ROCHESTER, N.Y. — The 15th stop on the 2019 “Road to the LPGA” takes the Epson Tour to Brook-Lea Country Club in the Empire State for the fifth annual Danielle Downey Credit Union Classic from July 18-21.
Greeting the 144-player field in Rochester, N.Y. is a total purse of $175,000. Individuals are set to compete in a 72-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 Eun Jeong Seong (Yongin, Republic of Korea) is among the competitors and the win was one of six top-25 finishes in her rookie campaign. So far this year, she owns a season-best tied for sixth performance at the Epson Classic.
Action gets underway at 7:30 a.m. ET all four 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 both the third and final rounds with a trophy presentation to follow on No. 18 green.
COLLEGIATE CONNECTIONS AT 15TH STOP
One individual with ties to New York institutions for higher education is featured among the competition in the Empire State and someone to keep an eye on once the event starts Thursday.
Michelle Piyapattra (Eastvale, California) graduated from Columbia University in 2014 with a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science. A three-time All-Ivy League First Team selection for the Lions, Piyapattra was also named the 2012 Ivy League Player of the Year. She 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 six straight starts with a season-best tied for fourth result last week 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 Rochester, especially knowing there are some CU Lions rooting for me.”
COUNTRIES (AND STATES) OF THE DANIELLE DOWNEY CREDIT UNION CLASSIC
A total of 31 countries are represented this week at the Danielle Downey Credit Union Classic, led by the United States with 73 players then followed by Canada having the next highest of eight competitors.
“I feel very proud when I see the Belgian flag out on Tour,” said Leslie Cloots (Antwerp, Belgium), the lone Belgium native competing on the Epson Tour. “I have great memories playing for the national team as an amateur, while the Federation and Golf Union have been supportive throughout my career. Laura Gonzalez Escallon is the one Belgian player on the LPGA and I hope to join her soon.”
Individuals from 27 different states are also set to tee it up at Brook-Lea Country Club. Three players hail from the host state, while California boasts the most with 17.
“To play in my first Epson Tour event means so much and experience such competitive golf is a really wonderful opportunity,” said amateur and tournament sponsor exemption Mikah McDonnell (Webster, New York), the individual in closest proximity to her hometown. “Especially where friends and family can come support means a great deal too. This week I definitely want to play the best I can, but I’m looking forward to having fun and learning more about the game from my rounds with the pros.”
ROOKIES APLENTY IN THE EMPIRE STATE
Numerous professionals in their first year on the Epson Tour have made the trek to Monroe County, as 44 rookies are in the field and eager for the 15th event of the Epson Tour season.
Among them is Yujeong Son (Busan, Republic of Korea), medalist at the First Stage of the 2018 LPGA Qualifying Tournament. After missing the cut in six of her first seven career starts, Son has played the weekend five times over the last seven events. That stretch includes back-to-back top-10 finishes and a season-best tied for fourth showing at the Donald Ross Classic.
“At the beginning of the season, I had a hard time adjusting mentally and just put a lot of pressure on myself,” said Son, who competed as an amateur in the 2017 Swinging Skirts LPGA Taiwan Championship and 2018 U.S. Women’s Open at Shoal Creek. “With the support of family and coaches, I have learned ways to focus on my golf game. I am enjoying the Epson Tour, love to travel and play a new course every week, and excited for the rest of season to see what it holds for me.”
VOLVIK RACE FOR THE CARD UPDATE
The Epson 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 14 tournaments in the books, the top-10 underwent some shifting following the third annual Donald Ross Classic. All 10 members from the group are in Rochester including Maddie Szeryk (London, Ontario, Canada), currently ranked No. 9 and coming off back-to-back missed cuts.
“I’m pleased with my performance so far and am continuing to make adjustments as I prepare for what I hope will be a strong finish,” said Szeryk, who has three top-five results this season. “One thing I want to focus on is making cuts more consistently, which will help build momentum going into big events at the end of the year. Overall, I’m proud of what I have accomplished and know I can keep improving.”
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.