MESA, Ariz. — The third stop on the 2020 “Road to the LPGA” takes the Epson Tour to Longbow Golf Club in the Grand Canyon State for the inaugural Founders Tribute from August 14-16.
Greeting the 144-player field in Mesa, Ariz., is a total purse of $125,000. 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 $18,750.
Action gets underway at 7:00 a.m. PT all three days with play starting off No. 1 and No. 10 tees in each round.
SEVERAL COLLEGIATE TIES AT THIRD STOP
Five individuals with ties to Arizona institutions for higher education are featured among the competition in the Grand Canyon State and names to keep an eye on once the event starts on Friday.
Arizona State University has one lone representative in Roberta Liti (Siena, Italy). Meanwhile, the University of Arizona leads the way with four alumnae in the field including Alejandra Llaneza (Mexico City, Mexico) and Brittany Benvenuto (Langhorne, Pennsylvania), as well as Krystal Quihuis (Tucson, Arizona) and Gigi Stoll (Beaverton, Oregon), members of the Wildcats 2018 NCAA Championship team.
“I am extremely excited to get back out on the Epson Tour after a long break and even more pumped I will be back in Arizona,” said Stoll. “The Founders Tribute is a new event for all of us [on Tour], but I feel confident competing in the desert after spending a lot of time in Tucson at the University of Arizona. My recent win on the Cactus Tour was a great confidence boost leading into my first Epson Tour event of 2020. Longbow is in great shape and I expect the scores to be low this week.”
COUNTRIES (AND STATES) OF THE FOUNDERS TRIBUTE
A total of 27 countries are represented this week at the Founders Tribute, led by the United States with 93 players, followed by the Republic of Korea and Mexico having the next highest of five competitors each.
“This week’s field at Longbow Golf Club will have players from many countries and I am honored to be one of a few from Mexico,” said University of New Mexico alumna Ingrid Gutierrez Nunez (Cuautla, Mexico). “I am always proud of where I am from and I hope one day I can represent my country on the LPGA Tour around the world.”
Individuals from 25 different states are also set to tee it up at Longbow Golf Club. California leads with the most players in the field at 22, while four players are from the host state.
“I am really excited to see my friends from the Tour in Arizona. While we all come from far places, we always hope we might have the opportunity to play close to home,” Quihuis said. “I know the heat and desert courses well, not only from growing up here but playing collegiately at University of Arizona as well. I’ve played tournament golf at Longbow before, but it will be different this time around with the Epson Tour and I can’t wait.”
ROOKIES APLENTY IN THE GRAND CANYON STATE
Numerous professionals in their first year on the Epson Tour have made the trek to Maricopa County, as 37 rookies are in the field and eager for the third event of the Epson Tour season.
Among them is Frida Kinhult (Fiskebackskil, Sweden). The alumna of Florida State University returns to the U.S. this week to continue her rookie season. Kinhult was the 2019 ACC Freshman of the Year for the Seminoles and shared ACC Player of the Year honors that same year. During the hiatus, she went home to her native country to work with her team and coaches, but also enjoyed extra time with family.
“It’s a strange year to be a rookie on Tour, but at the same time very exciting. Going into this year I was super excited to play a lot, as well as learn about the Tour, myself and my game,” Kinhult said. “The last thing I expected was to have another summer in Sweden spending time with my family and friends, but that was great. I used the time to not only work with my team and coaches, but also learn about accepting changes. Personally, I have grown so much as a person these last few months and learned a lot about taking each day as it comes. I’m ready more than ever to tee it up in a tournament again.”
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 nine events on the 2020 calendar.
With the second tournament in the books, the top five saw a bit of shuffling after the FireKeepers Casino Hotel Championship. Four members from the group are in Mesa including Janie Jackson (Huntsville, Alabama), who maintained the top spot on the list for a second straight week. After the 2019 season, Jackson moved to Scottsdale and will not be far from her new roots this week.
“I told my caddie on Wednesday in Battle Creek that our goal for the week was to still be sitting in the top spot on the money list by the end of the week, so I was pleased to walk away having accomplished that,” Jackson said. “I’m excited to get back to competition on Friday. It will be nice to be able to play at home and sleep in my bed. I think living in Scottsdale will help me be ready to battle the heat. It’s going to be all about mental toughness, so I’m excited to get out there and face the different obstacles.”
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 this season based on the total number of events on the restructured schedule because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the inaugural year, a total of 157 players have graduated to the big stage.