The next Inbee Park could be playing in our own backyard this week.
Park, who honed her game on the Symetra Tour, formerly the Futures Tour, and played the local stop at Capital Hills at Albany, has jumped into national prominence as the best player on the LPGA Tour, with four majors and 13 wins at age 25.
By now, every golf fan knows that Park has won the first three majors on the LPGA Tour this season and has dominated that tour much in the fashion of superstars Anika Sorenstam, Lorena Ochoa and Yani Tseng.
When I played in a Futures Tour media pro-am gathering with Park back in 2006, she certainly didn’t wow me or my amateur playing partners. She was dead straight off the tee, but not very long, and was very quiet. Of course, she was only a teenager at the time, but it just goes to show you that future stars can have extremely modest beginnings.
Park eventually earned 11 top-10 finishes that year and was third on the tour’s money list, which earned her LPGA playing privileges the next season.
Maybe some of the Symetra Tour players we see when the Credit Union Challenge returns to the Capital Hills at Albany course Friday through Sunday will become superstars. The field includes 144 Symetra Tour players with a total purse of $100,000. Top prize is $15,000.
Jaclyn Sweeney, who won last year’s Credit Union Challenge, will be back to defend her title. The Bradenton, Fla., native is off to a good start, having won the season-opening VisitMesa.com Gateway Classic. She also has four additional top-20 finishes and is currently No. 3 on the Volvik Race for the Card.
Sue Kim, currently No. 1 in the point standings, will also be in the field. She won the Decatur Forsyth Classic with a dramatic nine-under-par 63 in the final round before beating Laura Kueny in a one-hole playoff.
Others in the field with Symetra Tour victories so far include Melissa Eaton (Florida’s Natural Charity Classic), Christine Song (Guardian Retirement Championship), Kueny (Symetra Classic), Giulia Molinaro (Friends of Mission Charity Classic) and Cydney Clanton (Four Winds Invitational).
For fans of the GolfChannel’s Big Break series — count me in — Taylor Collins, Stefanie Kenoyer and Emily Talley of the current Big Break Mexico event will also be in the field.
Madison Pressel, younger sister of LPGA standout Morgan Pressel, is one of two sponsors’ exemptions. Also in the field is Jackie Stoelting, the former Jackie Barenborg, whose father is a Niskayuna native.
Ticket prices are $10 for an adult one-day ticket, and $20 for an adult three-day package. Children under 16 are admitted free.
The second year of the revamped Eagle Crest Shoot-out will be held Friday at Eagle Crest Golf Club.
Formerly an individual tournament, the new Eagle Crest 4-Ball Shoot-out will have a better ball of partners format. Qualifying will begin at 8:30 a.m. The top 10 teams and ties will be placed in two groups, on an alternating basis. For example, the medalist team will be placed in group one, while the second-place finishers will be placed in group two, and so on. The shoot-out portion of the event begins at 1:45 p.m., where the team with the highest score in each hole is eliminated. The winners of each shoot-out group will square off for the overall title.
Entry fee is $160 per team and includes cart, lunch and prizes.
ON THE MEND
It was great so see Pinehaven Country Club head pro Scott Warren at Monday’s New York State Amateur local qualifier.
Warren, former president of the Northeastern New York PGA, is recovering from quadruple heart surgery last month. He seemed in great spirits. We wish him the best, and hope he doesn’t jump into all of his many duties too quickly.
We can also report that Rolling Hills at Antlers Country Club head pro Rock Wolcott underwent surgery on his ankle a few weeks ago and is slowly on the mend. Wolcott suffered severe damage to his ankle after a car accident early this spring. He has a long recuperation ahead, but hopefully, he will return to top form.
u Cobleskill Golf & Country Club will host the second two-day major of the year for the local club professionals with the Cobleskill Classic Monday and Tuesday. The opening round will have a pro-am format. Only the pros continue on Tuesday.
u The Eastern New York Golf Association’s weekly tour moves to Winding Brook Country Club on Tuesday.
u Several of the top local women from the Northeastern Women’s Golf Association will be competing in the New York State Women’s Amateur and Mid-Amateur at the Country Club of Ithaca Tuesday and Wednesday.
