DAVIDSON, N.C. — The 10th and final stop on the 2020 “Road to the LPGA” takes the Epson Tour to River Run Country Club in the Tar Heel State for the 13th annual Epson Tour Championship from Nov. 3-6. It is the first time in tournament history that River Run Country Club serves as host of the Epson Tour Championship. Since the event’s inception in 2008, it was played every year at LPGA International in Daytona Beach, Fla., except 2016 when it was contested at Alaqua Country Club in Longwood, Fla., due to Hurricane Matthew.
Greeting the 84-player field in Mecklenburg County is a total purse of $175,000. 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 $26,250.
Defending champion Laura Wearn (Charlotte, North Carolina) is among the competitors and currently ranked No. 10 in the Volvik Race for the Card standings. The victory on the Atlantic coast of Florida in 2019 marked Wearn’s second career title on the “Road to the LPGA” in what was her sixth year on Tour.
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 four North Carolina institutions for higher education are featured among competition teeing it up in the Epson Tour Championship with names to keep an eye on once the event starts on Tuesday.
North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina, Wilmington each have one lone representative in Brittany Marchand (Orangeville, Ontario, Canada) and Tar Heel State native Lori Beth Adams (Burlington, North Carolina), respectively.
Meanwhile, Duke University has two Blue Devils competing in Laetitia Beck (Caesarea, Israel) and most recent Epson Tour champion Ana Belac (Portoroz, Slovenia). Wake Forest University leads the way as three Demon Deacons have ventured to Davidson, N.C., including Sierra Sims (Tampa, Florida), Allison Emrey (Charlotte, North Carolina) and Nannette Hill (Palm Beach Gardens, Florida).
“Coming off my career-best finish on the Epson Tour, I look forward to picking up right where I left off this week at River Run Country Club for the Epson Tour Championship,” said Emrey, a 2015 All-ACC selection. “I’m proud to represent my alma mater in the same state I competed collegiately and it will be exciting to rep the Black and Old Gold in the last event of the 2020 season.”
COUNTRIES (AND STATES) OF THE EPSON TOUR CHAMPIONSHIP
A total of 19 countries are represented this week at the Epson Tour Championship, led by the United States with 51 players followed by Australia and Sweden having the next highest of four competitors.
“Tour life is not for the faint of heart, so having friends and fellow Swedes to travel, practice with, makes it more fun and somewhat easier,” said Linnea Johansson (Bastad, Sweden), who is ranked No. 18 in the Volvik Race for the Card standings. “It is a privilege to represent my native country on the Epson Tour and the LPGA Tour, the biggest stage in women’s professional golf. We always make sure to cheer each other on and this week will be no different.”
Individuals from 20 different states are also set to tee it up at River Run Country Club. Five players hail from the host state, while California and Florida boast the most with 10 apiece.
“Even though I won this event last year in Florida and we have a different host venue this year, it still has that special feel since it is the final tournament,” said Wearn, the 2019 Epson Tour Championship winner. “It will be extra special to defend in my home state. I’m excited to start and am hoping to finish the year off with a great tournament to have a chance at the Volvik Race for the Card top five.”
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 16 rookies are in the field and eager for the 10th and final event of the Epson Tour season.
Among them is Haylee Harford (Leavittsburg, Ohio). A four-time All-Southern Conference performer for Furman University, Harford finished tied for 62nd at the 2019 LPGA Q-Series to first earn Epson Tour membership. She was a member of Team USA in the 2019 Arnold Palmer Cup and tied for seventh at the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur. So far as a 2020 Epson Tour rookie, Harford has six top-25s across nine total starts with a career-best result of runner-up in the IOA Golf Classic presented by HomeValue.com.
“Between it being my rookie season and all the external factors that have contributed to getting us to this point, this year has been a crazy, but awesome experience,” Harford said. “I’m so thankful for all the Epson Tour has done to have us competing and doing so in as safe a manner as possible. It’s incredible to think of where we were as a Tour, and professional sports in general, several months ago and where we are now. It’s a rookie season I will never forget.”
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 Friday once the Epson Tour Championship concludes to cap 10 events on the 2020 calendar.
With the ninth tournament in the books, the top five saw a bit of shuffling after the Carolina Golf Classic presented by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina. All five members of the group are in Davidson including Ana Belac, who climbed 16 spots following her first pro win and is currently ranked No. 2 with $47,132 earned across eight starts.
“It was a truly unbelievable experience capturing my first title as a professional in my rookie year on the Epson Tour,” said Belac, one of nine different winners on the Epson Tour this season. “There is a lot on the line this week at River Run Country Club, from LPGA Tour membership to a spot in the field for the U.S. Women’s Open in December. I’m glad I was able to put myself in a great position to accomplish both with a great performance at the Carolina Golf Classic and will work to keep making strides in my game this week.”
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. Five cards will be awarded at the end of the Epson Tour Championship based on the total number of events on the restructured schedule because of COVID-19 pandemic. Since the inaugural year, a total of 157 players have graduated to the big stage.