WINTER HAVEN, FLORIDA | It was three years ago almost to the day that Alana Uriell made her professional debut. March 7th at the 2019 SKYiGOLF Championship marked both the University of Arkansas standout’s first berth on the Epson Tour and first time teeing it up without an “(a)” by her name. Come Sunday that week, Uriell was holding a trophy on the 18th green having bested Julieta Granada and Lauren Coughlin with an eagle on the closing par-5, winning her first tournament in her first start, a fairytale beginning that every young player dreams of.
However, for Uriell, that seemingly good omen didn’t mean much for the rest of her 2019 season. That first year, Alana only made six cuts in 16 starts. 2020 wasn’t much better after COVID-19 derailed the LPGA Tour’s season – she made the weekend just four times in nine starts. Her 2021 campaign saw Uriell make the cut six times in 15 events, not enough to keep her from having to play LPGA Q-Series in December. Luckily, she managed a T-22 finish, allowing her to keep status for the 2022 LPGA Tour season.
This week’s Florida’s Natural Charity Classic marked Uriell’s second start of the new year as well as her second-ever start on the Epson Tour. After posting back-to-back 71s in rounds one and two, Alana came out firing on Sunday at Country Club of Winter Haven. She began the day five back of the lead at 2-under and on another windy day in central Florida, carded a bogey-free, 5-under 67 to finish in a tie for second with Sweden’s Frida Kinhult, two back of winner Kum-Kang Park.
“I usually played worse on the front nine the past two days and my goal today was to just hit the greens in regulation and give myself a good putt,” Uriell said. “I kept it simple and made some putts that I didn't expect to make and let the momentum build up and made a lot of birdies.
“I gave it my best shot. These girls are really good so I don't expect anybody to be messing up out here.”
The irony of carding her best finish since that first win on the Epson Tour isn’t lost on Alana. It’s been a long two years since 2019 and the 25-year-old’s road hasn’t been easy. But it’s weeks like these that keep a player coming back again and again. And while she fell just short of going two for two in Winter Haven, there’s confidence to be gleaned from a 7-under performance in challenging conditions, confidence that’ll help set Uriell up for the rest of the season.
“The last Epson event that I played in was in 2019. It was my first-ever pro event and I only played one Epson event and I won. That was the last time I was in contention,” said Uriell. “This was my second-ever Epson event and I was back in contention which is pretty crazy.
“I don't quite measure myself in the cuts that I've made. I've measured myself in the small incremental changes and improvements in my own game. As long as I'm moving in a direction and hitting my goals, I see it as an all-around win. I did a lot of good stuff fundamentally in my game for the offseason and having it play out here was a really good exercise going into the rest of the year. I foresee, especially after this tournament, some really good playing in my future.”