The 2017 Symetra Tour, which is the proving ground for future LPGA Tour players, has arrived in Garden City, and from Tuesday and Thursday’s official practice rounds, which sandwiched a big double Pro-Am on Wednesday, now turns to the 54-hole Garden City Charity Classic.
With Buffalo Dunes Golf Course in tip-top condition for the 132-player field, first-round action begins at 8 a.m. Friday with the first half wave going off both No. 1 and No. 10 tees.
All players will compete over the first 36 holes, with a cut to the low 60 scores and ties being made after Saturday’s round. The Sunday final round also will start at 8 a.m., with the expected leaders to finish at approximately 3 p.m.
With just five tournaments left to determine the top 10 money winners, those who will earn automatic cards into the LPGA Tour for 2018, there is much at stake in the $150,000 Classic, with a $22,500 payout to the winner.
In the field are nine of the top 10 money winners, the lone exception being No. 3 Nanna Koeerstz Madsen of Denmark. Taking it to the next 10 players, there are 17 of the top 20 players on the earnings list here as well.
Another dozen players are currently LPGA Tour members.
The test will be the rolling terrain of the Dunes, playing at 6,502 yards this week and a par of 72.
To explain the depth of this year’s Symetra Tour field, one only has to look at the winner’s circle, where there have been 13 different players to win in the 17 previous events, and only three with multiple wins.
Amazingly, top money earner Benyapa Niphatsophon of Thailand has yet to break into the winner’s circle, yet leads the list with $102,288. France’s Celine Boutier, a rookie who just won the GreatLIFE Challenge in Sioux Falls, S.D., is second at $96,748 and has secured her LPGA card for next season, as has Niphatsophon. Madsen has won three times en route to amassing $85,456 in winnings.
The logjam from No. 5 Hannah Green ($59,658) to No. 10 Lindsay Weaver ($44,819) is just less than $15,000. Three more players have won as much as $40,000 and all are within the range of moving well up the list with a top finish this week.
With a card on the table, even Colombia’s Paola Moreno has altered her early fall plans to travel to London and is in the field. She currently sits in the No. 12 slot ($40,413).
“I knew this could be my last year so I decided to pace myself differently because I wanted to enjoy the ride,” said the 32-year-old in a Symetra Tour release Wednesday.
AJGA Connection: Two players in the field have a connection to Buffalo Dunes. Current No. 9 money winner and rookie Daniela Darquea of Ecuador and amateur Hailee Cooper of Montgomery, Texas, both have won an AJGA event at the Dunes.
Darquea, then an amateur headed to the University of Miami (Fla.), won the AJGA tournament in 2013 while Cooper, who is a freshman at the University of Texas, captured the title in 2016. Cooper fired a three-round total of 5-under-par 211, while Darquea was 5-over-par at 221.