ROCHESTER, New York, July 17, 2017 - The Epson Tour, the official qualifying Tour for the LPGA, returns to action after a week off with the third annual Danielle Downey Credit Union Classic at Brook-Lea Country Club in Rochester. The 2017 tournament marks the 41st year of women’s professional golf in Rochester. The Danielle Downey Credit Union Classic is the 14th tournament of the season. There are now just nine left.
The 72-hole tournament begins on Thursday, July 20 and concludes on Sunday, July 23. Play will begin at 7:30 a.m. all four days of the tournament. There will be a cut to the low 60 and ties following second-round play on Friday.
The field of 144 players from the United States and 30 countries around the globe will compete for a total tournament purse of $150,000 and the winner will earn an all-important $22,500. With only nine events left in the year, the chase for an LPGA Tour card is really starting to heat up and each dollar earned is critical to move up the Volvik Race for the Card money list. The top 10 earners at the end of the season (Epson Tour Championship, October 5-8) will receive LPGA Tour membership for the 2018 season.
No. 10 on the money list, Daniela Darquea (Quito, Ecuador), has just a $5,197 cushion on No. 11 Sophia Popov (Heidelberg, Germany). The winner’s payout this week could move anyone inside the top 30 into the top 10.
The Danielle Downey Credit Union Classic started in 2015 when the longtime LPGA Tour stop, which had been around since 1977, moved out of town. Annie Park won the inaugural tournament with rounds of 68-67-69-68 (-16) and just edged Vicky Hurst on the 72nd hole. Park went onto win Epson Player of the Year honors and is currently competing on the LPGA. Last year, Clariss Guce (Artesia, Calif.) introduced herself to the world with a final-round 67 to edge Ally McDonald. Guce won twice last year, but finished No. 11 on the money list and is back this year to defend.
The field is incredibly strong this week as the entire top 10 on the money list is scheduled to compete including No.1 Benyapa Niphatsophon (Bangkok, Thailand), who has seven top 10 finishes in 11 starts. In fact, 19 of the top 20 on the money list are in the field. The only one in the top 20 not in the field is No. 19 Rachel Rohanna, who is competing on the LPGA this week.
There are 10 players in the field with LPGA Tour membership including Kristy McPherson (Conway, South Carolina), who has 16 career top 10 finishes on the LPGA and played on the 2009 U.S. Solheim Cup team. McPherson finished T15 at the 2013 Wegmans LPGA Championship.
The Danielle Downey Credit Union Classic is named in honor of the late Danielle Downey of Spencerport, who died in a car crash in 2014. Downey is widely regarded as one of the finest golfer to ever come out of the area. She won the New York State Women’s Amateur Championship three consecutive years from 1999 through 2001. At Auburn, she was a three-time All-American (2000, 2002 & 2003) and finished second at the 2002 NCAA championships. Downey had seven top 10 finishes and one victory (2004 Lima Memorial Hospital FUTURES Golf Classic) on what was then called the FUTURES Tour (now the Epson Tour). She made 50 starts on the LPGA and her best finish was at the 2008 Bell Micro LPGA Classic when she finished fourth.
Proceeds from the Danielle Downey Credit Union Classic will once again benefit the Hillside Family of Agencies, which provides comprehensive health, education, and human services for children and families whose challenges threaten their ability to realize their full potential.
SPONSOR EXEMPTIONS HAVE STRONG LOCAL TIESBoth of the exemptions this year have strong ties to the area. Jenna Hoecker from Rochester and Samantha Wagner from Orlando, Florida join the field of 144.
For members of Brook-Lea Country Club, and the Rochester golf community, the only question about Jenna Hoecker getting an invitation to play in the Danielle Downey Credit Union Classic might be “What took so long?” For the tournament committee, it seems that the time is right. Jenna, whose father is Jon Hoecker, the head professional at Brook-Lea, grew up idolizing tournament namesake Danielle Downey befriending the former LPGA professional and occasionally playing golf with her at Brook-Lea. She has been a fixture at Brook-Lea Country Club for the past eleven summers, working for her father in the pro shop, playing and practicing regularly, and becoming a major player in local golf in her own right. Her vibrant personality affects virtually every club member.
Much like Downey, Hoecker played high school golf as a junior and as a senior on the boys’ golf team at Greece Olympia. After high school, she headed south, playing Division I golf at Stetson University, and graduating in May 2014 with an Accounting degree. She is currently employed at Freed Maxick.
