The 18th stop of the Symetra Tour season and third in the Million Dollar Drive takes the official qualifying tour of the LPGA Tour to the Natural State for the fourth annual Murphy USA El Dorado Shootout at Mystic Creek Golf Club from Sept. 14-16.
Greeting the 132-player field in El Dorado, Ark. is a total purse of $150,000, tied for the eighth highest on Tour this season. 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.
“We’re getting down to crunch time and the race to earn LPGA Tour membership is tighter than it ever has been in recent memory,” said Mike Nichols, the Chief Business Officer of the Symetra Tour. “An immaculate venue awaits the competitors in El Dorado, as well as a sponsor in Murphy USA that has made a goal of helping grow women’s professional golf. It should be an all-around fantastic week.”
With only four 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 in Arkansas, as well as 33 of the top-35 players on the money list. In addition, 28 different countries and 23 states will be represented.
Meanwhile, the event is particularly special for University of Arkansas alumna Regina Plasencia (Guadalajara, Mexico). One of two competitors with ties to the host state—the other being sponsor exemption Summar Roachell (Conway, Arkansas)—she is eager to get back to an area she knows and loves.
“I am always excited to be in Arkansas because it feels like home here,” said Plasencia, currently No. 65 in the Volvik Race for the Card. “I played for the University of Arkansas for four years and now I’m here playing as a professional, it’s unbelievable. I can’t wait to start the tournament and hear those ‘Go Hogs’ cheers again on the course like my college days.”
Furthermore, most recent Symetra Tour champion Allyssa Ferrell (Edgerton, Wisconsin) looks to become the first two-time winner this year following her victory at the Garden City Charity Classic.
“I have not made a cut here, so I hope since I have been playing better that I don’t look like an idiot again,” Ferrell said laughingly. “The weird part is I love the course and it is so pretty, so unique and different, but every year it hates me. I look like I don’t know how to play golf when I come to El Dorado. I’m going to try to do the same thing I have been doing for the last month.”
Action gets underway at 7:15 a.m. CT for the first and second rounds on Friday and Saturday, respectively. Final round play is set for a 7:30 a.m. CT start and all three days, groups will begin off No. 1 and No. 10 tees in threesomes.
STOELTING AMONG COMPETITORS IN THE NATURAL STATE
A four-time Symetra Tour champion with 27 career top-10 finishes, Jackie Stoelting (Vero Beach, Florida) will make her first start since 2016 on the official qualifying tour of the LPGA this week at the Murphy USA El Dorado Shootout.
Having spent this season and last on the big stage, she returns looking to capture some magic from her past success.
“I feel like I had a consistent year on the LPGA, but I missed six cuts each by one stroke and several of those I missed shooting even par or better,” said Stoelting, who is No. 117 on the LPGA Tour official money list. “Six shots could have been the difference of keeping my full card, instead I finish with conditional status for next year and the way status has changed, I need to go to Q-Series to better it.”
Individuals from Nos. 101-150 on the LPGA Tour official money list are exempt into Q-Series, which will take place at Pinehurst Resort from Oct. 22 through Nov. 3.
Meanwhile, Stoelting is also among the competitors in the field for the IOA Golf Classic from Sept. 28-30 in Longwood, Fla. at Alaqua Country Club. That means both of her Symetra Tour starts this year are at tournaments she won in 2015.
“There’s definitely a little incentive to perform well somewhere I’ve won before with a lot of great memories I can draw on,” Stoelting said. “I’m fortunate that I have the ability to play in Symetra Tour events leading up to Q-Series because it is the best preparation to keep my game ready. The talent is better each year and a lot of these girls will be at Q-Series. It will be good to stay in competitive mode, so come October I know I’ve done everything I could to stay sharp.”
With a goal of making enough money to get into the Symetra Tour Championship in Daytona Beach, Fla. from Oct. 4-7 at LPGA International, there is no better place to begin on that path than a familiar setting. Much like her first season on the LPGA in 2015 when Stoelting didn’t see the results she wanted and played in three Symetra Tour events before the LPGA Qualifying Tournament Final Stage, the Florida Southern College alumna now looks to Mystic Creek Golf Club in hopes of boosting her game.
“When I came to Mystic Creek in 2015, I absolutely fell in love with it and winning here changed everything for me,” said Stoelting. “Of course I would love to win again, but I also want to play consistent golf. I feel really great about my game, even though on paper it hasn’t been the best year for cuts. I’ve stayed in touch over the years with my host family and the tournament starter, John Ralston. He’s been a huge supporter of mine and texts me before almost every event. The community has really embraced me as their first champion and it feels like a home away from home.”
