Before a one-week hiatus, the LPGA Tour heads to Texas for the seventh edition of the Volunteers of America Classic. This is the first year the tournament will take place in October, with 120 players vying for a $1.3 million purse. Rolex Rankings No. 2 and 2018 champion Sung Hyun Park returns to Old American Golf Club to defend her title and hopes to earn her third victory of the 2019 season.
Severe storm conditions dominated the storylines last year, shortening the tournament to 36 holes. Park took advantage of Mother Nature’s wrath, finishing Sunday at -11 for her third career LPGA win. Park headlines a 2019 field that boasts other former VOA Classic champions, including two-time winner and former World No. 1 Inbee Park.
Fresh off her second 2019 victory at the Indy Women in Tech Championship driven by Group 1001, Texas resident and Rolex Rankings No. 23 Mi Jung Hur is also competing in The Colony. The VOA Classic is the last opportunity for players to make it into the Tour’s Asia tournament swing and is the last event on U.S. soil until the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship in November.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VOA CLASSIC
- This is the seventh playing of the Volunteers of America Classic
- From 2013 to 2016, the tournament had two cuts, one at 36 holes to the top 70 and ties, and one at 54 holes to the top 50 and ties
- There are five champions in tournament history – Stacy Lewis (2014), Haru Nomura (2017), Inbee Park (2013, 2015), Sung Hyun Park (2018) and Jenny Shin (2016)
- Inbee Park, Sung Hyun Park and Jenny Shin are all in this year’s field
This is the second year the tournament will be held at Old American Golf Club; from 2013 to 2017, it was held at Las Colinas Country Club
MI JUNG HUR GOING FOR THREE CLOSE TO HOME
Mi Jung Hur only had a few hours after her win at the Indy Women in Tech Championship to savor the victory before she flew south for the Volunteers of America Classic. The McKinney, Texas, resident celebrated her second LPGA Tour title of 2019 surrounded by family at home, topped off with a late-night Korean-style dinner.
Even with the quick turnaround between tournaments, Hur is still gushing over her first career wire-to-wire victory. “This is incredible for my career because I was always think about like more than one win per year. I just did it and this is my 11th year on the Tour,” said Hur. “It takes so much time to do it, but I'm happy because I did it.”
Hur is excited to have a full house by her side at Old American Golf Club, with her parents, husband and brother in town for the week. She feels an advantage of competing close to home, but still senses the pressure as she aims for her third victory of the year.
“It will be awesome because I live here and a lot of my friends are here as well, there will be to come to watch me. I'm just trying to enjoy my golf as same as last week,” said Hur. “I don't want to think about too much about the win because it definitely pressure by myself, so I just want to play like a fun game.”
NEARLY BABY TIME FOR LANG
Texas native Brittany Lang comes to the Volunteers of America Classic, her hometown event, with the finish line in sight. Lang, who lives just 30 minutes away from Old American Golf Club, will wrap up her season this week and then step away for maternity leave. The 34-year-old major champion is expecting her first child in January 2020 and will soon join the growing ranks of the LPGA Moms on Tour.
“I was really tired early on, which was hard to play being so tired, but once I got over that hump, I actually feel fantastic right now. I feel so good,” said Lang. “It's a little different being a little bigger with having more weight in the center, so I've had to narrow my stance a little bit and my swing to get through the ball more, but other than that, I feel great now. I'm not hitting it that much shorter, maybe like a half club, so I feel pretty good. Hope to end on a positive note.”
Lang is one of four players to announce pregnancies in 2019, with Brittany Lincicome, Sarah Jane Smith and Jackie Stoelting all giving birth this year. The LPGA Tour currently counts 14 mothers among its active playing roster, and Lang has been leaning on her friends to provide useful tidbits they have learned from life on the road with their children.
“There's no manual for it, so I'm asking the girls how do you travel with the baby,” said Lang, who celebrated her upcoming arrival with a baby shower from her fellow Tour players on Monday. “Seemed like it would be very difficult. Gerina (Piller) and Stacy (Lewis) and Brit (Lincicome) have all been really helpful.”
With just more than three months to go in her pregnancy, Lang is truly starting to feel the physical changes to her body starting to affect her game. But you wouldn’t know it from her play last week, where she finished T25 at the Indy Women in Tech Championship, just her fourth top-25 finish in the last two seasons. Lang hopes to take last week’s successes and translate them to a great week in Dallas, a week that she can perhaps one day share with her child.
“Going into last week, my expectations were low and I played fantastic. Just staying calm and setting the bar very low, just one shot at a time, one hole at a time,” said Lang, who will play alongside Tiffany Joh and Maria Fassi in the first two rounds. “I've been working on some things. I still want to play well. My wedges have gotten really good these past few weeks and my attitude's been good, just a couple things I've been working on. I can still compete and hopefully, like I said, just play some good golf and keep the expectations low and stay calm.”
VOA CLASSIC PARTNERS WITH TEXAS JUNIOR GOLF ALLIANCE
Today at the Volunteers of America Classic, tournament officials announced an exciting partnership with the Texas Junior Golf Alliance. Starting in 2020, the Volunteers of America Classic Match Play Championship will give junior female golfers from the state of Texas the opportunity to play their way into the LPGA Tour’s Volunteers of America Classic.
Sixteen players will qualify for the match-play competition via the Legends Junior Tour, the Houston Golf Association, the NTPGA All-American Tour and the STPGA Prestige Tour, the four junior golf programs that comprise the Texas Junior Golf Alliance. The winner will receive an exemption into the Volunteers of America Classic field.
“Most of these participants will have an opportunity to play collegiate golf and play amateur golf at an elite level. Most of them have aspirations of playing professionally. To get a firsthand shoulder-to-shoulder look at that and to be able to do it through their local tours, they don't have to travel all the way across the country every other weekend,” said Stacy Dennis, the executive director of the Texas Golf Association and the Legends Junior Tour. “They have the opportunity right in their own backyard to earn this chance. I can't imagine a young girl with those aspirations not wanting to sign up for everything they can and do whatever they can do to make it into this field.”
For the team at the Volunteers of America Classic, the opportunity to help inspire the next generation of LPGA Tour players was something that fit right into the tournament’s mission.
“Mike King, CEO of Volunteers of America, he is very passionate about growing the game for young women,” said Tournament Director Brooke Lee. “This partnership, when we brought it to him and talked to him about it, he's super excited and super thrilled to have this. We're excited to see the young women get the experience and get out here and do well.”
Numerous LPGA Tour players competed in these Texas Junior Golf Alliance organizations during their junior careers, including Kristen Gillman, Cheyenne Knight and Angela Stanford.
RACE TO THE CME GLOBE UPDATE
Heading into the 27th week of the 2019 Race to the CME Globe, four-time 2019 winner and two-time 2019 major champion Jin Young Ko continues to hold a commanding lead with 3,988 points. With 10 top-10 finishes and two wins this season, Brooke Henderson is in second with 2,604 after a T20 finish at the Indy Women in Tech Championship. 2019 U.S. Women’s Open champion Jeongeun Lee6 is in third with 2,461 points followed by Rolex Rankings No. 2 Sung Hyun Park with 2,388 points.
The 2019 season brings a fresh face to the Race to the CME Globe. LPGA Members will accumulate points at each official LPGA Tour event leading up to the CME Group Tour Championship. The top 60 points earners and ties will then earn a spot in the CME Group Tour Championship, with the entire field competing for the $5 million purse and the $1.5 million winner’s check, the largest single prize in the history of women’s golf.