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Monday, May 5, 2014

Ready, Set, Go! Who's Coming In Hot?

Women's Health Classic Leaderboard, off the 18th Green
at The Links at Stoney Point
The scene's set and everything's in place for the Women's Health Charity Classic at the Links at Stoney Point.  The leaderboard's up and waiting for the players, who are rolling into town now and have a practice round Tuesday morning.  The party tent's ready for two days of Pro-Am events and festivities, and the course is ready for the Thursday tee off.  And if you're in the Mother's Day mood on Sunday, you can take Mom to Sunday brunch at the event's party tent before the final round tees off.  Follow this link for the tournament schedule.

In addition to a number of LPGA Legends who are playing in the Pro-Am events, popular Big Break star Blair O'Neal and South African Ulrike Van-Niekerk have received sponsor exemptions and will join the field of 144 players to compete for a share of the largest purse in Symetra Tour history.  O'Neal's appeared on Big Break Prince Edward Island and Big Break Dominican Republic and has played on the Symetra Tour since 2002.  O'Neal missed the cut at Chico's Patty Berg Memorial.  Van-Niekerk, who played her collegiate golf at Texas Tech, finished the Patty Berg in a tie for 54th.

Four Tour players are coming off the Patty Berg hot and are poised to make a run for the top of the Women's Health Charity Classic leaderboard.  You'll want to watch for them as they make their way around the course:

Min Seo Kwak
South Korean Min Seo Kwak claimed the victory at Chico's Patty Berg Memorial Sunday afternoon.  With accurate drives and some sharp putting Kwak carded rounds of 71, 68 and 70 and finished the Patty Berg at -7.  Kwak, who's playing her fifth year on the Symetra Tour, has eight career top-10 finishes on her resume in addition to her win last weekend in Florida.

Kwak, who's strong off the tee, has an overall scoring average of 72.5 and is ranked fourth on the Symetra Tour money list.  How will she do this week on The Links at Stoney Point?  I'm looking for a solid performance and a finish in the upper ranks of the board and hope I'll be able to learn something from her as she navigates the par-5 6th hole's tricky dogleg.
Stephanie Na

Aussie Stephanie Na finished runner-up at the Patty Berg.   Finishing at -4, Na trailed Kwak by three shots.  Na plays on the ALPG and the LET as well as the Symetra Tour and led the Aussie contingent in the most recent LET event, the Lalla Meyrem Cup, in Morocco.

Na, who turned pro in 2009 and is currently ranked 35th on the Ladies European Tour Order of Merit, has eight top-10s on her resume, four on LET events and four on Symetra Tour events.  Like Kwak, Na's solid off the tee and their putting stats are equivalent.  I'm looking for a repeat of their battle at the Patty Berg for the top of the board.

Yueer Cindy Feng
China's Yueer Cindy Feng, who moved with her family to the Orlando area when she was 9-year old, finished the Patty Berg at -2 in a 3rd place tie.  Feng, who shares a family name with the LPGA star Shanshan Feng but it not related to her, is playing her rookie year on the Symetra Tour, but she's not lacking in experience.  She's played in three US Women's Opens (2009, 2010, & 2013) and she already has a pro victory and five top-10 finishes on her resume.

Feng's coming into the Women's Health Charity Classic very hot.  She established her golfing credentials in USGA amateur events and has entered six Tour events this year, made the cut six times, claimed her victory at Florida's Natural Charity Classic in March, and finished inside the top-five in four other events.  Feng's strong and accurate off the tee, and that accuracy will serve her well on a number of the Stoney Point holes.  Feng's the top money winner this year on the Symetra Tour and a good bet for a high finish on Sunday.

Demi Runas
American Demi Runas shared the 3rd place finish at the Patty Berg with Yueer Cindy Feng and like Feng is playing her rookie year on the Symetra Tour.  Runas played her collegiate golf at the University of California where she compiled an impressive list of accomplishments: three time Big West Conference Player of the Year (2011-2013); UC-Davis Female Athlete of the Year (2013); winner on the Cactus Tour, the Suncoast, and the Arizona Women's Open (all 2013).

Runas has entered six Tour events and made four cuts.  She finished inside the top-five at the Volvik Championship in February as well as the Patty Berg last week.  Runas plays a solid game and seems poised to claim a prominent spot on the Road to the LPGA this year.

There's going to be some fine golf played over the coming days at The Links at Stoney Point.  Hope I'll see you there.  Drop by my spotter assignment on the 6th hole and let's chat about the tournament and how you're enjoying it.