BEAUMONT, Calif. — The fourth stop on the 2020 “Road to the LPGA” takes the Epson Tour to Morongo Golf Club at Tukwet Canyon in the Golden State for the fifth annual IOA Championship presented by Morongo Casino Resort & Spa from Aug. 21-23.
Greeting the 132-player field in Riverside County 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.
Defending champion Jillian Hollis (Rocky River, Ohio) is not among the competitors, as she was a 2019 Epson Tour graduate. The win in Southern California was the first of two victories last season for the University of Georgia alumna and helped her finish at No. 5 in the Volvik Race for the Card.
Action gets underway at 7:00 a.m. PT in the first and second round with play starting off No. 1 and No. 10 tees all three days. Meanwhile, the final round will start at 8:00 a.m. with a trophy presentation to follow on No. 18 green.
SEVERAL COLLEGIATE TIES AT FOURTH STOP
A total of 17 individuals with ties to 11 different California institutions for higher education are featured among the competition in the Golden State and names to keep an eye on once the event starts Friday.
The University of California, Davis and Pepperdine University are represented by two individuals each in Demi Runas (Torrance, California) and Andrea Wong (San Francisco, California), Tatiana Wijaya (Jakarta, Indonesia) and Hira Naveed (Perth, Australia), respectively. Meanwhile, five Bruins from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) are in Beaumont including Brianna Do (Lakewood, California), Erynne Lee (Silverdale, Washington), Lee Lopez (Whittier, California), Lilia Vu (Fountain Valley, California) and Beth Wu (Whittier, California).
“I was born and raised in Southern California. It feels great to be competing in a professional event at a course where a lot of us used to play junior tournaments,” said Wu. “I stayed in the Los Angeles area by playing collegiate golf at UCLA. Even though it is pretty far from Beaumont still, I’m sure there’ll be Bruin fans supporting us safely from home.”
San Diego State University, Stanford University, the University of Southern California, California State University, Northridge, the University of San Francisco, San Jose State University, University of California, Riverside and University of California, Irvine, each have one lone representative competing in Milagros Chaves (Asuncion, Paraguay), Casey Danielson (Osceola, Wisconsin), Veronica Felibert (Caracas, Venezuela), Clariss Guce (Artesia, California), Emily Laskin (Gilbert, California), Elizabeth Schultz (Walnut Creek, California), Savannah Vilaubi (Downey, California) and Breanne Jones (Riverside, California), respectively.
COUNTRIES (AND STATES) OF THE IOA CHAMPIONSHIP
A total of 24 countries are represented this week at the IOA Championship presented by Morongo Casino Resort & Spa, led by the United States with 83 players and followed by the People’s Republic of Korea having the next highest of six competitors.
“I am proud to be representing my home country, but I also know that because we make up so much of the Tour there are high expectations from people around us,” said Ji Eun Baik, a native to the People’s Republic of Korea who calls Cumming, Ga., home. “It can be stressful at times, but it also motivates.”
Individuals from 24 different states are also set to tee it up at Morongo Golf Club at Tukwet Canyon. A total of 20 players hail from the host state, while Florida features the second most at 10.
“I went into last week’s event with managed expectations considering it was my first event back and was mostly looking forward to competing again, so I’m just grateful to finish the way I did,” said Runas. “Now moving forward to Beaumont, it’s always nice to be able to compete close to home, but it can be a little more difficult to keep expectations in check. I’m going to try to maintain the same mindset and build on the positives from Arizona.”
ROOKIES APLENTY IN BEAUMONT
Numerous professionals in their first year on the Epson Tour have made the trek to Riverside County, as 33 rookies are in the field and eager for the fourth event of the Epson Tour season.
Among them is Lucy Li (Redwood Shores, California), a 17-year-old rookie. Last week, Li finished fifth in the Founders Tribute which moved her up 68 spots to No. 14 in the Volvik Race for the Card.
“I had a lot of fun playing last week and it was an added bonus to get a top five finish. I felt really relaxed last week, so that’s the mindset I’m looking to have this week as well,” said Li. “I’m excited to be playing in my home state this week and hope it will be a little bit cooler than Arizona. It’s been really fun getting my pro career started as a Epson Tour rookie this year even in a bit of an unconventional season. I am looking forward to the rest of it and getting some more experience.”
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 third tournament in the books, the top five saw some changes following the Founders Tribute. Four members from the group are in Beaumont this week and eight of the top-10, including I was excited to be in contention last week and have a chance for a win. I really like where my game is at and hope to continue playing solid this week in Beaumont,” said Danielson, currently at No. 8 in the Volvik Race for the Card. “It is fun to see my name near the top of the Volvik Race for the Card, but there is a lot of golf left this season. I hope to keep learning about my game and improving this season.”
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.