Jul 15, 2008 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Well into its second decade, the Alliance Bank Futures Golf Classic has proven to be a consistent launching ground for top female golfers to get to the LPGA Tour.
And that could be the case again as 18 of the top 20 money-winners on the Duramed Futures Tour come to the Links at Erie Village this weekend for the 13th edition of this tournament.
In all, $90,000 will be on the line, with $12,600 to the winner. Play in the 54-hole event runs Friday through Sunday, each day starting at 8 a.m.
Prior to that, there will be two days of pro-ams, a junior clinic and two tournaments related where top high school golfers are featured.
The second Nice N Easy Grocery Shoppes Pro-Junior Challenge, where 14 high school teams are paired with Futures pros in a nine-hole scramble format, takes place Wednesday morning at 8 a.m.
Auburn, Baldwinsville, CBA, Central Square, Chittenango, Cicero-North Syracuse, East Syracuse-Minoa, Fayetteville-Manlius, Jamesville-DeWitt, Liverpool, Rome Free Academy, Skaneateles, Westhill and Whitesboro are the competing teams.
Following that, the winning team will take on a group of top Rochester-area high school players in the Crowley Intersectional Showdown Thursday at 9 a.m. Danielle Fuss, Sara Quinn, Michelle Spiegel and Madeline Sisson make up the Section V All-Stars.
Though most of the Futures top 20 is in town, the tour’s leading player will not be. Vicky Hurts, who has won four of the eight tournaments she has entered in 2008, is entered in the LPGA’s State Farm Rail Classic and will play there.
Also, defending champion Violeta Retamoza is gone, having been one of the top five Futures money-winners in 2007, which helped her earn a promotion to the LPGA Tour.
One year ago, Retamoza overcame an opening 75 in cold, windy conditions on her 24th birthday to post rounds of 66 and 67 on the weekend, finishing off with a 25-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole that helped her beat Ha-Na Chae by a single shot.
Cortney Reno, the 36-hole leader in ’07 who struggled to a 73 in the final round to tie for fourth, is back for another crack at Erie Village. So is Brandi Jackson, who finished alone in third place and sits 25th on the current Futures money list.
As it sits right now, three players entered in this tournament would have their LPGA cards, as Mindy Kim holds second on the money list, M.J. Hur is third and Leah Wigger is fourth.
Everyone from sixth to 20th on the money list is here, too. That includes Song Yi Choi, Jessica Shepley, Jin Young Pak, Kristina Tucker, Stephanie Otteson, Kim Welch, Chella Choi, Caroline Larsson, Sunny Oh, Ashley Prange, Danah Ford, Sophia Sheridan, Briana Vega, Lisa Ferrero and Katie Allison.
Two Central New York players add more flavor to the field. Lori Atsedes, from Ithaca, is a long-time member of the Futures Tour with seven wins to her credit and an appearance on the Golf Channel’s “Big Break Kaanapali” this season. Atsedes is 49th on the money list and needs a victory to have realistic LPGA Tour hopes.
Also, by virtue of her victory in the Section III individual tournament on May 28 at Green Lakes State Park, East Syracuse-Minoa’s Brittany Siechen is entered in the field. It helps that ESM uses Erie Village as one of its home courses, so Siechen is practically playing at home.
The connection between “The Big Break” and the Futures Tour is vast. Prange, Vega and Welch all have won editions of that Golf Channel Series, and all are within the Futures top 20 with a great chance to get an LPGA card if any of them wins here.
At 6,203 yards with a par of 71, the Links at Erie Village is a course that rewards accuracy, which is required since so many holes (including 2, 4, 7, 10, 11, 15, 16, 17 and 18) are flanked by some kind of water hazard. Also, the wind can play a huge factor since few of the holes are tree-lined, with fast and undulating greens a possible headache, too.
Keep it in the fairway, though, and lots of birdie chances open up. Jeanne-Marie Busuttil set the course record of 63, eight under, on her way to victory in 2001. Six different players have shot nine-hole totals of 30, including Ji Min Jeong in 2007. Jimin Kang set the tournament record of 201, 12 under par, when she won in 2002.
Admission to the tournament is free, with parking just $5 per vehicle. Profits from the tournament benefit Loretto, a long-time provider of care and services for the elderly in Central New York that has been the tournament’s primary beneficiary for all of its 13 years.