The top women golfers at Stoney Point
HURST CAPTURES 8TH SYMETRA TOUR WIN, MOST ALL-TIME
GREENWOOD, S.C. — A final round 5-under par 67 propelled 11th year professional Vicky Hurst (Melbourne, Florida) to victory today at The Links at Stoney Point in the last Self Regional Healthcare Foundation Women’s Health Classic.
“This one feels very special. It’s Mother’s Day and my mom was caddying for me,” said Hurst, who carded four birdies, an eagle and a bogey today. “It was great to come out with a win with her on the bag. I played really solid all week and I was really proud of myself staying with a steady game.”
At 9-under par overall, the victory now gives Hurst eight career Symetra Tour wins, the most in Tour history. In addition, she becomes the first American to win this event in its five-year tenure.
“That sounds pretty good, I didn’t know that,” said Hurst, who captured her first Symetra Tour win at the 2008 Jalapeño Golf Classic. “Hopefully I can keep that up and continue to do that on the LPGA Tour.”
For Hurst’s mother Koko, seeing her daughter win on Mother’s Day was extra special.
“We’re looking for this moment for a long time,” said Koko. “I’m glad that she’s coming back from wrist injury and finally there’s no pain. Slowly she’s gaining confidence. She be where she belong. I just look at her as my daughter and want her to do well.”
Entering the day, Hurst was tied for the lead at 4-under par overall with Dottie Ardina (Laguna, Philippines) and Jenny Haglund (Karlstad, Sweden). The two comprised the final pairing, with Hurst in the penultimate group.
Haglund was consistent the entire round, using three birdies and one bogey to shoot 2-under par 70 and finish tied for third with three others at 6-under par. As for Ardina, she approached No. 18 green having reached the par-5 in two, needing to make the putt for eagle.
“My caddy told me after I hit my second shot,” said Ardina, who went 4-under par today to finish in solo second at 8-under. “He didn’t tell me that before my second shot which is good, or I would have hit it somewhere else. I gave myself a good chance. Vicky really did good today.”
The win earns Hurst a winner’s share of $30,000 and launches her into the No. 1 position in the Volvik Race for the Card, with $34,007 made in two Symetra Tour starts this season. Meanwhile, a total of 10 players finished at 4-under par overall or better and they represented seven different countries.
MOTHER’S DAY MAGIC
While Vicky Hurst came away the winner of the Self Regional Healthcare Foundation Women’s Health Classic with her mom on the bag this Mother’s Day,Linnea Ström (Hovas, Sweden) and Charlotte Thomas (Guildford, England) also turned in some stellar performances.
It just so happens that each had their mom caddying for them, too.
Ström started the day tied for 26th at 2-over par and ended tied for third at 6-under par overall, having turned in an 8-under performance. It featured nine birdies, including three straight to finish the round, and only one bogey.
“I birdied No. 10, then I saw my host family and just started making putts, hitting it closer to the pin,” said Ström, who fired a back nine 29. “I felt that I didn’t have anything to lose, could just go out there, have fun and enjoy the last round with my mom. On the front nine, she told me to just be patient, the putts would start dropping soon. They did.”
Even though Mother’s Day isn’t celebrated in Sweden until next Sunday, it’s a sweet celebration on American soil for Ström and her mother Helena, who heads back to the homeland tomorrow.
“She’s played well for two weeks, so I just wanted her to get this. I knew she would have it someday soon,” Helena said. “It was very nice to be here with her. Everything was easy for her today.”
As for Thomas, she also started today tied for 26th, but finished tied for seventh at 5-under par overall. With her mom on the bag, Thomas signed a 7-under par card, with six birdies, an eagle and just one bogey on it, including an eagle-birdie-birdie finish.
“We had a lot of fun. She caddies a lot, so it was kind of like any other day, but I wanted to play well today just because it was Mother’s Day,” said Thomas, who put together a personalized Spotify playlist for her mom. “We were creative with our gift this year. It’s like a poem, all of the song titles. I don’t actually know very many of the songs on it, but the playlist itself reads like a letter.”
For Thomas’ mother Fleur, her daughter’s play at The Links at Stoney Point was simply icing on the cake.
“It was just really fun. The eagle on No. 16 was a big bonus,” Fleur said. “She already gave me a great Mother’s Day present, anyway. She said you don’t want to listen to the playlist because it’s rubbish, but the titles make it sweet.”
SYMETRA TOUR TALENT RESHUFFLED UP LPGA TOUR PRIORITY LIST
After the Volunteers of America LPGA Texas Classic, the LPGA Tour Priority List went through its first reshuffle of 2018.
A group of 11 players that started the season out on the Symetra Tour, but have competed in several LPGA Tour events in recent weeks through their conditional status, have shot up the chart based on their LPGA money list ranking so far this year.
