Buffalo Dunes to host women's pro Symetra Tour event

4/9/2014

By BRETT MARSHALL

By BRETT MARSHALL

bmarshall@gctelegram.com

Garden City and Buffalo Dunes Golf Course will be hosting a Symetra Tour event for women's professional golfers Sept. 11 to 13.

The Symetra Tour is the launching ground for young professional women's golfers who are seeking to gain a spot on the LPGA Tour.

The announcement for the Garden City Classic was made Tuesday afternoon at a press conference at Buffalo Dunes Golf Course.

Making the announcement was Mike Nichols, Chief Business Officer of the Symetra Tour, whose office is located in Daytona Beach, Fla., along with Tim Kramer, Director of Tour Business Affairs.

"We're excited to be here, and if the players who will be here this fall experience the hospitality that we've enjoyed the last 24 hours, they've got a lot to look forward to," Nichols said in his opening remarks.

The inaugural 54-hole Classic will carry a purse of $100,000, with a first-place winner's check of $15,000. It is the final regular season event of a 19-tournament 2014 schedule that will conclude the following week with the Symetra Tour Championship at LPGA International's Jones Course in Daytona Beach.

The week prior to the Garden City event, the Tour will be conducting the Prairie Band Casino and Resort Charity Classic in Mayetta, north of Topeka, thus the travel from that event to Garden City is made much simpler for the majority of the expected field of 144 golfers.

And that is the avenue that led the Symetra Tour to discover Buffalo Dunes and Garden City. Kramer, whose family has roots in Kansas, was meeting in the Topeka area with the Firekeeper Golf Course officials when his brother-in-law mentioned Garden City and Buffalo Dunes. A few phone calls ensued to Buffalo Dunes head professional Cole Wasinger, and the discussions were under way. That all has occurred over the past six weeks.

"The ball started rolling from there, and what a wonderful venue this will be for the ladies in September," Kramer said. "We had an open week before the Tour championship, and with the other tournament in Kansas the week before, it was a natural for us to look somewhere geographically convenient to Topeka. It's a great fit for us, for the players, and we believe it will be a great venue."

With American Eagle having daily flights into and out of Garden City from and to Dallas, the travel to Daytona Beach, Fla., for the season-ending event will be alleviated, Kramer said.

"The jet service to get to Daytona is relatively convenient," Kramer said. "There will be a lot of cars from different states. We want to be here for as long as Buffalo Dunes and the (Finney County) Convention and Visitors Bureau wants us to be here. In the first year, you just start to figure things out, and then you build equity in the event."

The CVB board recently approved $50,000 from its recruitment fund to support the event in its first year, Larry Johnson, CVB Event Planner, said.

"We're not really gambling here with this event," Kimberlea Inderlied, Executive Director of the CVB, said. "The AJGA (American Junior Golf Association) had about a $500,000 impact on the community when they came last summer, and we're hoping to attract about six to eight thousand spectators for the tournament. We expect that they will fill a lot of the hotel rooms in town."

Matt Allen, Garden City's City Manager, also welcomed the news of another major golf event to the area.

"We've had a lot of marquee events that came to town," Allen said. "We've tried to build on that, and I believe that Cole and Buffalo Dunes have done their job with bringing these bigger golf events to town. They're leaving a mark in golf. I think this would be the crown jewel of our efforts."

A pro-am event will be played on Sept. 10 at the Dunes, with practice rounds starting on Sept. 9.

Wasinger said that Buffalo Dunes, and the city of Garden City, are still fully committed to supporting and participating in the annaul Southwest Kansas Pro-Am, which will be celebrating its 35th year in Garden City in early August. That event has raised nearly $900,000 in charitable donations to fund the St. Catherine Hospital Newborn Intensive Care Unit.

"We're still fully behind the Pro-Am, and we see this as just another step in making Garden City the golf capital of Kansas," Wasinger said.

Now in its 34th year, the Symetra Tour is the official Road to the LPGA. The top 10 money winners each season earn memberships on the LPGA Tour for the following season. More than 500 alumnae have moved to the LPGA through the years, and former Tour players have won 379 LPGA titles, including 43 major championships.

Since 1989, the Tour has contributed more than $5 million to charitable organizations throughout the country, and the Garden City Classic will be selecting local charities in the near future for donations to be made.

Currently, Yueer Cindy Feng is the leading money winner through the IOA Golf Classic, the fourth event this season, with earnings of $25,984. Second on the money list is Kendall Dye, the recent winner of the IOA Classic, with $19,952. There are 137 players currently listed on the Symetra Tour money list. In all, the Symetra Tour conducts tournaments in 11 states.

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