DAVIDSON, N.C. — The seventh stop on the 2019 “Road to the LPGA” takes the Epson Tour to River Run Country Club in the Tar Heel State for the eighth annual Epson Classic from May 15-17.
From 2012-2016, the event was contested at Raintree Country Club in Charlotte. It then spent one year at Atlanta National Golf Club in Milton, Ga., before returning to North Carolina in the 2018 season.
Greeting the 144-player field in Davidson, N.C. 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 Jenny Haglund (Karlstad, Sweden) is not among the competitors, as she finished tied for 20th at the inaugural LPGA Q-Series to earn Priority List Category 14 status for the 2019 LPGA Tour season. The victory was one of four top-10 results for Haglund last season.
First and second round action gets underway at 7:30 a.m. ET off No. 1 and No. 10 tees. Meanwhile, the final round will start at 8:30 a.m. with all groups heading off No. 1 tee in twosomes.
COLLEGE TIES RUN DEEP AT SEVENTH STOP
A total of six North Carolina institutions for higher education are featured among the competition teeing it up at the eighth annual Epson Classic with several names to keep an eye on once the event starts on Wednesday.
The University of North Carolina Wilmington, East Carolina University and Gardner-Webb University each have one lone representative in Lori Beth Adams (Burlington, North Carolina), Lisa Pettersson (Taby, Sweden) and Hannah Hellyer (Stirling, Ontario, Canada), respectively. Meanwhile, Wake Forest University is tied for leading the way with five alumnae in the field.
“It means so much for me to play a professional golf tournament in North Carolina,” said Allison Emrey (Charlotte, North Carolina). “I grew up in Charlotte and then went on to play at Wake Forest so my whole golf career has developed in North Carolina. A lot of my junior golf friends now on the Epson Tour went on to play for other North Carolina colleges, so I’m sure it’s a special event for them as well. I love the golf courses here and am excited for this week.”
Furthermore, one of the biggest rivalries in college sports takes center stage at River Run Country Club as both Duke University and the University of North Carolina are only a short two-hour drive northeast from the tournament venue. Leona Maguire (County Cavan, Ireland) and Sandy Choi (Seoul, Republic of Korea) will don the Duke Blue & White, but the UNC faithful of five individuals rocking Carolina Blue & White join Wake Forest for the strongest representation by numbers in Davidson.
“I love this week on the Epson Tour because it is the closest we get to a home event,” said Maia Schechter (Chapel Hill, North Carolina). “It’s always fun to see the Tar Heel flags in backyards when you are on the course and I’ll be wearing my UNC hat all week. When we are done I get to go back to Chapel Hill and sleep in my own bed for a night or two before the next tournament, so this helps break up our eight-week stretch quite nicely.”
COUNTRIES (AND STATES) OF THE EPSON CLASSIC
A total of 34 countries are represented this week at the Epson Classic, led by the United States with 80 players and followed by the Republic of Korea having the next highest of seven competitors.
“I’m very proud to be Irish and it’s a huge honor for me to represent my country all around the world,” said Maguire, who has four straight top-five results. “Right now I may be the only golfer from Ireland on the Epson Tour, but I hope that by playing well I can pave the way and inspire other Irish girls to chase their dreams of one day playing on the LPGA Tour.”
Individuals from 24 different states are also set to tee it up at River Run Country Club. Seven players hail from the host state, while California boasts the most with 14.
“I’m excited to be competing at River Run for the Epson Classic, and happy that my family and coach will be out watching for the first time all season,” said Katherine Perry (Cary, North Carolina), also a UNC alumna. “Playing professionally in my home state reminds me of how far I’ve come since playing on the same course back in the days of junior golf. I’m looking forward to seeing how well I can play.”
ROOKIES APLENTY IN THE TAR HEEL STATE
Numerous professionals in their first year on the Epson Tour have made the trek to Mecklenburg County, as 32 rookies are in the field and eager for the seventh event of the Epson Tour season.
Among them is Julie Aime (Nice, France), who missed the cut in her first five career starts before putting it all together to earn a tied for ninth finish at the IOA Invitational. She was a three-time medalist for Lamar University, including a win in her collegiate debut at the 2010 Koasati Pines Collegiate Classic.
“I am truly enjoying my rookie season on the Epson Tour,” Aime said. “The courses we compete on are in great condition, but play a bit different and longer than ones in Europe. I had to adjust, yet feel my game was solid the past few weeks. It feels great to finally get rewarded with a good finish and I will keep that good momentum going with confidence for the rest of the season.”
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 24 events on the 2019 calendar.
With six tournaments in the books, the top-10 underwent some shifting following the IOA Invitational. Nine of the 10 members from the group are in Davidson including current No. 5 Cydney Clanton (Concord, North Carolina), who captured a second consecutive top-five finish last week in Georgia.
“During the offseason I really worked hard on figuring out what my strengths are and how I can perform my best,” Clanton said. “I have always been a good ball striker and decided I was going to get back to my roots, so I focused on my full swing. My first two weeks back really showed the work I have put in, now playing here will be great for my family and friends. It will be a great week regardless of the outcome because I get to be around people that love and support me.”
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.