FRENCH LICK, Ind. — The 11th stop on the 2021 “Road to the LPGA” takes the Epson Tour to the Donald Ross Course at French Lick Resort in the Hoosier State for the fourth annual Donald Ross Classic from July 8-10.
Greeting the 144-player field in French Lick, Ind. is a total purse of $250,000. 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 $37,500.
Defending champion Patty Tavatanakit (Bangkok, Thailand) is not among the competitors, as she finished second in the 2019 Race for the Card after earning three wins. Since graduating onto the LPGA Tour, Tavatanakit is now a major champion. In addition to winning the 2021 ANA Inspiration, the UCLA alumna has claimed four top-five finishes.
Action gets underway at 7:30 a.m. ET all three days with play starting off No. 1 and No. 10 tees in the first and second round. Meanwhile, all groups will head off No. 1 tee for the final round with a trophy presentation to follow on No. 18 green.
SEVERAL COLLEGIATE TIES AT 11TH STOP
Seven individuals with ties to Indiana institutions for higher education are featured among the competition in the Hoosier State and are names to keep an eye on once the event starts Thursday.
Purdue University leads the way with four representatives in Anna Appert Lund (Bromma, Sweden), Laura Gonzalez Escallon (Artesia, California), August Kim (St. Augustine, Florida) and Maude-Aimee Leblanc (Sherbrooke, Quebec). The University of Southern Indiana, Indiana University and University of Notre Dame each have one representative in Taylor Howerton (Evansville, Indiana), Erin Harper (Dublin, Ohio) and Becca Huffer (Denver, Colorado), respectively.
“I always love coming back to Indiana to compete. Purdue is such a constant source of support and happiness for me, so anytime I'm in this state it feels like another home,” said Kim. “I have many great memories here in French Lick and Indiana as a whole, so being here is always a good time.”
COUNTRIES (AND STATES) OF THE DONALD ROSS CLASSIC
A total of 25 countries are represented this week at the Donald Ross Classic, led by the United States with 79 players then followed by Mexico and Canada having the next highest of eight competitors apiece. Several countries each week, like Panama, are represented by only one player.
“To me it’s a great honor to be able to represent Panama on the Epson Tour. It is so special to be able to play for something much bigger than yourself. Panama is a small country where golf is starting to grow more and more,” said Laura Restrepo (Panama City, Panama). “I am very proud to be the first female professional golfer in my country and it’s a role I take with big responsibility. Every day I aspire to be a good role model and help continue growing golf back home. I want to open doors for the younger generation and show that even if we are a small country, we can dream big and through hard work, achieve our goals.”
Individuals from 25 different states are also set to tee it up on the Donald Ross Course at French Lick Resort. Two player hails from the host state, while California boasts the most with 17.
“I always love when I have the opportunity to compete in Indiana,” said tournament sponsor exemption Erica Shepherd (Greenwood, Indiana). “This week is my first Epson Tour event, so I’m really excited to compete and have the opportunity.”
ROOKIES APLENTY IN THE HOOSIER STATE
Numerous professionals in their first year on the Epson Tour have made the trek to Indiana, as 29 rookies are in the field and eager for the 11th event of the Epson Tour season.
Among them is Brynn Walker (St. David’s Pennsylvania), competing in her fourth start as a professional on the Epson Tour. The University of North Carolina graduate enters the week off her first start on the LPGA Tour at the Volunteers of American Classic in The Colony, Texas.
“This season has been full of valuable experiences and a lot of learning both on and off the golf course. I think through every experience I’ve grown stronger as a player and a person. I’m grateful for all the opportunities I’ve had to compete and play on great golf courses and see different parts of the country,” said Walker. “Coming off the VOA Classic last week, I feel good about where my game is and I’m excited to compete at French Lick. With golf, you never know when everything is going to click and I feel like my game is trending in that direction right now.”
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 at the end of the season and will usher in the next graduating class after 19 events on the 2021 calendar.
With 10 tournaments in the books, the top-10 underwent some shifting following the Prasco Charity Championship. All 10 members from the group are in French Lick including the current No. 1, Ruixin Liu (Guangdong, People’s Republic of China).
“After a couple tournaments on the LPGA, I am anxious to get back out on the Epson Tour to pursue the Race for the Card top-10 and my full LPGA Tour card for 2022,” said Liu, a six-time ‘Road to the LPGA’ champion. "Competing in the Meijer Classic and KPMG major really put into reality what I am capable of, and can do, at the next level. I played well at the Donald Ross Classic in 2018, so it’s good to be back.”
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 147 players have graduated to the big stage.