OPELIKA, Ala.— A total of 144 players will take on the challenge that the Lake Course at Grand National on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail presents starting Thursday with the first round of the inaugural Zimmer Biomet Championship hosted by Nancy Lopez.
Three featured groups highlight the competition for the eighth event of the 2019 Epson Tour season.
Leona Maguire, Marta Sanz Barrio, Ssu-Chia Cheng (No. 1 tee, 8:17 a.m.)
The only player with multiple victories on the Epson Tour this year leads the way for this group, as Leona Maguire (County Cavan, Ireland) comfortably sets the pace in the Volvik Race for the Card at $73,790 across six starts. When she tees it up in the inaugural Zimmer Biomet Championship, Maguire will be searching for a sixth straight top-five result. She has not finished outside the top-25 in 2019.
An alumna of Auburn University in Marta Sanz Barrio (Madrid, Spain) helps comprise this trio. Selected to the All-SEC Second Team on three occasions for the Tigers, she was also part of the 2011 SEC All-Freshman Team. Sanz Barrio became a first-time Epson Tour champion at the 2018 FireKeepers Casino Hotel Championship and now arrives in Opelika with two top-five finishes in her last three starts.
Finally, Ssu-Chia Cheng (Taipei, Chinese Taipei) is off to a strong start as we approach the one-third completion mark to the season. She has made the cut in five of her six events played and secured a career-best tied for second at the IOA Invitational. The 2016 UL International Crown member of Team Chinese Taipei is currently No. 9 in the Volvik Race for the Card and hoping to keep momentum going.
Jillian Hollis, Fatima Fernandez Cano, Janie Jackson (No. 1 tee, 1:00 p.m.)
One of four individuals in the 144-player field from the University of Georgia, Jillian Hollis (Rocky River, Ohio) secured her first win as a professional at the 2019 IOA Championship. It is one of three top-10s so far in Hollis’ sophomore campaign on the Epson Tour, landing her at No. 3 in the Volvik Race for the Card. During her three-year career in Athens, she was tabbed as an All-American three times.
Coming off a season-best performance of tied for sixth at the Epson Classic, Fatima Fernandez Cano (Santiago de Compostela, Spain) is the lone representative of Troy University this week and less than 100 miles from campus. An eight-time tournament winner and four-time All-Sun Belt First Team member for the Trojans, she was the 2016 Sun Belt Conference Women’s Golfer of the Year as a junior.
A native to the Yellowhammer State, Janie Jackson (Huntsville, Alabama) was a three-time Alabama High School Class 6A individual title winner for Huntsville H.S. and the first female in state history to capture three state championships. Meanwhile, she spent the final three years of her collegiate career at the University of Alabama and was named to the All-SEC Second Team as a senior in 2016.
Cydney Clanton, Lakareber Abe, Perrine Delacour (No. 1 tee, 1:11 p.m.)
Four-time All-SEC First Team honoree, two-time Women’s Golf Coaches Association (WGCA) First Team All-American and Auburn University graduate Cydney Clanton (Concord, North Carolina) jumpstarts this trio. She found the winner’s circle for the second time in her Epson Tour career at the Murphy USA El Dorado Shootout, the first of three straight top-20 results to open her competitive slate this season.
Up next is Lakareber Abe (The Woodlands, Texas), a collegiate tournament winner for the University of Alabama at the 2015 Mason Rudolph Championship. She recorded a total of six top-five performances in her Crimson Tide career and also owns the lowest round in school history of 9-under par 63. Now in her second year on the Epson Tour, Abe has played the weekend in five of seven starts.
Rounding out the group is 2013 Epson Tour graduate Perrine Delacour (Paris, France), who has four top-25 finishes in her last four starts. That stretch includes two top-10s and season-best tied for fourth showing at River Run Country Club last week. Entering 2019, Delacour had made 68 career starts on the LPGA with a career-low score of 10-under par 62 in the second round of the 2017 Manulife LPGA Classic.