Jul 28, 2014 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Nearly two decades old, the Symetra Tour’s Credit Union Classic has turned into a late-summer fixture on the Central New York golf calendar.
And once again, the future stars of women’s golf are heading to Drumlins Country Club’s East course this weekend, battling for $100,000 in prize money and improving their odds of being one of the 10 players that, at season’s end, will earn an LPGA Tour card.
Once known as the Futures Tour, its first stop in Syracuse came in 1996, and for its first 13 years the event was played at the Links at Erie Village. Then it moved to Drumlins in 2009 and picked up the sponsorship of several area credit unions, with Wegmans serving as a presenting sponsor.
A full week of activities are planned again, from Monday’s Pro-Junior Challenge featuring high school teams paired up with Futures pros to clinics to a pair of pro-ams, plus a junior clinic set for Thursday at 10 a.m. on the 18th fairway at Drumlins’ West course.
Tournament play in the 54-hole event gets underway on Friday morning, with the first wave of groups teeing off at 7:30 a.m. and the second wave at 12:30 p.m. The same times apply on Saturday, and after the cut is made, the remaining players tee off at 7:50 a.m. Sunday until the champion is crowned.
Last July, the Credit Union Classic had a dramatic – and fortuitous – ending. Olivia Jordan-Higgins, from Great Britain, sank a par putt on the final hole to finish at six-under-par 207 and beat P.K. Kongkraphan by one shot, just minutes before a vicious rainstorm soaked Drumlins that likely would have sent a playoff between Jordan-Higgins and Kongkraphan to Monday morning.
Even those who didn’t win this tournament in the past can find glory. Mo Martin, a professional rom Texas, spent six years on the Symetra Tour and played in this event several times before making it to the LPGA in 2012. A month ago, her eagle on the 72nd hole produced an upset victory in the Women’s British Open at Royal Birkdale in England.
The field will include more than 140 golfers, hailing from five continents. The international flavor has always been part of the tournament as past players Kristy McPherson, Laura Diaz and Nicole Castrale have all appeared in the biennial Solheim Cup that pits the United States against Europe.
By far, the biggest name in the field is Woods – Cheyenne Woods, that is, the niece of golfing great Tiger Woods, who has played throughout this year on the Symetra Tour after a professional stint in Europe and college golf at Wake Forest, where she won the ACC Tournament in 2011.
In 10 events this year on the Symetra Tour, Woods, 23, has made the cut nine times, with her best finish a tie for fifth at the Decatur-Forsyth Classic in Illinois in mid-June.
But it’s Korean professional Min Seo Kwak that leads the money list with $63,727. Marissa Steen, with $56,912, stands in second place, followed by Yueer Cindy Feng ($50,392), Wei-Ling Hsu ($44,152) and Kendall Dye ($39,629).
And sitting in sixth place, with $36,213, is Sadena Parks, who last week shot a final-round 62 to capture the SEFCU Classic at Capital Hills, near Albany, and become just the second African-American woman to win a Symetra Tour event, joining LaRee Sugg, who did so in 1998.
Further down the list is Jordan-Higgins, who missed her LPGA Tour card by just $114 last year despite her victory at Drumlins. In 2014, she’s 49th on the money list and will get a chance to defend her Credit Union Classic title, something no one has done in the event’s history.
Each year, the Credit Union Classic has included at least one player with Upstate New York roots. While in the past that would include the Section III individual champion, this year an exemption was given to 22-year-old Rebecca Studin, from Ithaca, who prevailed last week at the Post-Standard Women’s Amateur by two shots over Baldwinsville’s Lauren Petty.
Tournament proceeds benefit the First Tee of Syracuse, an organization that helps teach boys and girls the game of golf, along with life lessons about character and responsibility. Tickets can be purchased at the tournament’s web site, cuclassic.com.