Upon graduating from Stetson, Hoecker became an Assistant Golf Coach at St. John Fisher College, a Division III school in Rochester and held that position for two seasons. Meanwhile, her golf career has taken off. She is a three-time winner of the Women’s Rochester District Golf Association’s match play event,
widely acclaimed as the major local women’s tournament, winning in 2012, 2013, and 2015. She also won the Rochester District Golf Association’s championship in 2014 (ironically, the first year that the winner won the newly named “Danielle Downey Trophy”) and repeated this feat in 2016. While winning the 2014 title, she broke the course record at Stafford CC shooting 65 in a dominating come from behind performance. She also won the New York State Amateur in 2013.
Samantha Wagner’s introduction to Rochester started when she was 11 years old, in 2008, when her family lived in Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania. Wagner played at the Country Club of Rochester in a USGA Girls Qualifier event, and she qualified for the event which was played in Hartford, CT.
Six years later, she returned to Rochester as a junior player and participated in the 2014 Rolex AJGA event at the Country Club of Rochester. That year, she had been appointed to the AJGA Board as a player representative. While she was here for that event, as the player representative, she was paired with the Tournament Chairman Mark Gianniny as a host family, and she and the family developed a “family” type bond with them. Mark’s two sons Jack and Danny are accomplished golfers. Jack is now a senior in college at the University of Delaware and Danny is this year’s Section Five Champion.
Mark Gianniny introduced Samantha to Mike Vadala, who is the Tournament Chairperson of the Danielle Downey Credit Union Classic in 2016. Mark had invited Wagner back as a former player on the AJGA level to speak to the players at the Rolex AGJA Championship at CCR and also to help promote the event. During that visit, she and Vadala played golf, and talked about her career aspirations, and this year she applied for a sponsor invitation to the Danielle Downey Credit Union Classic.
At the time she was invited, she was playing for the University of Florida but since the invitation, Wagner turned professional after winning her 2017 U.S. Women’s Open sectional qualifier against a field of 76 other players, including many established LPGA players. She made her second U.S. Open appearance last week; competing as an amateur in 2015. The Danielle Downey Credit Union Classic will be her first event as a professional.
Previously, she played for the University of Florida where she currently holds two program records for low round (64) and low tournament total (-14) after winning the Pat Bradley Invitational in October 2016. During college, she amassed eight top five finishes in the two years she played for the Gators. As a freshman, she was twice named SEC Freshman Golfer of the Week, and was named to the 2016 SEC All Freshman Team.
She had a stand out junior career that included being a member of the victorious 2012 Junior Ryder Cup and 2013 Junior Solheim Cup Teams, along with extensive success participating in USGA, AJGA and Junior PGA National level tournaments.
12 WINNERS IN 13 EVENTS, YEAR OF PARITYThrough 13 events, the Epson Tour season has been defined by the unknown. Week-in and week-out, a new winner is emerging. Only one player, No. 2 Nanna Koerstz Madsen, has won multiple times (Epson Classic and Fuccillo Kia Classic of NY).
All 12 winners currently rank inside the top 25 on the money list and eight rank inside the top 10. Eleven of the 12 winners are in the field this week. The only exception is Olivia Jordan-Higgins, who is dealing with a back injury.
At least two players have won multiple events in each of the last three seasons.
NINE COMING STRAIGHT FROM U.S. WOMEN’S OPENThere are nine players in the field this week that qualified and competed in the biggest event in women’s golf last week, the U.S. Women’s Open, which was contested at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey.
The nine players coming from New Jersey are Elin Arvidsson, Jessica Welch, Kyung Kim, Nanna Koerstz Madsen, Samantha Wagner, August Kim, Emma Henrikson, Emily Childs and Sara Banke.
The highest finisher of players that have competed in the Danielle Downey Credit Union Classic was Brooke Henderson, who played in Rochester in 2015, and finished T13. Three 2016 Epson Tour graduates - Nelly Korda (T44), Marissa Steen (T51) and Madelene Sagstrom (T54) - made the cut.
CHIRAPAT JAO-JAVANIL COMING OFF TEXAS STATE OPEN WINChirapat Jao-Javanil (Hua Hin, Thailand), who won the 2012 NCAA individual title while at Oklahoma, comes to Rochester after winning the Texas State Open during the off week. The win gets her an exemption into the Volunteers of America Texas Shootout next year on the LPGA.
