EL DORADO, Ark. — The 18th stop on the 2021 “Road to the LPGA” takes the Epson Tour to Mystic Creek Golf Club in the Natural State for the sixth annual Murphy USA El Dorado Shootout from Sept. 24-26.
Greeting the 108-player field in El Dorado, Ark. is a total purse of $175,000 with a winner’s share of $26,250. 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.
Defending champion Cydney Clanton (Winston Salem, North Carolina) is not among the competitors. Her win was one of six top-20 finishes during the 2019 Epson Tour season when Clanton ended the year at No. 27 in the Race for the Card. On the LPGA Tour in 2021, Clanton claimed a runner-up finish at the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational with teammate Jasmine Suwannapura.
Action gets underway at 7:30 a.m. CT in the first and second round with play starting off Nos. 1 and 10 tees all three days. Meanwhile, final-round action will begin at 7:30 a.m. with a trophy presentation to follow on No. 18 green.
COLLEGIATE TIES ADD SOUTH-OF-THE-BORDER FLAIR
Three players in the field at this week’s Murphy USA El Dorado Shootout have ties to Arkansas universities. And all three hail from Mexico. That might seem like a remarkable coincidence until you realize that certain areas attract collegiate players from specific countries. Arizona and Arizona State were long known for their top-flight Swedes, including Annika Sorenstam and Anna Nordqvist. Northwestern University in Chicago has long been known as the school for England’s best. And going back to Gaby Lopez and Maria Fassi, Arkansas has been the state for Mexico’s finest college players.
This week, the University of Central Arkansas has two players in the field: Brenda Gonzalez (Torreon, Mexico) and Fernanda Lira (Mexico City, Mexico), while Regina Plasencia (Guadalajara, Mexico) is a University of Arkansas alumna.
“My time at the University of Central Arkansas was very special. It was also particularly meaningful when I earned All-Southland Conference First Team honors in 2017,” said Gonzalez, who is making her first start on the Epson Tour since the 2019 Garden City Charity Classic. “Returning to Epson Tour competition this week in El Dorado as a tournament sponsor exemption feels like I am coming back to my second home. Arkansas has a special place in my heart, so to play here again on the ‘Road to the LPGA’ really evokes my love for the game.”
Meanwhile, Lira hasn’t missed a cut all season and captured one victory at the Firekeepers Casino Hotel Championship.
Plascencia has made seven cuts so far in 2021 with a season-best finish of a tie for fourth at the Copper Rock Championship.
“I am from Mexico, but my time with the Razorbacks makes Arkansas feel like home to me as well,” Plasencia said. “From my coaches to teammates and the beautiful campus, it all created an atmosphere that was so welcoming and easy to invest in. I’ll always cherish the wonderful memories I made at Arkansas and the opportunities to return to compete in the state as a professional.”
COUNTRIES OF THE MURPHY USA EL DORADO SHOOTOUT
A total of 27 countries are represented this week at the Murphy USA El Dorado Shootout. But no matter where they are from, all the players in the field have been made to feel at home.
“We went out to dinner last night and somebody at the restaurant just picked up our bill,” said Fatima Fernandez Cano (Santiago de Compostela, Spain). “We asked (the server) to bring our bill and she was like, ‘It has been taken care of already.’ This place is amazing in terms of how they treat us.”
ROOKIES FINDING THEIR GROOVE, RACE FOR THE CARD WINDING DOWN
It takes some time to adjust. And for rookies on the Road to the LPGA, the golf is the least of it. Breaking into the professional ranks requires an understanding of how to travel; how to eat; when and how to rest in a different bed, a different room and a different time zone almost every week. Then there’s the business side. As an independent contractor and professional athlete, do you play as a sole proprietor or a Sub-S corporation? How do you get insured? Is the $5 bet you lost on the putting green considered a business expense?
Emma Broze (Nervieux, France) figured the golf out pretty quick. She won in only the fourth start of her rookie campaign, capturing the rain-shortened Danielle Downey Credit Union Classic in the middle of July with an 8-under par total for 36 holes. Broze followed that up the next week with a tie for 11th at the Twin Bridges Championship. But she has struggled to keep the momentum going, missing three cuts in her last four starts. Still, the 26-year-old feels as though she is getting her groove back for the final run of the year.
“As a rookie on the Epson Tour, I have learned so much,” Broze said. “After winning in just my fourth career start, I was able to earn a top-15 finish the very next week and making sure I remained consistent following a massive accomplishment was a huge benefit to start my ‘Road to the LPGA.’ Since then, I have faced ups and downs but keeping my wits about me is key.”
Meanwhile, 2017 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion and stalwart on the victorious 2017 U.S. Curtis Cup team Sophia Schubert (Oak Ridge, Tennessee) has finally adjusted to life on the road as a professional. The 25-year-old University of Texas graduate arrives in El Dorado having posted four consecutive top-10 finishes. Schubert has seven top-10s for the 2021 season and hasn’t been out of the top 20 on a leaderboard since June.
“With just three tournaments left in the season, having the opportunity to reach the Race for the Card Top-10 is what we all work so hard for,” said Schubert, who currently sits at No. 11 in the Race for the Card standings. “I really like where I am at right now. I have been working to strengthen every aspect of my game and it is really paying off. I’m going to continue to play my game and enjoy the last few weeks of the year.”