful for this opportunity and glad they took a chance on me. I have made great friends in Garden City that I still keep in touch with and can’t wait to be back.”
COUNTRIES (AND STATES) OF THE GARDEN CITY CHARITY CLASSIC
A total of 34 countries are represented this week at the Garden City Charity Classic, led by the United States with 71 players and then followed by the Republic of Korea having the next highest of seven competitors.
“Every time I get announced on the tee representing England is one of the best feelings in the world,” said Holly Clyburn (Cleethorpes, England), who owns a season-best tied for second at The CDPHP Open. “I’ve been fortunate to don the colors of England and Great Britain at both the amateur and professional levels, and it truly never gets old. Support from home is amazing and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
Individuals from 26 different states are also set to tee it up at Willow Run Golf Course. Zero players hail from the host state, while California boasts the most with 15.
“It is always fun to be able to play somewhere within a decent driving distance from home,” said Becca Huffer (Denver, Colorado), the Symetra Tour professional that is closest in proximity to her hometown. “I’ve always liked the course at Buffalo Dunes and it is similar to courses I grew up playing. The wind can definitely pick up in Garden City, which is a lot like Colorado in the spring so feeling more comfortable in those conditions is nice.”
ROOKIES APLENTY IN THE SUNFLOWER STATE
Numerous professionals in their first year on the Symetra Tour have made the trek to Finney County, as 36 rookies are in the field and eager for the 20th event of the Symetra Tour season.
Among them is Valerie Tanguay (Saint-Hyacinthe, Quebec, Canada). The University of Oklahoma alumna won the 2019 Southwest Louisiana Open on the Women’s All Pro Tour to finish No. 2 in the Series I Race and earn exemption into the IOA Championship presented by Morongo Casino Resort & Spa. A tied for 17th result there in March allowed her to reshuffle on the priority list and make 10 total starts to date.
“Starting the year with WAPT really helped grow my game and get me ready for the Symetra Tour, while also learning how to travel and simply what professional golf offered,” said Tanguay. “I would say rookie year out here has been filled with ups and downs, fun times and challenging times. All in all, I couldn’t be happier with how far I’ve come and the future I have in this sport.”
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 19 tournaments in the books, the top-10 underwent some shifting following the fifth annual Sioux Falls GreatLIFE Challenge. Eight of the 10 members from the group are in Garden City including Esther Lee (Los Alamitos, California), currently ranked No. 8 with eight top-10s across 17 total starts.
“Down to the final four events of the season and this tournament means just as much as any of them, especially with the purse increase,” said Lee, set to make her first career start in the Garden City Charity Classic. “Being inside the top-10 means I just have more work to do to ensure I am there at the end of the season. Having that target on my back will help further prepare me for the next stage and as long as I handle my business with solid finishes, the rest will take care of itself.”
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.