DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The 23rd and final stop on the 2019 “Road to the LPGA” takes the Epson Tour to the Jones Course at LPGA International in the Sunshine State for the 12th annual Epson Tour Championship from October 3-6. It is also the last tournament in the Million Dollar March, the stretch of five events to end the season with a cumulative purse of $1 million.
Greeting the 108-player field in Daytona Beach is a total purse of $250,000. 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 $37,500.
Defending champion Ruixin Liu (Dalian, China) is not among the competitors, as she finished No. 1 in the 2018 Volvik Race for the Card to earn Epson Tour Player of the Year. The victory on the Atlantic coast of Florida was Liu’s third in her sophomore season on the “Road to the LPGA” and one of 12 top-25s.
Action gets underway at 8:00 a.m. ET all four days with play starting off No. 1 and No. 10 tees for each round.
COLLEGE TIES RUN DEEP AT FINAL STOP
A total of five Florida institutions for higher education are featured among competition teeing it up in the Epson Tour Championship with several names to keep an eye on once the event starts Thursday.
Florida Institute of Technology and Florida International University each have one lone representative in Daniela Iacobelli (Melbourne, Florida) and Paula Hurtado-Restrepo (Medellin, Colombia), respectively.
Meanwhile, Florida State University, the University of Florida and University Miami (FL) lead the way with two apiece in Kim Metraux (Lausanne, Switzerland), Matilda Castren (Helsinki, Finland), Samantha Wagner (Windermere, Florida), Karolina Vlckova (Kladno, Czech Republic), Delfina Acosta (Comandante Nicanor Otamendi, Argentina) and Dewi Weber (Groningen, Netherlands), respectively.
“Wearing the Blue and Orange is always a special feeling, and being able to do so as a professional in the state that means so much to me is even more awesome,” said Vlckova, a two-time All-SEC Second Team performer during her time in Gainesville. “I just hope to continue working as hard as my coaches taught me to and make them proud. UF will forever be my second home, the place that helped shape me into the person and player I am today.”
COUNTRIES (AND STATES) OF THE EPSON TOUR CHAMPIONSHIP
A total of 31 countries are represented this week at the Epson Tour Championship, led by the United States with 54 players then followed by the Republic of Korea having the next highest of six competitors.
“Every week on the Epson Tour means a lot because we are chasing our dream of the LPGA Tour, but there’s also many nationalities that come together all for the same goal and that is cool,” said Kelly Tan (Batu Pahat, Malaysia), one of 15 tournament winners on the season. “I’m thankful to have outstanding support from family and friends back home, which has helped me reach this point in my pro career. It is awesome to see the different flags flying during each event, especially Malaysia.”
Individuals from 19 different states are also set to tee it up on the Jones Course at LPGA International. Seven players hail from the host state, while California boasts the most with 10.
“As a native of the Sunshine State, there’s nothing better than returning to the region that I grew up in and only now competing on an even bigger stage,” said August Kim (St. Augustine, Florida), the Epson Tour professional in closest proximity to her hometown. “I love Florida, am used to the courses and all Bermuda grass having played and practiced here since my high school days. It’ll be a fun week, especially knowing it is not far from home and family can come watch.”
ROOKIES APLENTY IN THE SUNSHINE STATE
Numerous professionals in their first year on the Epson Tour have made the trek to Volusia County, as 27 rookies are in the field and eager for the 23rd event of the Epson Tour season.
Among them is Robyn Choi (Gold Coast, Australia). Named to the All-Pac 12 First Team as a sophomore for the University of Colorado in 2018, Choi finished tied for 45th at the inaugural LPGA Q-Series to earn Priority List Category 14 status for the 2019 LPGA campaign. Between 12 starts on the big stage and also eight on the Epson Tour, she owns a season-best tied for 18th at the IOA Golf Classic.
“My rookie year has been challenging, but fun,” Choi said. “I’ve learned so much along the way and it is so different from the college experience I had at the University of Colorado. The time I spent in Boulder undoubtedly prepared me and I couldn’t be more appreciative of the opportunities there. I have been able to improve my game and improve in many aspects, while enjoying travel and seeing new places.”
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 on Sunday once the Epson Tour Championship concludes to cap 23 events on the 2019 calendar.
With 22 tournaments in the books, the top-10 underwent some shifting following the sixth annual IOA Golf Classic. All 10 members of the group are in Daytona Beach including Robynn Ree (Redondo Beach, California), currently ranked No. 7 with $86,657 earned across 18 starts.
“It all comes down to this to finally decide who will be on the LPGA Tour next year,” said Ree, one of five two-time winners on the Epson Tour this season. “There have been incredible, historic numbers for all in the top-10 right now and it will only get crazier. I’m focused on making the cut and taking advantage of the event being four days by steadily working my way up the leaderboard. All I need is a good finish to see my dreams come true.”
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.