DECATUR, Ill. — The 11th stop on the 2019 “Road to the LPGA” takes the Epson Tour to Hickory Point Golf Club in the Land of Lincoln for the 35th annual Forsyth Classic presented by Decatur Park District from June 14-16, also the final installment of the tournament.
Greeting the 144-player field in Decatur, Ill. is a total purse of $200,000. 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 $30,000.
Defending champion Isi Gabsa (Munich, Germany) is not among the competitors, as she was a 2018 Epson Tour graduate. One of seven top-15 performances for Gabsa on the season, the win helped land her at No. 9 in the Volvik Race for the Card.
Action gets underway at 7:30 a.m. CT all three 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 the final round with a trophy presentation to follow on No. 18 green.
COUPLE COLLEGIATE TIES AT 11TH STOP
Two individuals with ties to Illinois institutions for higher education are featured among the competition teeing it up in the Prairie State and are names to keep an eye on once the event starts on Friday.
Bradley University and Northwestern University each have one lone representative in Danielle Lemek (Doniphan, Nebraska) and Hannah Kim (Chula Vista, California), respectively. For the former Braves standout, the tournament host site is only about 80 miles from campus.
“I am ecstatic to be competing for the first time in The Forsyth Classic and it is nice to be in a familiar area again,” said Lemek, a three-time Missouri Valley Conference Golfer of the Year during her time in Peoria. “To top it off, I am staying with a family that has ties to Bradley, as they are the parents of the softball coach. Bradley University was not only my second home, but prepared me for this journey of chasing a career in professional golf. I could not be more excited to get this week started in Illinois.”
COUNTRIES (AND STATES) OF THE FORSYTH CLASSIC
A total of 35 countries are represented this week at The Forsyth Classic presented by Decatur Park District, led by the United States with 74 players then followed by the Republic of Korea having the next highest of seven competitors.
“Representing my country is a great honor,” said Emily Penttilä (Helsinki, Finland), who owns a season-best finish of tied for 25th at the IOA Championship presented by Morongo Casino Resort & Spa. “My rookie year of 2017, I was the only Finn playing in the United States as a professional. Seeing the flag around the Epson Tour every week is important and hope to have it flying soon on the LPGA Tour.”
Individuals from 25 different states are also set to tee it up at Hickory Point Golf Club. No players hail from the host state, while California boasts the most with 14.
“I love playing in the Midwest and can tell I’m close to home, which brings me some comfort,” said Allyssa Ferrell (Edgerton, Wisconsin), the player that is closest in proximity to her hometown. “If there is anything that suits my game when playing tournaments in this region, it would be knowledge of the grass. I take a lot of pride being from the Midwest because it’s the best part of the country, especially this time of the year.”
ROOKIES APLENTY IN THE PRAIRIE STATE
Numerous professionals in their first year on the Epson Tour have made the trek to Macon County, as 38 rookies are in the field and eager for the 11th event of the Epson Tour season.
Among them is Alexandra Kaui (Kapolei, Hawaii), who has played the weekend three times in the first five starts of her Epson Tour career. The University of Nevada Las Vegas alumna is fresh off a season-best tied for 16th performance at the Four Winds Invitational, one of two top-20 finishes this year.
“My rookie season has required me to learn a lot about myself and the strategy that works best with my game,” said Kaui, the 2016 Mountain West Conference Championship individual title winner. “I’ve had to adjust to all the prep days we get for tournaments and how to properly utilize them. My goals are to improve as a player and person, then hopefully get my LPGA Tour card or at least exempt into Q-Series.”
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 10 tournaments in the books, the top-10 underwent some shifting following the Four Winds Invitational. All 10 members from the group are in Decatur including current No. 1 Leona Maguire (County Cavan, Ireland), set to make her first start since the Zimmer Biomet Championship hosted by Nancy Lopez.
“It was great to spend a week at home in Ireland after six weeks on the road,” said Maguire, a two-time Epson Tour champion this season at the Windsor Golf Classic and Epson Classic. “I got to check-in with my coach, spend time with family and friends, and feel refreshed and ready to play this week. I’m looking forward to returning where I started my Epson Tour career last year, lots of good memories with a top-five finish and hole-in-one.”
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.