A new challenge awaits some of the LPGA’s top players when the tour goes to Dallas, but not to a venue previously visited. For 2018, the Volunteers of America LPGA Texas Classic has moved to the Old American Golf Club along the shores of Lake Lewisville, north of the city.
The course won’t be the only thing new about the tournament this year, as there will be a new champion crowned. The 2017 event winner, Haru Nomura, won’t be playing this week, due to back problems.
That could open the door for Cristie Kerr to finally win in Dallas. The veteran has continued to be a solid factor on the tour this year, and has never finished lower than 11th in this event. Twice she has finished in second place, including losing a grueling six-hole playoff to Nomura last year.
It won’t be a cakewalk to coronation, though, with six other players currently in the world top 16 playing this week, which includes the winners of the last three LPGA events — Lydia Ko (13), Moriya Jutanugarn (12), and Brooke M. Henderson (16).
Here are more details to get you ready for the LPGA’s lone stop in the Lone Star state in 2018.
Tournament: Volunteers of America LPGA Texas Classic
Dates: May 3-6, 2018
Where: The Colony, Texas
Course: Old American Golf Club
Distance: Par 71, 6,475 yards
Architect: Tripp Lewis and Justin Leonard
Format: 72-holes, stroke play, 36-hole cut
Winning Share: $195,000
2017 Champion: Haru Nomura
Marquee Players: Sung Hyun Park, Ariya Jutanugarn, Cristie Kerr, Anna Nordqvist, Lydia Ko, Moriya Jutanugarn, Brooke M. Henderson, Jenny Shin, Stacy Lewis, Angela Stanford, Brittany Lang, Michelle Wie, Paula Creamer, Natalie Gulbis
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Now in its sixth year, the Volunteers of America LPGA Texas Classic has brought outstanding performances by some of the top names in women’s golf to the Dallas area.
The roster of past winners includes Haru Nomura, Jenny Shin, Stacy Lewis, and the only two-time winner of this event, Inbee Park. Even though she just reclaimed status as the No. 1 women’s player in the world in the Rolex Rankings last week, Park has opted not to play in this week’s event.
The biggest change for this year is a move to a new course. After five years at Los Colinas Country Club in Irving, the VOA LPGA Texas Classic shifts this year to the Old American Golf Club in The Colony, Texas.
The title sponsor, Volunteers of America, is a faith-based non-profit organization dedicated to helping the poor with housing and other issues.
2018: Volunteers of America LPGA Texas Classic
2016-17: Volunteers of America Texas Shootout presented by JTBC
2015: Volunteers of America North Texas Shootout presented by JTBC
2013-14: North Texas LPGA Shootout
2017: Haru Nomura (-3)
2016: Jenny Shin (-14)
2015: Inbee Park (-15)
2014: Stacy Lewis (-16)
2013: Inbee Park (-13)
TOURNAMENT SCORING RECORDS
Scoring: 268 (-16) Stacy Lewis (2014)
Wins: 2 – Inbee Park (2013, 2015)
Buffeted by high winds gusting to more than 40 miles per hour, the finish of the 2017 VOA event was a hang-on-to-your-visor affair. Despite significant adversity, Japan’s Haru Nomura did just that.
The winds pushed the winning score — 3-under par — 10 shots higher than any previous edition of the tournament. In the final round, just two players in the field managed to break par. Nomura at one point saw her lead swell to five strokes, but a five-over par 40 on the final nine brought her back in range, and Cristie Kerr, on the strenght of a must-have birdie at 17, finished her round at 3-over for the day and 3-under for the tournament, forcing Nomura into a playoff.
Playing the par-5 18th hole six straight times, neither player could do better than par on their first five tries. Finally, on their sixth trip up the hole, Nomura hit her approach close and made a short birdie putt to claim the title over Kerr.
Only one other player, Jessica Korda, managed to finish under par for the week. Korda posted a total of 1-under to finish solo third. Nomura won’t be around, though, to defend her title this week, as she recovers from a back injury.
FINAL TOP 5
1 Haru Nomura -3
2 Cristie Kerr -3
3 Jessica Korda -1
4 Sung Hyun Park E
5 Eun-Hee Ji +1
5 Angel Yin +1
5 Minjee Lee +1
An unfamiliar course and no defending champ — along with no presence from the only player to win this event multiple times, Inbee Park — makes handicapping this week’s event a tricky chore.
As noted, even without a win here previously, world No. 8 Cristie Kerr has the strongest record in this event of anyone in the field, with a pair of second-place finishes to go with 8th, 10th and 11th place showings.
Will Old American be as much to her liking as previous venue Los Colinas? Will last year’s marathon six-hole playoff, where she could only muster six straight pars before falling to Haru Nomura, inspire her or frustrate her? She hasn’t been on fire of late, so we’ll see if Dallas once again pulls the best golf out of her.
Another intriguing question involves Lydia Ko. What will finally breaking through with a playoff victory to end a 43-event winless streak mean for the world’s former No. 1 player, who remains a youngster, having just turned 21 last week? The New Zealander has never contended before in two previous appearances in this event, so a new course for this year could be a development more to her liking.
The other two top-10 ranked players in the world, along with Kerr, include No. 5 Sung Hyun Park and No. 6 Ariya Jutanugarn. However, the field also features all six players ranked from 11-16, including No. 11 Anna Nordqvist, No. 12 Moriya Jutanugarn, No. 13 Ko, No. 14 In Gee Chun, No. 15 Minjee Lee, and No. 16 Brooke Henderson.
The only two players in the field who are previous winners in Dallas are 2016 champ Jenny Shin and 2014 winner Stacy Lewis.
It’s a tough field to sort out with any feeling of certainty and, as always in Texas, a lot could depend on which way the wind is blowing.
Credits: LPGA Tour Media, Getty Images