Furthermore, seven individuals were in the field for the Self Regional Healthcare Foundation Women’s Health Classic, with four making the cut to play the weekend in Greenwood.
“Keep the game fresh and balance the two because you never know at the end of the year,” said rookie Maddie McCrary (Wylie, Texas), who shot 1-under par in the final round to finish tied for 22nd at 1-under overall. “If you’re in the top-10 here, or trying to get your full card through the LPGA, trying to balance them both is really hard.”
Of the four that made the cut, Brittany Marchand (Mississauga, Ontario) had the highest finish at 5-under overall. Not far behind was Daniela Iacobelli(Melbourne, Florida) at 3-under overall and Lauren Kim (Los Altos, California) at 2-under overall.
“This for me was week six (in a row),” said Iacobelli, a LPGA Tour current year top-80 performer. “If there’s a week off, I’m going to play out here, wherever. I don’t want to go home, I want to work. This is what I waited five months in the offseason for. There’s a couple tournaments I’m sad that I’m going to miss out here, but I don’t think they want to see me back either. They’re happy to see me moving up.”
Symetra Tour rookie Anannarukarn leads after first round
GREENWOOD — In the first two starts of her Symetra Tour career at the IOA Championship presented by Morongo Casino Resort & Spa and the IOA Invitational, rookie Pajaree Anannarukarn (Bangkok, Thailand) earned two top-10 finishes.
This week, she is right on her way to a third in her third start at the Self Regional Healthcare Foundation Women’s Health Classic. The 18-year-old only surrendered one bogey, while carding five birdies, to shoot 4-under par 68 in the first round today at The Links at Stoney Point Golf Club.
“I give all the credit to my putting,” said Anannarukarn. “It was definitely a very tricky course on the greens. I just want to keep being patient on the green, everywhere. My putting was working very well today, so it helped me a lot.”
Following the solid performance with the flatstick and having her dad Veerapol on the bag, Anannarukarn will look to continue her consistent play tomorrow when she begins round two at 1:37 p.m. off No. 1 tee.
Until then, she will enjoy the 18-hole lead, but not stray from her gameplan.
“I’m really happy with the result, it was a great round,” Anannarukarn said. “I made mistakes in the last tournament and I’m trying to improve what I have to do. I hope to keep playing good, focusing on my game and being patient.”
Meanwhile, tied for second and just one shot back of Anannarukarn is Jessica Welch (Thomasville, Georgia) and Katelyn Sepmoree (Tyler, Texas). Each fired 3-under par 69 today, but also found that number in different ways. Welch used three birdies, two bogeys and an eagle on No. 8, while Sepmoree carded five birdies and two bogeys.
After missing the cut in Beaumont, Calif., at the IOA Championship and in Milton, Ga., at the IOA Invitational, Welch is elated to see her name near the top of the leaderboard.
“It feels really good to be where I’m at,” said Welch. “I’ve really struggled in the opening round over the last two events, so it’s a bit of a relief to start strong this week.”
A group of seven players sit at 2-under par to round out the top-10, with 28 total individuals at even par or better. However, this event is four rounds, instead of the typical three, so there is sure to be plenty of moving parts in the days ahead.
For the leader, she has an idea of what it will take to stay composed with an extra day of tournament play.
“Drink a lot of water, eat a lot and get some rest,” Anannarukarn said laughingly. “Just keep doing what I do.”
MCPHERSON ENJOYING PLAYING IN HOME STATE
A veteran in professional women’s golf, Kristy McPherson (Conway, S.C.) is soaking in the experience of being able to play in her home state this week at the Self Regional Healthcare Foundation Women’s Health Classic.
Furthermore, not only is the tournament essentially in her backyard, but just 80 miles from the University of South Carolina (USC), where McPherson starred collegiately.
“I love playing in South Carolina, it’s home to me,” said McPherson. “Great to see some Gamecock fans around, people actually know where Conway is. Most places I go, people always tell me I talk funny. Here, they understand ma’am and y’all. It’s nice to be home.”
A two-time Symetra Tour winner, to go along with 16 career top-10 finishes, McPherson is in the hunt going into round two at The Links at Stoney Point Golf Club. She used three birdies and two bogeys to card a 1-under par 71 today, good enough to sit in a tie for 11th with seven other players.
“It’s nice to have a solid day one,” McPherson said. “I didn’t get a practice round, so I was a little conservative and just wanted to get a feel for the course. You can’t win it on day one, but it’s nice to get a solid round in and be in a nice position.”
With experience on her side, the talk of how difficult the greens are won’t phase her. However, McPherson has taken notice of what it takes to find success in the putting game.
“You have to have patience on them for sure, and put yourself in the right position to give yourself a legit birdie opportunity,” said McPherson. “If you get out of position a little, you end up playing defense. You have to know when you can be aggressive on putts, and when to really just take your medicine and go. Uphill putts are welcome for the next 54 holes.”
