GREENSBORO, NC — The 19th stop on the 2021 “Road to the LPGA” takes the Epson Tour to Forest Oaks Country Club in the Tar Heel State for the second annual Carolina Golf Classic presented by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (Blue Cross NC) from Sept. 30-Oct.3.
Greeting the 114-player field in Greensboro is a total purse of $200,000. 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 $30,000.
Defending champion, Ana Belac (Charlotte, North Carolina) is not among the competitors. Her win last season was one of four top-10 finishes which led her to end the season at No. 1 in the Race for the Card. This year on the LPGA Tour, the 2021 Epson Tour Player of the Year claimed her first top-10 finish of T4 at the Volunteers of America Classic.
First and second round action gets underway at 7:30 a.m. ET off No. 1 and No. 10 tees. The third and final round will start at 8:00 a.m. ET off No. 1 and 10 tees with a trophy presentation to follow play on Sunday on the back lawn.
COLLEGIATE TIES AT 19TH STOP
A total of ten individuals in the Epson Tour Membership with ties to four different North Carolina institutions for higher education are featured among the competition in the Tar Heel State.
The University of North Carolina, Wilmington, and North Carolina State are represented by one individual each in Lori Beth Adams (Burlington, NC) and Brittany Marchand (Orangeville, Ontario), respectively. University of North Carolina follows with three representatives in Leslie Cloots (Antwerp, Belgium), Kelly Whaley (Palm Beach Gardens, Florida) and Allie White (Lancaster, Ohio). Meanwhile, five former Demon Deacons from Wake Forest are in Greensboro; Natalie Sheary (West Hartford, Connecticut), Nannette Hill (Palm Beach Gardens, Florida), Allison Emrey (Charlotte, North Carolina), Sierra Brooks (Orlando, Florida), and Sierra Sims (Tampa, Florida).
“I’m excited for the last two weeks of the season especially this week in North Carolina,” said Emrey. “I love competing in my home state and getting to see my family. My dad will be caddying for me and I’m comfortable with him on the bag so can’t wait to get started.”
In addition, the five sponsor invites this week are from North Carolina institutions; Wake Forest University, North Carolina State University, North Carolina A&T State University, North Carolina Central University, University of North Carolina are represented in Emilia Migliaccio (Cary, North Carolina), Natalie Armbruester (Zurich, Switzerland), Christyn Carr (Duluth, Georgia), Mesha Levister (Louisburg, North Carolina), Rachel Jones (Asheboro, North Carolina), respectively.
COUNTRIES (AND STATES) OF THE CAROLINA GOLF CLASSIC
A total of 25 countries are represented this week at the Carolina Golf Classic presented by Blue Cross NC, led by the United States with 59 players and followed by Sweden having the next highest of seven competitors.
“The Epson Tour is represented by incredible talent from many countries around the world. For me, I live in Florida full time, and I am proud to me a member of the tour from the United States especially after this weekend’s Ryder Cup,” said Kelly Whaley (Florida), who attended the men’s team event last week in Wisconsin. “You can’t help but feel patriotic after Ryder cup USA dominance at Whistling Straits. Watching the competition firsthand was inspiring and makes me want to work even harder for the rest of the year. The energy from the players was infectious and Hope to bring some of that out here this week.”
Individuals from 25 different states are also set to tee it up at Forest Oaks Country Club. A total of seven players hail from the host state, while Florida has the most with eight.
“It’s been such a cool experience traveling the country this season, but nothing beats an event in your home state,” said Carley Cox (China Grove, North Carolina). “Having a few days at home will be nice before heading down to Florida to wrap the season up and begin Stage 2 of Q-School.”
ROOKIES JOIN THE FIELD AT GREENSBORO
Numerous professionals in their first year on the Epson Tour have traveled to North Carolina, as 22 rookies are in the field for the 19th event of the Epson Tour season. Among them is Haylee Harford (Leavittsburg, Ohio), a Furman University alumna. This year, Harford has claimed five top-10 finishes and is currently No. 20 in the Race for the Card.
“I’m super excited for the final two events of my ‘rookie’ year. I’m fortunate to be chasing my dream on the Epson Tour and I feel I’ve been able to develop as a player tremendously throughout this past year and a half,” said Harford. “I’ve learned that each week will bring new experiences, good and bad, but all I can do is grow from them, stay patient and have fun doing what I love.”
RACE FOR THE CARD UPDATE
The Epson Tour annually awards LPGA Tour membership to the top players on the Race for the Card money list. With 18 tournaments in the books, the top-10 underwent some shifting after the Murphy USA El Dorado Shootout. Nine members from the group are in Greensboro including Rachel Rohanna (Marianna, Pennsylvania), who is currently ranked No. 6.
“I'm still feeling good with my game for the last two events. It's all about staying patient with myself. It would mean so much to me to finish in the top-10 this year and play full time next year on the LPGA,” said Rohanna. “Every week, my daughter asks me if I am winning at golf. So, to be able to share an accomplishment like that with her would be amazing.”
Right outside of the top-10 is University of Georgia alumna, Bailey Tardy, at No. 12.
“Being outside the top 10 means I have nothing to lose these next two weeks. I’ve played great all year and hopefully I can throw a couple good rounds the next couple weeks and jump up a couple spot,” said Tardy. “I can’t control how other girls play and I plan to play my best golf then see where it takes me.”
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 162 players have graduated to the big stage.