Stacy Lewis returns to Las Colinas Country Club as the only former tournament champion (2014) in the field after two-time winner and defending champion Inbee Park withdrew due to injury. Lewis, who has two other top-10 finishes in the Volunteers of America Texas Shootout Presented by JTBC and three top-10 finishes so far in 2016, is hoping to post another good result at a course that she says reminds her of the courses she played growing up in Texas.
“Well, first of all, it’s like coming home,” said Lewis of playing at Las Colinas. “This is the type of golf courses that I grew up playing on, a little bit hilly, a little bit funky, and you have to be a pretty good ball striker to play around here, and I think that’s what suited my game over the last few years. You know, just being closer to home makes things easier to play. You’re a little bit more relaxed, you’ve got more family around, just a little bit more of a fun week.”
The No. 4 player in the Rolex Rankings, Lewis has gotten the chance to catch up with several of the game’s rising stars during her time in Irving. Lewis is a big fan of the opportunities the VOA Texas Shootout provides to amateur golfers, and says that it motivates her to up her game as well.
“I love the way this tournament allows the kids the opportunity to come out and to play and to experience what tour life is like, what it takes to play on the LPGA,” Lewis said. “You have junior golf, you’ve won some tournaments and you think you’re doing pretty good, and you come out here and see how good the players are and say wow, I need to keep getting better. That’s the goal for them, to see where they can improve and where they can get better.”
Shootout Winners Excited To Play With Pros, Peers
Only four players out of the 100 amateur golfers who played on March 16 qualified for the Volunteers of America Texas Shootout Presented by JTBC. Of those four players, two players are still in high school (Karah Sanford, Kristen Gillman) and two are underclassmen in college (Maddie Szeryk, Cheyenne Knight).
When they step on the tee in an official LPGA Tour event, they’ll likely look around and see professional golfers who are not much older than they are, and some who are the same age or even younger. In a panel on Wednesday, the players said they’re motivated to see the success of some of their peers at such an early age.
“Yeah, it’s crazy to think that I’m only a couple months older than Lydia (Ko) and she’s out there No. 1 player in the world and just winning a lot,” said Knight, a freshman at the University of Alabama. “But it kind of shows like it doesn’t matter how young or old you are, like the golf ball doesn’t know who’s hitting it and you’re just playing the golf course really and that anyone can do it.”
“I think that it’s definitely a big motivation factor because they’re showing us that it is possible, in that if we keep working hard, that even at a young age we are able to accomplish those things,” said Gillman.
Of the four amateurs, only two will be facing unfamiliar territory and are participating in their first LPGA event. Maddie Szeryk, who also qualified for the 2014 VOA Texas Shootout as a high schooler, will be playing in her third LPGA event, while Kristen Gillman, who bested Brooke Henderson to win the 2014 U.S. Women’s Amateur, will be competing in her fifth Tour event.
|Name||Age||Hometown||Grade, School||LPGA Events Played|
|Karah Sanford||14||San Diego, CA||Freshman, Classical Academy Online (High School)||0|
|Kristen Gillman||18||Austin, TX||Senior, Lake Travis High School||4|
|Cheyenne Knight||18||Aledo, TX||Freshman, University of Alabama||0|
|Maddie Szeryk||19||London, Ontario, Canada||Sophomore, Texas A&M University||2|
Busy Week For Lexi Thompson
Lexi Thompson has had quite the busy week in advance of her opening round at the Volunteers of America Texas Shootout Presented by JTBC.
“I was here for Monday, played nine holes here Monday. Flew out Tuesday morning for the Zurich PGA Classic there in New Orleans,” Thompson explained. “Zurich is one of my main sponsors so I went out there, did a First Tee clinic on the range with Andrew Loupe and Brandon Pierce, which was pretty fun. Great to see a lot of kids out there. Did a few interviews for Zurich, photo shoot for Zurich, and then did ping pong event with all the Zurich ambassadors. It was great to be there. Being the only female Zurich ambassador is a huge honor, just showing the importance of women in business. It’s a great honor for me to be representing them.”
Thompson had a big win in the ping pong event as she knocked off a Major Champion before falling to another.
“I’m not too bad,” Thompson said of her ping pong skills with a smile. “I beat Keegan Bradley but I lost to Justin Rose, so I made it one round.”
Judy Rankin Gives Five Young Texas The Golf Experience of A Lifetime
This year at the Volunteers of America Texas Shootout Presented by JTBC, five young amateurs - Macy Schulze (Andrews, Texas), Ryan Pate (Midland, Texas), Aspen Escamilla (Midland, Texas), Rebecca Reed (Midland, Texas) and Haley Vargas (Lubbock, Texas) - got the chance to play alongside the pros thanks to Judy Rankin and the JTR Suitcase Fund.
“The fact that the tournament was embracing young golfers I had the idea that why couldn’t more junior golfers come here to play in the pro-am,” Rankin explained. “Through the foundation we found five girls with a lot of pluses - their school work, the kind of people they are, the way they play golf and love of the game - and we wanted to do something special for them. That’s how it came about.”
The five players, who all hail from West Texas, got to play with some of the best in the game including Michelle Wie, Shanshan Feng and Cheyenne Woods.
“It’s all the West Texas area where towns are kind of isolated,” Rankin said. “Only one of the five girls who played here had ever been to an LPGA event before so it was a really great experience. Mike King from Volunteers of America did any number of things to help this come to be.”
The girls were also invited to attend the past champions dinner where they dined with 2014 Volunteers of America Texas Shootout winner Stacy Lewis.
“I thought it was really cool what Judy Rankin has done this week with her foundation bringing, I think she brought four kids in that have never been to an LPGA tournament before, never been able to experience it, and they got to play in the pro am today, which was pretty cool,” Lewis said. “They were pretty excited about it last night. The dinner was running late but they didn’t care that they had a 7:10 tee time. It was cool to see their excitement and for them to experience tour life and to hopefully be out here one day.”