u The Gazette’s 16th annual Capital Region Newspapers in Education Junior Golf Tournament will be held Aug. 2 at Schenectady Municipal Golf Course. Entry fee is $35 and includes golf, lunch and prizes, including special door prizes. Trophies and gift certificates will be awarded to the top three finishers for both gross and handicap in the boys’ 12-14, boys’ 15-18 and girls’ 12-18 age divisions. Longest drive and closest-to-the-pin contest winners will also be awarded. Send all entries to N.I.E. Junior Golf tournament, The Gazette, Maxon Road Ext., P.O. Box 1090, Schenectady, NY 12301-1090. Entry deadline is July 27. The first 120 entries will be accepted in order of postmark. Make checks payable to The Gazette. Proceeds will benefit the Gazette’s Newspapers in Education program.
u Tickets for the Solheim Cup, scheduled for Aug. 13-18 at Colorado Golf Club, are selling fast. Local natives Dottie Pepper and Laura Diaz will be the assistant captains for the U.S. team, which squares off against the European team. Practice-day ground passes are currently $37 but will increase to $45 beginning Aug. 12. Match-day grounds passes will increase from $67 to $75 per day, and weekly passes will increase from $127 to $140 as we get into August. For more information, call 1-800-2SOLHEIM.
u Kathy Gill won her 11th club championship at Van Schaick Island Country Club recently.
u Fox Run Golf Club will be the host for the 11th annual BYC golf tournament to benefit the Broadalbin Youth Commission, on July 19. Entry fee is $88 and includes golf, cart, beverages on the course, lunch after the ninth hole and a hot buffet dinner at 4 p.m. There will be an 11 a.m. shotgun start. Contact Rob Klug (883-3232) for more information. Checks can be made payable to the Broadalbin Youth Commission and mailed to Sheila Bleyl, Broadalbin Village Clerk, P.O. Box 6, Broadalbin, NY, 12025.
u The third annual Lady Hilltopper Golf Scramble will be played July 13 at Mohawk Valley Golf & Country Club. Cost is $65 and includes golf, cart, and dinner. Contact Fort Plain girls’ basketball coach Phil Karker at 844-6943 for more information.
u Schenectady Municipal Golf Course will host the Rotterdam Elks #2157 Junior Golf Qualifier July 23. Entry fee is $20 and includes lunch. Age divisions for boys and girls will be 12-14, 15-16 and 17-18. Two players from each group will advance to the 58th annual State Elks Junior Golf Championship at Yahnundasis Golf Club in Utica Aug. 11-12. The tournament is limited to 48 players. Call Paul Ungerland (384-0221) or Muny head pro Matt Daley (382-5155) for more information. Entry deadline is Aug. 1.
u The Schenectady Hook a Kid on Golf Charity Classic will be held July 17 at Schenectady Municipal Golf Course. Funding will help support the local Hook a Kid on Golf program. Entry fee for the four-person scramble is $500 per team or $95 per individual. Call the Muny pro shop for more information.
u The Junior Achievement Adirondack golf tournament is scheduled for July 30 at Airway Meadows Golf Club. The four-person scramble will have an $80 entry fee that includes golf, cart, beer, soda, lunch at the turn and a cookout following play. Call Susan Klippel at 222-0567 for more information.
u Van Patten Golf Club will play host to the 15th annual Glenville Rotary Golf Classic Aug. 1. Entry fee for the four-person scramble will be $100 and includes golf, cart, lunch, awards and raffles. There will be an 8:30 a.m. shotgun start. The field will be limited to the first 144. Contact John Weldon (399-0048 or 596-0320) for more information.
Veteran left-hander Woody Winslow aced the 15th hole at Schenectady Municipal.
Larry Rector of Rotterdam used an 8-iron for a hole-in-one on the 142-yard 16th hole at Briar Creek.
Justin McGrath hit a 6-iron for a hole-in-one on the 162-yard 14th hole at Eagle Crest Golf Club.
Sal LoBaido collected his first hole-in-one with a 9-iron shot from 123 yards on the 15th hole at Van Patten.
Ryan Tatlock, current course record holder (62) at Amsterdam Municipal Golf Course, eagled both the fifth and 17th holes there recently.
Kevin Devine also collected an eagle at Amsterdam Municipal on the 10th hole.
Bob Evans holed out with a 9-iron for an eagle-2 on the fourth hole at Schenectady Municipal Golf Course.
Mike McGann eagled the ninth hole while playing in the A.O.H. league, Nick LaMalfa eagled the 16th hole while playing in the Handicappers league and Don Dennis also eagled the ninth hole, while competing in the Maqua Major league, all at Schenectady Municipal Golf Course.
At Eagle Crest Golf Club, Doug Bauer eagled the par-5 13th hole.
Also at Eagle Crest, Tom Kuster posted an eagle-2 on the par-4 16th hole in the 300 league.