NORTH PORT, Fla. — The start to the 39th Symetra Tour season has arrived and the “Road to the LPGA” in 2019 begins with the inaugural SKYiGOLF Championship hosted by Charlotte Harbor National Golf Club at Bobcat Trail from March 7-10.
Greeting the 132-player field in North Port, Fla. is a total purse of $250,000, the second highest on Tour this year. It also matches the 2016 Self Regional Healthcare Foundation Women’s Health Classic in Greenwood, S.C. as the second richest in Symetra Tour history.
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. First and second round action gets underway at 7:15 a.m. ET from No. 1 and No. 10 tees. Meanwhile, all groups will head off No. 1 tee in twosomes for the third and fourth rounds, starting at 8 a.m. and 8:15 a.m., respectively.
COUNTRIES (AND STATES) OF THE SKYiGOLF CHAMPIONSHIP
A total of 32 countries are represented this week at the SKYiGOLF Championship, led by the United States with 69 players and Sweden with the next highest of seven competitors.
“I’m very thankful to have the opportunity to play in the United States and proud to represent Sweden,” said Linnea Johansson (Bastad, Sweden), an Oklahoma State University alumna entering her second full season on the Symetra Tour. “The fact we are so well-represented on the Symetra Tour is impressive to me. Growing up in Sweden, we all practiced together as junior golfers and it means a lot to have such outstanding support from the Swedish Federation.”
Individuals from 24 different states are also set to tee it up at Charlotte Harbor National Golf Club at Bobcat Trail. A dozen professionals hail from the Sunshine State, while California is a close second as 11 call the Golden State home.
“It is definitely easier on travel to be closer to home, and I enjoy playing Florida golf courses during the season,” said Samantha Wagner (Windermere, Florida), who is a native to the state and also a University of Florida alumna. “During the offseason I graduated from UF, where I played on the golf team my freshman and sophomore years. With a degree in hand, I am looking forward to solely focusing on my professional career in my second season on the Symetra Tour.”
NUMBER OF ROOKIES SET TO MAKE SYMETRA TOUR DEBUT
Plenty of new faces have made the trek to Charlotte Harbor National Golf Club at Bobcat Trail, as 26 rookies are in the field and set to make their professional debut on the Symetra Tour in the SKYiGOLF Championship.
Among them is 2017 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion Sophia Schubert (Oak Ridge, Tennessee). The first-year pro was a Women’s Golf Coaches Association (WGCA) First Team All-American as a senior in 2018 and three-time All-Big 12 Team selection.
“I started playing golf at the age of four and I believe that God provided me with the opportunity, desire and talent to get to this point in my career,” Schubert said. “Playing golf for Texas taught me time management, purposeful practice, hard work and preparation for life on the road. Also, winning the U.S. Women’s Am showed me how to best appreciate this great game.”
VOELKER JOINS PANO AS TOURNAMENT SPONSOR EXEMPTION
Two sponsor exemptions round out the competitors for the SKYiGOLF Championship in Greta Voelker (Witten, Germany) and Alexa Pano (Lake Worth, Florida), who was announced during tournament media day on Feb. 20.
She will be making her professional debut, but Voelker played in three Symetra Tour events as an amateur in 2016. The Big 12 Freshman of the Year in 2017 for the University of Texas is eager to get on the course and showcase her game.
“Turning pro has always been my dream and playing this Symetra Tour event can open many doors early in my journey,” said Voelker, who made the jump in January of 2019 after two and a half years with the Longhorns. “I am thrilled to be competing at Charlotte Harbor National Golf Club at Bobcat Trail and appreciate this amazing opportunity that SKYiGOLF has provided me.”
VOLVIK RACE FOR THE CARD TOP-10 TAKES CENTER STAGE
The Symetra Tour annually awards LPGA Tour membership to the top players on the season-ending Volvik Race for the Card money list and will usher in the next graduating class after 24 events on the 2019 calendar.
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.
Min Seo Kwak (Seoul, Republic of Korea) finished at No. 11 in the 2018 Volvik Race for the Card, only $887 outside the top-10. She is the highest returning player on the Symetra Tour this season and has a gameplan to reach the LPGA Tour.
“Last year, I didn’t do well balancing all my schedules, but this year I will try to manage my schedule better, have fun and stay healthy,” said Kwak, who enters her 11th year of professional golf. “Hopefully I can play even better this year. Although I finished just shy of the top-10, I’m not thinking about that and instead focusing on the present.”