As the tour returns to Rogers, Arkansas and Pinnacle Country Club for the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship presented by P&G, history points to a few items worth watching in the 15th official edition of this LPGA Tour staple.
There are tournaments on the schedule where par is always a good score. This is not one of those. With the event being 54 holes, it is more of a sprint than a marathon with birdies flying early and often. In 2016, for example, Lydia Ko shot 66, 62, and 68 and only won by three shots over Morgan Pressel and Candie Kung, who shot 14-under for three rounds and finished second.
A year later, So Yeon Ryu vaulted to No.1 in the Rolex Rankings with her victory in Arkansas. In the process, she put all her fans on 59 watch on competition Friday when she got to 10-under par through 16 holes. While she didn’t break 60, Ryu did fire rounds of 65, 61 and 69 and only won by two shots over Moriya Jutanugarn and Amy Yang.
The scoring record for this event was set in 2018 when Nasa Hataoka shot an astounding 21-under par for three rounds, including a closing 63.
Hataoka is the defending champion, having shot -16 in 2021 to capture the event by a single shot over Minjee Lee and Eun Hee Ji. In the process, Hataoka had two holes-in-one, another sign that par is a losing number in this event.
The 17th at Pinnacle Country Club has become a stadium of sorts, with hospitality grandstands lining the entirety of the par 3. At some point in the tournament’s evolution, fans began “calling the hogs,” whenever a player with an University of Arkansas connection came through.
What is calling the hogs, you ask? It’s the chant that the Arkansas faithful use to root on their teams. “Woo pig, suey!”
Stacy Lewis, a Razorback alum and former winner of this championship, helped lead the cheer. Now, with more alumni in the field this week like Maria Fassi and Gaby Lopez, expect to hear those cries more often.
A House Divided
Speaking of Lewis, most ardent fans know that the next U.S. Solheim Cup captain was born in Ohio, moved to Clemson, South Carolina, but actually grew up in The Woodlands, Texas before heading to Fayetteville, Ark. for college where she won the school’s first NCAA individual championship. What some may not know is that her husband, Gerrod Chadwell, is now the head women’s golf coach at Texas A&M University.
At 7:00 p.m. EDT on Saturday, just about the time the second round of the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship concludes, the undefeated Razorbacks will take on the Aggies in College Station, Texas in one of the most anticipated week-four college football matchups.
Neither Stacy nor Garrod will attend the game. Stacy tees off No.1 at Pinnacle Country Club this Saturday, while Gerrod will be coaching his team at Traditions Golf Club in Bryan, Texas at the “Mo” Morial Invitational.
Former Razorback Fan Favorites
It seems appropriate during the height of Hispanic Heritage Month that two of Arkansas’ favorite daughters hail from Mexico and will be returning to Rogers for another shot at victory.
Since the last time this event was played, former Razorback Gaby Lopez has added another title to her resume. The 28-year-old from Mexico City won the Dana Open in Toledo the first weekend of September, birdieing the final hole to hold off a charging Megan Khang. Now, Lopez returns to her college town in the hopes of closing out the month the way she started.
Looking for her first career victory is another former Razorback, Maria Fassi, who captured the NCAA individual championship while at Arkansas and who is coming into the week playing some of the best golf of her career. Fassi finished third at the Queen City Championship, her second top-5 finish of the year.
For the second time in three events, featured groups will be livestreamed on ESPN+ beginning at 9:00 ET on Friday morning. The streaming feature was first added to the LPGA Tour at the Kroger Queen City Championship presented by P&G and immediately elevated the fan experience.
Not only do fans get to follow some of the most popular players in the women’s game from warm-ups through the final putts, players engage with ESPN+ commentators throughout the round to provide insights into their rounds.