THE COLONY, TEX | As the sun set at Old American Golf Club on Monday night, Kristen Gillman, Gurleen Kaur and Julianne Alvarez were left in limbo. The trio was tied at the top of the leaderboard after carding even-par 71s in their attempt to Monday qualify for the Ascendant LPGA benefiting Volunteers of America. With no daylight left, their 3-for-2 playoff was postponed to Tuesday morning.
“I feel like anytime that you have a break it gets you thinking more, so I was definitely nervous last night and coming into today,” Gillman said. “But I tried as hard as I could to not think about it. I knew if I went out there and just played my own game, then I should be fine.”
Gillman, Kaur and Alvarez began their sudden-death playoff at 7:20 a.m., just as the sun came up in The Colony, Texas. Gillman and Kaur both made par on the first hole while Alvarez bogeyed, ending the playoff quickly. The qualifying pair seemed to have a slight advantage over their fellow competitor as both are from the Lone Star State. Gillman hails from Austin while Kaur is from Houston.
“I definitely do think there is a little bit of an advantage, but at the same time you still have to step up and hit good shots,” said Kaur, who has played at Old American just once before.
Two-time U.S. Women’s Amateur champion Gillman has plenty of good memories at The Old American that helped to boost her confidence. “I definitely enjoy playing this golf course,” she said. “I wanted to play in a tournament in my home state and I've had success on this golf course for most of the years that I've played here. I feel like I know this course well, so it fits my eye well.”
The Ascendant LPGA has a history of Texan winners as the past three have all been Texas residents: Jin Young Ko who lives nearby in Frisco, Angela Stanford of Fort Worth and Aledo native Cheyenne Knight. Knight took home the trophy as a rookie in 2019, setting a tournament record with her -18 performance.
Gillman, who is Knight’s former University of Alabama teammate, will be teeing it up for the fifth time, with her tournament-best result coming in the 2020 iteration of the event. She finished tied for 8th, her best result that season.
“I think that the golf course feels like a Texas golf course, so I think that's why there’s a lot of success from Texas players out here,” Gillman said. “I can use that as inspiration, knowing that Texas people are winning this tournament.”
Kaur hopes to ride the wave of Texas success at her first LPGA event as a professional. As an amateur she played at the 2021 U.S. Women’s Open presented by ProMedica and this year’s Chevron Championship, so she’s happy to be in her home state for her professional debut.
“I'm really excited,’ Kaur said. “My family's going to come up today. Dallas is really close to home so I'm hoping some more people can come out and watch me also.”
Getting to play in Texas, and at a course she knows well, is the main reason Gillman made the four-hour trip to the Old American Golf Club for a Monday qualifier after competing four hours away at the Murphy USA EL Dorado Shoot Out in Arkansas on Sunday. Gillman tied for third at -7 in El Dorado, her best result and first top 10 on the Epson Tour this year.
“I’m definitely looking forward to using that momentum going into this week,” Gillman said. “I think that was the first time I’ve been in contention since this tournament in 2020. It’s been a long time, so it’s nice to get those nerves back again and play under pressure.”
While Gillman is looking to win it all, Kaur doesn’t have heavy expectations. After all, this is likely the first of many tournaments to come for the 22-year-old, so she wants to have fun and enjoy the experience.
“Just because it’s the first event I'm just trying not to put too much pressure on myself, but I definitely want to make the cut and get myself into contention because I know my game is there,” Kaur said.
Regardless of their goals for the week, Gillman and Kaur are off to a great start in their home state. And if history tells us anything, both have as good a chance as anyone to hoist the trophy come Sunday.