VOLVIK RACE FOR THE CARD UPDATE
After stepping into the winner’s circle for the first time in her professional career at the Garden City Charity Classic, Allyssa Ferrell launched 48 spots in the Volvik Race for the Card to No. 21 to earn our “Move of the Week.”
Her previous season-best finish was tied for eighth at the Sioux Falls GreatLIFE Challenge the week prior.
“The beginning of the season was not going well and when you aren’t making cuts week after week, you start to think about how long you are going to do this, especially being my fourth year,” said Ferrell, who has accumulated $33,896 across 16 starts this season. “I decided to keep fighting, finish out the year and see what happens. It paid off, my game showed up when I started working a little harder and focusing a little more on putting and fine-tuning my swing.”
The top-10 in the Volvik Race for the Card after the Symetra Tour Championship earn full LPGA Tour membership for 2019. Meanwhile, those from Nos. 11-30 qualify for Q-Series. With four events remaining on the schedule, the battle is getting into the heat of the race.
Prior to the 18th tournament on the official qualifying tour of the LPGA, the top-10 in the Volvik Race for the Card saw a decent amount of changes. Dottie Ardina (Laguna, Philippines) still holds a commanding advantage at No. 1 with $74,616. From there the same three players follow in succession starting with Linnea Ström (Hovas, Sweden) at $59,939, then Stephanie Meadow (Jordanstown, Northern Ireland) just $1,148 back of that mark and Charlotte Thomas (Guildford, England).
Checking in at No. 5 is Elizabeth Szokol (Winnetka, Illinois) after a tied for fifth result in the Garden City Charity Classic. The showing moved her up two places in the standings, having earned $53,878 through 16 events played. Behind the University of Virginia alumna is Jenny Haglund (Karlstad, Sweden), who stays put, and Isi Gabsa (Munich, Germany), down two spots from her previous position. A difference of just $1,960 stands between Szokol and Gabsa.
New to the group is Pavarisa Yoktuan (Nakhon Si Thammarat, Thailand), making her top-10 debut this season at No. 8 with $49,220 in season prize money. Rounding out the upper tier is Stephanie Kono (Honolulu, Hawaii) and Eun Jeong Seong (Yongin, Republic of Korea).
“I’m really happy for what I have accomplished the last two weeks and bumped up my ranking to No. 8,” said Yoktuan, who is coming off back-to-back top-five finishes. “This is my first time being in the top-10 this season and I’m very motivated to play the last four events well and secure my full LPGA Tour card for next year.”
Every member of the top-10 is in El Dorado, Ark. this week for the Murphy USA El Dorado Shootout from Sept. 14-16 at Mystic Creek Golf Club.
“Two months ago I wasn’t even thinking about being in the top-30,” Ferrell said. “I was just worried about being in the top-80 to keep my status for next year. Now, focusing on one tournament at a time and not getting too far ahead is the key. I want to stay in the moment because once you starting thinking about other things, that’s when you put pressure on yourself.”
MURPHY USA EL DORADO SHOOTOUT – PAST CHAMPIONS AND RUNNERS-UP
2017: Hannah Green, 205 (-11); Celine Boutier, 206 (-10)
2016: Madelene Sagstrom, 209 (-7); Becca Huffer, 211 (-5)
2015: Jackie Stoelting*, 213 (-3); Ally McDonald, 216 (E)
*Winner as a LPGA member
MURPHY USA EL DORADO SHOOTOUT – TOURNAMENT SCORING RECORDS
18 holes: 64 (-8), Hannah Green in 2017 (Final Round)
36 holes: 134 (-10), Dottie Ardina in 2017
54 holes: 205 (-11), Hannah Green in 2017
2018 SYMETRA TOUR TOURNAMENT WINNERS IN THE FIELD (16 of 17):
