While Vicky Hurst has won eight tournaments on the Symetra Tour in three different seasons of playing, she has never returned to the scene of those triumphs.
The principal reason, of course, is that in her 2009 season of five wins, and her 2015 campaign of two victories, she eventually earned automatic exemption onto the LPGA Tour the following season.
But in 2018 that all changed as she struggled early on the LPGA schedule, missing seven cuts, withdrawing once after one round, and having a tie for 53rd as her best effort.
It was then she opted to make a return to the Symetra Tour with the goal of finishing in the top 10 money list at the end of the fall portion of the schedule to earn another automatic trip back to the LPGA rather than face the daunting task of going through the grueling LPGA Qualifying School.
Hurst, who captured the 2015 Garden City Charity Classic, will be in the 130-plus player field later this week when the fifth edition of the event tees off on Friday at Buffalo Dunes Golf Course.
It will be her first opportunity to return to a course where she previously has won, and she’s looking forward to the familiar layout.
“I came back to the Symetra with the hope of playing well and finishing strong at the end,” said Hurst, who won the Self Regional Healthcare Foundation Women’s Health Classic to cash a $30,000 payday, one of the richest purses on Tour. “It was certainly nice to get a win in Greenwood (May 10-13), because it gives you the confidence to know that you’re playing well and you can win again.”
Hurst’s pursuit of the top 10 finish at the end is nearly on track, having earned $38,047 in just eight events, and currently stands at No. 11, just about $1,200 from that final qualifying position.
While in the past few seasons, the top money earners this late into the season have usually nailed down their LPGA Tour card for the next season, 2018 has been anything but normal.
With Sunday’s finale of the Sioux Falls (S.D.) GreatLIFE Challenge, there has been not a single player with multiple victories — 16 tournaments, 16 different champions.
“Anything can happen now, and it’s very exciting,” Hurst said in her recent telephone interview. “There’s a lot of interest, and with the big purse this week ($210,000 at Sioux Falls), people can move up and down pretty easily.”
In her first and only appearance in Garden City three years ago, Hurst rode a red-hot 6-under-par 66 in the second round, sandwiched by rounds of 70 and 72, to beat Olivia Jordan-Higgins by two shots with an 8-under-par total of 208.
“I just remember that my short game was pretty good and I did a lot of scrambling,” Hurst said of that 2015 win. “My putting, which is usually pretty good, was very good that week. I hit the ball pretty well that week, too.”
So while her second trip to Garden City and Buffalo Dunes will refresh fond memories, Hurst said it’s all about how she plays this week.
“You can recall what you did, and that gives you positive feelings,” she said, “but it’s all about now. But I’m excited to see the course again. It’s gonna be different since I’ve only played there once before.”
Returning to the Symetra Tour has also reminded Hurst the differences between this Tour and the LPGA, where many hopefuls who graduate up struggle and then return to the Symetra.
“The competition here is not as tough (as the LPGA),” Hurst said. “But there’s a lot of younger players out here now, and they’ve got a lot of fire and a lot of fight in them, so it’s still a big challenge.”
Hurst said she hopes to parlay her experience in the past to provide that final push in the last six weeks of the Symetra Tour schedule to move her up into the top 10 at the finish line.
“You gotta be in the top 10 so it’s tough,” Hurst said. “I think the Symetra Tour is trying to make the courses tougher by making them a little longer and the pin positions harder. I like tough conditions and tough courses, so that’s fine with me.”