SOUTH BEND, Ind. — The 15th stop on the 2021 “Road to the LPGA” takes the Epson Tour to South Bend Country Club in the Hoosier State for the 10th edition of the Four Winds Invitational from August 13-15.
Greeting the 144-player field in South Bend, Ind. is a total purse of $200,000. 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 $30,000.
As well as the normal payout, players receive “Potawatomi Points” with $30,000 in total bonus money that is distributed over three participating events. The Four Winds Invitational is the third (and final) tournament in the series, as the top players in the points standings receive a sum from the prize pool.
Defending champion Kim Kaufman (Clark, South Dakota) is among the competitors and the win was the third of her Epson Tour career. Following the victory, Kaufman continued to excel and ended the 2020 season at No. 3 in the Race for the Card.
First-, second- and final-round action gets underway at 7:30 a.m. ET and the trophy ceremony will follow play Sunday on the 18th green.
SEVERAL COLLEGIATE TIES AT 15TH STOP
Four individuals with ties to Indiana institutions for higher education are featured among the competition in the Hoosier State and names to keep an eye on once the event starts Friday.
Purdue University leads the way with three alumnae in the field: Laura Gonzalez Escallon (Brussels, Belgium), August Kim (St. Augustine, FL), and Maude-Aimee Leblanc (Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada). The University of Notre Dame follows with two players representing the Fighting Irish: Becca Huffer (Denver, Colorado) and Lauren Beaudreau (Lemont, IL). Finally, Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis is represented this week by Aneta Abrahamova (Bratislava, Slovakia).
“The highlight of my collegiate career [with the Boilermakers] was definitely winning the NCAA Championship with the team,” said Leblanc. “Overall, I really enjoyed my college experience, loved the campus, the facilities and my teammates.”
COUNTRIES (AND STATES) OF THE FOUR WINDS INVITATIONAL
A total of 30 countries are represented this week at the Four Winds Invitational, led by the United States with 78 players then followed by Sweden having the next highest of eight competitors.
“Representing Germany always means a lot to me. I was 13 when I got to wear the national team shirt for the first time. I felt so cool and proud,” said Isi Gabsa (Munich, Germany), currently No. 10 in the Race for the Card. “Ever since, the German federation has been a big part of my journey. I’m very proud of representing them every week on Tour.”
Individuals from 29 different states are also set to tee it up at South Bend Country Club. Zero players are from the host state, while 11 players apiece hail from Florida and California.
ROOKIES APLENTY IN THE HOOSIER STATE
Numerous professionals in their first year on the Epson Tour have made the trek to South Bend, as 36 rookies are in the field and ready for the 15th event of the Epson Tour season.
Among them is Janet Mao (Johns Creek, Georgia), competing this weekend only two hours away from her alma mater, Northwestern University. Mao was a four-time All-Big Ten honoree, four-time National Championship participant and a four-time All-American scholar.
“I had a fantastic experience playing for Northwestern and love coming back to the Midwest to play. I love the look and feel of the courses around the Midwest and they’re in such great shape in the summers. The people are so friendly and love golf and are so enthusiastic about coming to volunteer and watch. I’ve spent all my off weeks since the Mission Inn Championship in Chicago since we have quite a few events in the region,” said Mao. “It has been great to have a consistent place to practice with a great facility and be able to stay comfortable with the type of grass that’s on the courses up here compared to the Bermuda I get at home in Georgia. It has also made traveling to tournaments a little easier as well. Besides golf, it’s so nice to be able to spend time with my close friends and coaches in Chicago and it feels like a second home to me. Looking forward to a great week in South Bend.”
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 13 tournaments in the books, the top-10 underwent some shifting following the FireKeepers Casino Hotel Championship. All 10 members from the group are in South Bend including current No. 14, Sophia Schubert (Tennessee), coming off a tied for second finish in Battle Creek, Mich.
“My goal is to be in the top-10 at the end of the year and get my LPGA card,” said Schubert. “Finishing in a share of second last week shows me that I have the game and my preparations are paying off.”
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.