Lauren Kim (Florida’s Natural Charity Classic), Stephanie Meadow (IOA Championship presented by Morongo Casino Resort & Spa), Elizabeth Szokol (IOA Invitational), Vicky Hurst (Self Regional Healthcare Foundation Women’s Health Classic), Jenny Haglund (Symetra Classic), Louise Ridderstrom (Valley Forge Invitational), Maia Schechter (Four Winds Invitational), Isi Gabsa (Forsyth Classic presented by Decatur Park District), Ruixin Liu (Island Resort Championship), Muni He (Prasco Charity Championship), Stephanie Kono (Donald Ross Classic), Eun Jeong Seong (Danielle Downey Credit Union Classic), Kendall Dye (Fuccillo Kia Classic of NY), Marta Sanz Barrio (FireKeepers Casino Hotel Championship), Linnea Ström (Sioux Falls GreatLIFE Challenge), Allyssa Ferrell (Garden City Charity Classic)
2018 SYMETRA TOUR ROOKIES IN THE FIELD (29):
Lakareber Abe, Pajaree Anannarukarn, Matilda Castren, Sandy Choi, Youngin Chun, Casey Danielson, Fatima Fernandez Cano, Brenda Gonzalez, Jenny Haglund, Muni He, Nuria Iturrios, Cheyenne Knight, Huize Lian, Leona Maguire, Maddie McCrary, Lindsey McCurdy, Morgane Metraux, Haley Mills, Anneliese Newell, Wad Phaewchimplee, Lucia Polo, Krystal Quihuis, Summar Roachell, Eun Jeong Seong, Linnea Ström, Karolina Vlckova, Samantha Wagner, Celina Yuan, Panitta Yusabai
SPONSOR INVITES (3):
Alexis Belton, Brenda Gonzalez, Summar Roachell
2018 STATISTICAL LEADERS (through September 12)
Official Money: Dottie Ardina, $74,616
Scoring Average: Dottie Ardina, 70.105
Driving Distance Average: Anne Van Dam, 297.450
Eagles: Desiree Dubreuil, 7
Birdies: Stephanie Meadow, 184
Greens in Regulation: Natalie Sheary, 84.3%
2018 AWARD STANDINGS
Symetra Player of the Year: Dottie Ardina
Rookie of the Year: Linnea Ström
2018 WINS BY COUNTRY (17 tournaments, 17 different winners from 7 countries)
7 – United States (Lauren Kim, Elizabeth Szokol, Vicky Hurst, Maia Schechter, Stephanie Kono, Kendall Dye, Lauren Coughlin, Allyssa Ferrell)
3 – Sweden (Jenny Haglund, Louise Ridderstrom, Linnea Strom)
2 – China (Ruixin Liu, Muni He)
1 – Northern Ireland (Stephanie Meadow)
1 – Germany (Isi Gabsa)
1 – Republic of Korea (Eun Seong Jeong)
1 – Spain (Marta Sanz Barrio)
2018 WINS BY PLAYER (17 tournaments, 17 players)
1: Lauren Kim (Florida’s Natural Charity Classic)
1: Stephanie Meadow (IOA Championship presented by Morongo Casino Resort & Spa)
1: Elizabeth Szokol (IOA Invitational)
1: Vicky Hurst (Self Regional Healthcare Foundation Women’s Health Classic)
1: Jenny Haglund (Symetra Classic)
1: Louise Ridderstrom (Valley Forge Invitational)
1: Maia Schechter (Four Winds Invitational)
1: Isi Gabsa (The Forsyth Classic presented by the Decatur Park District)
1: Ruixin Liu (Island Resort Championship)
1: Muni He (Prasco Charity Championship)
1: Stephanie Kono (Donald Ross Classic at French Lick Resort)
1: Eun Jeong Seong (Danielle Downey Credit Union Classic)
1: Kendall Dye (Fuccillo Kia Classic of NY)
1: Lauren Coughlin* (PHC Classic)
1: Marta Sanz Barrio (FireKeepers Casino Hotel Championship)
1: Linnea Ström (Sioux Falls GreatLIFE Challenge)
1: Allyssa Ferrell (Garden City Charity Classic at Buffalo Dunes)
*Winner as a LPGA member
FIRST-TIME WINNERS (15)
Lauren Kim (Florida’s Natural Charity Classic), Stephanie Meadow (IOA Championship presented by Morongo Casino Resort & Spa), Elizabeth Szokol (IOA Invitational), Jenny Haglund (Symetra Classic), Louise Ridderstrom (Valley Forge Invitational), Maia Schechter (Four Winds Invitational), Isi Gabsa (The Forsyth Classic presented by the Decatur Park District), Ruixin Liu (Island Resort Championship), Muni He (Prasco Charity Championship), Stephanie Kono (Donald Ross Classic at French Lick Resort), Eun Jeong Seong (Danielle Downey Credit Union Classic), Lauren Coughlin as a LPGA Tour member (PHC Classic), Marta Sanz Barrio (FireKeepers Casino Hotel Championship), Linnea Ström (Sioux Falls GreatLIFE Challenge), Allyssa Ferrell (Garden City Charity Classic at Buffalo Dunes)