HOWEY-IN-THE-HILLS, Fla. The eighth stop on the 2021 “Road to the LPGA” takes the Epson Tour to Mission Inn Resort and Club in the Sunshine State for the Mission Inn Resort and Club Championship May 28-30.
Greeting the 144-player field in Howey-In-The-Hills, Fla. 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.
First-, second- and final-round action gets underway at 7:30 a.m. ET. Play will begin from No. 1 and No. 10 tees for the first two rounds and all off No. 1 on Sunday with the awards ceremony following play behind the 18th green.
COLLEGIATE CONNECTIONS IN THE SUNSHINE STATE
Alumni from six Florida colleges and universities are featured among the competition teeing it up this week.
Florida Institute of Technology, Jacksonville University, Florida International University and University of Miami (FL) have one lone representative each in Daniela Iacobelli (Melbourne, Florida), Jessica Welch (Thomasville, Georgia), Meghan MacLaren (Rushden, England) and Dewi Weber (Groningen, Netherlands), respectively.
“I’m super thrilled to play back-to-back weeks in Florida, be able to stay at home with my family, and play with my dog, Bunker, when I’m not golfing. I am always proud to be a Florida Gator alumni,” said Wagner. “During my rookie season on the Epson Tour I balanced finishing my college degree and playing professional golf. It was really challenging at times but well worth it, I cherish my University of Florida degree and being out on tour with my fellow Gator golfers.”
Florida State University follows with three representatives in Amanda Doherty (Atlanta, Georgia), Morgane Metraux (Lausanne, Switzernald) and Frida Kinhult (Fiskebackskil, Sweden). The University of Florida leads the way with four Gators in Sierra Brooks (Orlando, Florida), Amelia Lewis (Jacksonville, Florida), Karolina Vlckova (Kladno, Czech Republic) and Samantha Wagner (Windermere, Florida).
COUNTRIES (AND STATES) OF THE MISSION INN RESORT AND CLUB CHAMPIONSHIP
A total of 34 countries are represented this week at the Mission Inn Resort and Club Championship presented by IOA, led by the United States with 65 players then followed by the People’s Republic of Korea having the next highest of nine competitors.
There are many players from Korea but I’m still proud to be able to represent my country each week and gives me motivation knowing many friends, families and my sponsors are rooting for me each week,” said Hong. “Every week has been a learning week for me out here on the Epson Tour this year and I feel like I’ve been improving one step at a time. Working with my coaches ,Ted Oh and Bryan Lebedevitch, has helped me greatly. This week my goal is to figure out the Florida greens a little better as it’s a lot different than the west coast greens. I just want to keep continuing my play and put three good rounds together to hopefully be in contention for a win.”
Individuals from 26 different states are also set to tee it up for the eighth event. Eleven players hail from the host state—including August Kim (St. Augustine, Florida)
“I'm looking to grow on last week's performance and take advantage of this Florida swing,” said Kim Having the opportunity to compete back-to-back weeks so close to home is such a treat.”
ROOKIES APLENTY IN CENTRAL FLORIDA
Numerous professionals in their first year on the Epson Tour have made the trek to Lake County, as 21 rookies are in the field for the eighth event of the season.
Among them is Ana Ruiz Laphond (Chihuahua, Mexico). The University of Oklahoma alumna won the AJGA’s Mexican Golf Federation Junior Open, as well as was a gold medalist at the Mexican Junior Olympic Games. Ruiz Laphond found her career-best finish last year at the FireKeepers Casino Hotel Championship with a T11 finish.
“It is always an honor to get to represent my country on the Epson Tour. It is something very special and a big motivation for me to represent my country in the best way possible,” said Lapond. “I love seeing the Mexican flag by the putting green at every event I play. It’s a good reminder of where I come from and what I stand for while I continue competing in my rookie season on Tour.”
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 10 events on the 2020 calendar.
With seven tournaments in the books, nine members from the top-10 group are in Howey-In-The-Hills. Bethany Wu (Diamond Bar, California) is chasing the top-10 and currently is at No. 17 on the money list with $20,337.
“Honestly, I’m still trying to keep everything simple and if I do that, hopefully things will fall into place for me. It’s still early in the year and I had my B game at River Run and Alaqua Country Club, so I have to clean some stuff up for the next two events then I’ll get a 3-week break to grind at home.”
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.