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Friday, May 2, 2014

A Big Southern Welcome for The Symetra G.R.I.T.S. (Girls Raised In The South)

The Elephant Topiary, The Links at Stoney Point
It looks like a circus is coming to town at The Links as Stoney Point.  Well, if not a circus, something that looks big and involves the elephant topiary we local folk know and love as one of the centerpieces at the Festival of Flowers.  There are party tents, a huge leaderboard between the 18th green and the clubhouse, viewing stands for important people, cross-cut fairways, and greens that are, well, lush and green and, according to a couple of golfers I chatted with today, holding the line and rolling true!

Stoney Point's hard at work preparing a huge Southern Welcome for the Symetra Tour players, staff, and fans.  They have about two and a half days to finish getting the sidewalks edged, the tables inside the party tent set up, and tend to all the other little details that make a big party simply perfect.


Among the visitors who'll soon be flowing into Stoney Point are 144 golfers who are actually the focus of this party, despite the deceptive appeal of the elephant topiary that's sitting under live oak between the new pro shop and the clubhouse.  And among those 144 players are some G.R.I.T.S.  (They may or may not be true G.R.I.T.S. but they all hail from Southern colleges and universities, so they've absorbed the flavor of the South and earned their G.R.I.T.S. credentials.) Permit me to introduce you to a few of them.

Lacey Agnew
Lacey Angew, who claims Florida State University in Tallahassee as her collegiate home, joined the Symetra Tour in 2010 and the LPGA Tour in 2012.  As a collegiate golfer she recorded 4 top-10 finishes and a win, played on the 2010 All-Atlantic Coast Conference Team, and tied Florida State's all-time low round of 65 at the Cougar Classic.

On the Symetra Tour, she entered six events and made one cut in 2013 and made 9 cuts out of 14 event entries in 2013.  Her best 2013 finish was an 11th place tie at the Credit Union Challenge in Albany, NY.  Agnew's played five 2014  Symetra Tour events and she carded a 77 in the first round of the Chico's Patty Berg Memorial today.  (Follow the link to the Patty Berg electronic leaderboard.)

Jessica Alexander
Symetra rookie Jessica Alexander is even closer to home.  Alexander claims Coastal Carolina University as her collegiate home.  Alexander collected a string of honors during her collegiate golf career: AGCA All-American Scholar, All Big South Conference, and Big South Freshman of the Year in 2010; Big South Championship Individual Medalist, Big South Golfer of the Year, and GolfWeek All-East Region in 2011; NGCA All-American Scholar, All-Big South Conference in 2012; and NGCA All-American Scholar, Big South All-Championship Team, All-Big South Conference, and Women's Tennessee State Open winner in 2013.

Alexander's entered three events this year but has yet to make the cut and play the weekend.  She's not playing in the Patty Berg, so the Women's Health Classic could be her tournament breakthrough.  If you have a chance, let her know she's a home-state favorite and cheer her on.

Jean Chua
Malaysian Jean Chua claimed her GRITS credentials at Wake Forest University.  Chua came to Wake Forest as the winner of the 2003 Hong Kong MacGregor Junior Open and three-time runner-up at the Malaysian Ladies Open (2--3-2005).  She was the 2004 Asian Girls' Junion Champion and winner of the 2005 Malaysian Ladies Closed Championship  She recorded one collegiate win at Wake Forest and finished fifth individually at the 2009 ACC Women's Golf Championship  Chua also competed in the 2011 US Women's Open!

In 2012, her Symetra Tour rookie year, Chua made 14 cuts out of the 16 events she entered and her best finish was a runner-up tie at the Riveria Nayarit Classic.  She followed that up nicely in 2013, making the cut in 14 out of 15 events she entered, and she put two top-10 finishes on her resume, as well as another runner-up tie at the Eagle Classic.  Chua carded 74 in the first round of the Patty Berg today.  I'm looking for Jean Chua to play near the top of the board at the Women's Health Classic next week.

Cheyenne Woods
Symetra Tour rookie and two-time Arizona High School State Champion Cheyenne Woods, like Jean Chua, earned her GRITS credentials at Wake Forest University, where she enjoyed a very successful collegiate golf career: three-time All-ACC Member, twot0me All American, 2010 Bryan National Champion, 2009 and 2010 ACC Team Champion, 2011 ACC Individual Champion.

Woods joined the Ladies European Tour (LET) in 2013 and claimed her first professional victory in 2014 at the LET-sanctioned Volvik RACV Ladies Masters.  Woods has entered three LET events and four Symetra Tour events in 2014 and made all seven cuts.  Woods is paying her professional dues and working hard to play her way onto the LPGA Tour.  A win at the Women's Health Classic would get her to that goal.  She carded 76 in the first round of the Patty Berg today.

Lauren Doughtie
Lauren Doughtie is a Double GRITS.  She was the 2004 Virginia Junior Girl Golfer of the Year and played her collegiate golf at North Carolina State University where she was three-time winner of the NCSU MVP Award (2007, 2008, 2009).  She played on the 2008 and 2009 All-ACC Golf Team and won the 2008 Virginia Women's State Amateur Championship.  Doughtie's competed in two US Women's Opens, in 2008 as an amateur and again in 2011 as a pro.

Doughtie made the cut in 10 of the 16 events she entered in 2012 and won the Ladies Titan Tire Challenge.  In 2013 she played one Symetra Tour and 17 LPGA Tour events.  Doughtie carded 77 in the first round of the Parry Berg today.

I'm looking forward to watching these five players navigate the Stoney Point course.  I'm going to be a spotter on the par-5 9th hole, a hole that always challenges me, and I'm hoping I'll be able to pick up some tips and strategies for navigating that fairway's bunker and staying in bounds!

If you're on the course during the tournament, stop by and chat with me.  You could even bring me a small sample of your favorite Southern snack!