The road to the LPGA Tour once again ends in the Capital Region for the top 10 money winners on the LPGA Futures Tour.
Capital Hills at Albany continues its role as host for the Price Chopper Tour Championship, set for Sept. 9-11. On that weekend, the player of the year will be crowned, and she will join nine other Futures Tour standouts who will receive their LPGA card at a special ceremony following the final round. The top five usually end up playing their entire season on the LPGA Tour, while the next five have provisional status and often play on both the Futures and LPGA tours.
Last year, Cindy LaCrosse capped off her brilliant season by winning the Price Chopper Tour Championship. It was her third victory of the season, helping her to clinch No. 1 on the earnings list and player of the year honors, as well.
The Capital Region’s long association with the LPGA Futures Tour reaches back to 1984, when Marci Bozarth won the Futures Tour stop at Town of Colonie. Although the Futures Tour didn’t become the official developmental tour for the LPGA until 2000, it still served the same purpose in those early years. Town of Colonie hosted the Futures Tour from 1984 through 1998. The Capital Region was off the Futures Tour schedule in 1999, but it returned in 2000 and 2001 at Western Turnpike. Orchard Creek became the local home of the Futures Tour in 2002 and 2003 before Capital Hills at Albany took over in 2004.
The 2011 LPGA Tour is already in its third week as of this writing, and a player with local roots, Florida Southern College graduate Jackie Barenborg of Vero Beach, Fla., came close to winning the season debut, the Florida Natural Charity Classic in Winter Haven, Fla. She lost by one shot to Tzu-Chi Lin.
Although Barenborg was born in Houston, Texas, and grew up in Florida, her father, Ed, was a Niskayuna High School golf standout and spent most of his life in the Capital Region.
Key players to watch on this year’s LPGA Futures Tour include two-time 2010 winner Ryann O’Toole of San Clemente, Calif. O’Toole, who won an event earlier this year in Australia, is a UCLA graduate. She finished seventh on the money list last year, and has LPGA Tour status this year.
Tiffany Joh of San Diego was eighth on the Futures Tour money list a year ago and also has LPGA Tour status but will split her time on the Futures Tour.
Other players to watch include 11th-ranked Jane Rah of Torrance, Calif., and 13th-ranked Mo Martin of Altadena, Calif., who has two Futures Tour wins on her resume.
Chelsea Curtis of New Seabury, Mass., a second-year pro out of Georgetown
University, was 17th on the money list last year, when she had two top-five finishes.
No. 19 Amelia Lewis of Jacksonville, Fla., an LPGA Tour rookie, No. 23 Jodi Ewart of North Yorkshire, England, a former All-American out of the University of New Mexico, who posted five top-10 finishes in 11 events last year; and tour veteran and LPGA member Angela Buzminski of Oshawa, Ontario, the left-handed, always-contending Canadian who owns five wins on the Futures Tour, are other weekly threats. Buzminski is a former Capital Region Futures Classic champion.
“My main priority is to finish in the top five,” said Ewart, a second-year pro, who also has 2011 LPGA membership. “I’ll try to qualify for a couple of LPGA tournaments, but one is in Alabama on the way to the Futures Tour event in Texas, and the other is in Springfield, Ill., when the Futures Tour is already in the Midwest.”
Watch out for second-year pro Jennifer Johnson of Carlsbad, Calif., to regain the form as a pro that allowed her to perform at the top tier of women’s amateur and collegiate golf. The 2010 individual runner-up at the NCAA Division I Women’s Golf Championship left Arizona State after one season, so she will be more dialed in for her first full season as a pro.
The LPGA Futures Tour enters its 31st year overall. More than 300 graduates have gone on to play on the LPGA Tour and have won 359 LPGA titles, including 38 majors.
Among the Futures Tour players who have continued their careers on the LPGA Tour are current NBC golf analyst Dottie Pepper of Saratoga Springs, who won the 1985 Futures Tour stop at Town of Colonie before winning 17 times on the LPGA Tour, Scotia native Laura Diaz, Grace Park, Lorena Ochoa, Christina Kim and Karrie Webb.
Following are the winners from the local stop on the Futures Tour.
LOCAL FUTURES WINNERS
1984 – Marci Bozarth, Town of Colonie.
1985 – Dottie Pepper, Town of Colonie.
1986 – Cheryl Stacy, Town of Colonie.
1987 – Peggy Kirsch, Town of Colonie.
1988 – Kandi Kessler-Comer, Town of Colonie.
1989 – Shelley Sanders, Town of Colonie.
1990 – Kelly Holland, Town of Colonie.
1991 – Kimberly Williams, Town of Colonie.
1992 – Cathy Mockett, Town of Colonie.
1993 – Jodi Renner, Town of Colonie.
1994 – Marilyn Lovander, Town of Colonie.
1995 – Marilyn Lovander, Town of Colonie.
1996 – Stephanie Comstock, Town of Colonie.
1997 – Heather Daly-Donofrio, Town of Colonie.
1998 – Michele Vinieratos, Town of Colonie.
1999 – No Tournament.
2000 – Dodie Mazzuca, Western Turnpike.
2001 – Angela Buzminski, Western Turnpike.
2002 – Mariam Nagl, Orchard Creek
2003 – Lindsey Wright, Orchard Creek.
2004 – Nicole Perrot, Capital Hills at Albany,
2005 – Seon-Hwa Lee, Capital Hills at Albany.
2006 – Ji Min Jeong, Capital Hills at Albany.
2007 – Onnarin Sattayabanphot, Capital Hills at Albany.
2008 – Sarah-Jane Kenyon, Capital Hills at Albany.
2009 – Song Yi Choi, Capital Hills at Albany
2010 – Cindy LaCrosse, Capital Hills at Albany.