“I am very happy with the win, even happier that the win gets me an exemption into the LPGA event in Texas next year,” said Jao-Javanil, who ranks 72nd on the Epson Tour money list this year. “The most satisfaction came from being able to execute shots the way I wanted and seeing putts drop. I started the final round with an eagle and four birdies in a row, which was the best start I’ve ever had in my golf career.”
The eagle came on a hole out from 126 yards in the rough. She hit a three-quarter 9-iron. The four birdies that followed were all from inside eight feet.
“The win is very satisfying because my last state open win was back in 2014 in Tennesse,” explained Jao-Javanil, who now has five professional wins. “It’s definitely a confidence boost for the rest of the year.”
RECAP OF LAST EVENTTwo weeks ago in French Lick, Indiana, Erynne Lee (Silverdale, Washington) outlasted August Kim (Saint Augustine, Florida) on the third playoff hole to win her first event of the season and second of her career. Lee jumped from 23rd to fourth on the money list with her $30,000 first-place check.
Lee also ended a drought of 33 starts without a win. She won her debut on Tour in 2016 at the IOA Championship and didn’t win again until two weeks ago.
Lee, who finished 17th on the money list last year, has been red hot of late. She has finished inside the top 20 in five of her last six starts. Her strong play started in early June with a T4 finish at the Fuccillo Kia Classic of NY.
Lee has eight career top 10 finishes in two seasons on the Epson Tour. She missed the cut last year in Rochester.
PLAYER MAKES UNPRECEDENTED $15K DONATION TO LPGA*USGA GIRLS GOLFLast week at the U.S. Women’s Open, Epson Tour player Hyemin Kim announced that she was donating her entire check from her victory at the POC Med Golf Classic to LPGA*USGA Girls Golf. She made the announcement on Wednesday and donated $15,000 to grow the game and allow girls that don’t have the means to participate in the program.
“My mom (Inja Park) and I always talked about donating the paycheck from my first win to charity,” explained Kim. “I remember growing up in Korea and first being introduced to the game. I just want to help the next generation of girls and my hope is that this donation helps bring more girls to golf that don’t have the means on their own.”
LPGA*USGA Girls Golf will use the $15,000 to directly benefit the girls in the program by providing equipment, quality instruction and scholarship dollars to participate in Girls Golf sites around the United States.
Kim currently ranks 15th on the Volvik Race for the Card money list and has a great chance to earn her full Tour card for the first time.
ANOTHER SHOT AT NUMBER THREENo. 2 on the money list, Nanna Koerstz Madsen (Copenhagen, Denmark), will take another stab at a third win this season. A third win in a single-season is an automatic “Battlefield Promotion” to the LPGA for this season.
Koerstz Madsen would have an opportunity to play the LPGA this season if she can secure a third win. She would be immediately slotted into category 13 on the LPGA priority and likely have good enough status to play in full-field events in the United States and Canada.
The next LPGA tournament that she would have a chance to get into is the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open, which is in late August right after the Solheim Cup.
Koerstz Madsen is in the running for a captain’s pick to represent Team Europe at the Solheim Cup. Team Europe captain, Annika Sorenstam, is aware of the success Koerstz Madsen has had on the Epson Tour and a third win may be what it takes to get tabbed by the captain.
- There are 11 Canadians in the field - most of any country outside the United States. Anne-Catherine Tanguay (Quebec) ranks eighth on the Volvik Race for the Card money list.
- There is one player in the field - Carlie Yadloczky - who played college golf at Auburn, where Downey also played college golf. Yadloczky played at Auburn from 2009-2013. Downey filled in for coach Kim Evans (Ovarian Cancer) during the 2012-13 season. Downey was Auburn’s Director of Operations while Yadloczky was in school.
- There are five 2016-17 WGCA All-Americans in the field: August Kim (First Team, Purdue), Katelyn Dambaugh (Second Team, South Carolina), Harang Lee (Honorable Mention, Georgia), Victoria Morgan (Honorable Mention, USC), Sierra Sims (Honorable Mention, Wake Forest).
- The top returning finishers from last year’s Danielle Downey Credit Union Classic are: Sophia Popov (T2), Erica Popson (T4) and Doris Chen (T9).