McPherson will take that gameplan into the second round tomorrow when she starts at 12:31 p.m. off No. 10 tee.
Women’s Health Classic Pre-Tournament News and Notes - Symetra Tour event this weekend at Stoney Point, Lake Greenwood
GREENWOOD — For several individuals in the 144-player Self Regional Healthcare Foundation Women’s Health Classic field, this week has been about more than getting ready for another Symetra Tour event; it has involved chasing dreams.
A total of 37 players that eventually made their way to The Links at Stoney Point Golf Club TODAY (May 10) first stopped at Dunwoody Country Club, just outside of Atlanta, on Monday to compete in the 2018 U.S. Women’s Open Sectional Qualifying Round. One day, 36 holes and four spots up for grabs.
Medalist honors belonged to current Symetra Tour player Christine Song (Fullerton, California). She fired 70-70 to finish at 4-under par overall.
“Honestly I didn’t even have my A-game, and I was pretty surprised myself,” Song said after qualifying for the U.S Women’s Open for a third time in her career. “It’s going to be kind of tiring because we have to travel a lot, but I’m really excited for it.”
Another current Symetra Tour standout Ssu-Chia Cheng (Taipei, Chinese Taipei) finished tied for second with 2017 Symetra Tour graduate Katelyn Dambaugh (North Charleston, South Carolina), both just one shot back of Song.
“It was extremely exhausting, but I’m very excited to play in this year’s U.S. Open,” said Dambaugh, a LPGA Tour rookie. “It has always been a dream to play in this event. I haven’t been playing well all year and this really helps give me a little confidence boost going forward.”
The final qualifying spot came down to a three-way sudden-death playoff between another 2017 Symetra Tour graduate in Emma Talley (Princeton, Kentucky), Sophia Popov (Heidelberg, Germany) and Demi Runas (Torrance, California).
When the dust settled, it was Talley who punched her ticket to Alabama on the first playoff hole. Runas and Popov come out of the qualifier as the first and second alternate, respectively.
For Talley, the experience will be extra special. Shoal Creek Golf and Country Club, site of this year’s U.S. Women’s Open, was the home course the last few years for the former University of Alabama four-time All-American.
“I have never been so nervous at a tournament and I have never wanted to play in a tournament so bad,” said Talley. “I love Shoal Creek so much. I am so excited to be back there.”
Song, Cheng, Dambaugh and Talley will now begin preparation for the 2018 U.S. Women’s Open in Shoal Creek, Ala., from May 29-June 3.
PKBGT EXEMPTION SMITH SHARES CONNECTION WITH ADAMS
Even though they did not meet until Monday, Lori Beth Adams (Burlington, N.C.) and amateur Kayla Smith (Burlington, N.C.) have a unique relationship that was formed long before coming together in Greenwood this week.
Both from Burlington, N.C., Adams attended Western Alamance High School. On the other hand, Smith is a junior at Walter M. Williams High School. When they talk about cross-town rivals, these two schools are the dictionary definition.
“Kind of like a little rivalry going on,” said Adams, who graduated from the University of North Carolina Wilmington and was a Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) Player of the Year as a junior for the Seahawks. “I’ve heard of her in Burlington. It’s really cool to connect and finally talk to her.”
Growing up, Adams played at Indian Valley Golf Course, while Smith is a member at Alamance Country Club. Even though their respective schools may draw battle lines, it is the exact opposite for the Tar Heel State natives.
“Just teaching her how Symetra [Tour] works and showing her the golf course,” Adams said. “We’ve heard of each other and I’ve been wanting to meet her because everybody talks about her at my golf course.”
This will be the second time Adams competes in the Self Regional Healthcare Foundation Women’s Health Classic, so she can provide some background for Smith, who will be making her first Symetra Tour start at The Links at Stoney Point Golf Club. It won’t be her first time playing the course, however. Smith won the Women’s Health Classic Junior Challenge on the Peggy Kirk Bell Girls’ Golf Tour (PKBGT) right here in late March to secure exemption into the event.
“Having this opportunity to get exposed to this certain level of play is absolutely incredible,” said Smith, who has been the North Carolina 3A State Championships runner-up each of the last two years. “It’s a huge step. I’m trying not to go into this thinking too seriously, but just enough to where I know my game, concentrating on what I need to do and just doing it.”
Seeing their relationship grow from a word of mouth connection to a form of mentorship is what bonds these two players. It also instills a sense of confidence for Smith, having someone in her corner.
“I’m actually excited to see exactly how this works. Obviously it’s going to be nerve-racking,” Smith said. “Lori Beth has been a great part in helping me understand how everything works and introducing me to it, very appreciative of that.”