The Symetra Tour is in Greenwood, South Carolina this week for the seventh event of the season, which means we’re just about a third of the way through (22 total events on the schedule). It’s a huge week with a $200,000 purse and a winner’s payout of $30,000. The three past winners of the Self Regional Healthcare Foundation Women’s Health Classic have all earned a Tour card. It’s a good time for an update on the Symetra Tour 2017 season to date.
It has definitely been an interesting year – very unpredictable. Six events, six different winners and No. 1 on Tour – 19–year-old Benyapa Niphatsophon (Bangkok, Thailand) hasn’t won yet. Let’s start with Benyapa, also known as “Gift”. She played the LPGA last year, but a wrist injury hampered her rookie season. She’s tearing it up with three second-place finishes in five starts and has a chance this week to almost lock up a Tour card. She’s really fun to watch and plays incredibly fast.
Our latest winner, Nanna Koerstz Madsen (Copenhagen, Denmark), is by far the highest ranked player on the Symetra Tour according to the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings. She moved up to No. 75 this week and has a legitimate chance to make Annika’s Solheim Cup team as a captain’s pick. She finished second at the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open this year and placed T13 at the 2016 Rio Olympics. She also won on the LET last year. The 22-year-old has a serious game.
The top American player on Tour to date is a rookie from the University of Arizona named Lindsey Weaver. She has three top 10 finishes and five top 25’s in six starts. Weaver started her college career at Notre Dame and then transferred to Arizona. She never gets into trouble off the tee and that’s been key. She is hitting 91.2% of fairways, which ranks second on Tour. She also travels with her dog “Donut” while on Tour so how could you not become a fan?!
The other American on the rise is Mariah Stackhouse (our feature photo). She came a shot or two away from winning in her home state two weeks ago, but a second place finish moved her right on the cusp of the top 10. She ranks 11th with three top 25’s in five starts. Mariah told us in Georgia that she will continue to take LPGA starts, but she will also focus heavily on the Symetra Tour.
No tour is more global at the top than the Symetra Tour right now. There are ten different countries represented in the current Volvik Race for the Card top 10 (Thailand, Ecuador, Denmark, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Jersey (UK), USA and China). Include the top 20 players and there are 13 different countries represented (just for perspective, there are seven countries represented in the top 20 on the LPGA).
There are two veterans that have played well at the start of the season – Cindy LaCrosse and Christine Song. LaCrosse ranks 12th while Song checks in at No. 13. Two recent college stars – Emma Talley (’15 individual champ at Alabama) and Celine Boutier (’14 WGCA National Player of the Year at Duke) – are also off to solid starts. Talley ranks 17th while Boutier ranks 20th.
The best name on Tour this year goes to Mind Muangkhumsakul, an 18-year-old rookie from Thailand. A great new player on tour. Mind ranks 21st on the money list with two top 10 finishes.
Finally, it has been fun to watch the emergence of maybe another future New Zealand star in Lydia Ko… I mean Liv Cheng. She won the Gateway Classic at Longbow Golf Club earlier this year and is sixth on the money list. Pretty remarkable considering she finished 108th and 63rd in her first two seasons on Tour. Remember, it took Mo Martin six seasons on the Symetra Tour. Liv knows Lydia well and is actually the 2nd highest ranked player in the world from New Zealand. She has zeroed in on the LPGA and the 2020 Olympic Games.
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