Tuesday was practice day at the Columbia Edgewater Country Club as the players prepared for Thursday’s first round at the LPGA’s Portland Classic Presented by Cambia Health Solutions. Defending champion Suzann Pettersen, who loves playing in the Pacific Northwest, launched a powerful end of season campaign to claim the the top of the world rankings off her 2013 Portland Classic victory. Will she repeat that performance? So Yeon Ryu is coming in hot from her win last week at the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open. Pettersen and Ryu both deliver rounds in the 60s in championship play, but there are some promising new faces on the Tour that I’m looking to as potential challengers to both Pettersen and Ryu.
World ranked 106th, Danielle Kang’s playing her third year on the Tour and she brings a successful amateur career as well as a Southern California quirky glitz to her game. With three career top-10s, including most recently a T5 finish at the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open last week, Kang’s admittedly in the early phase of her pro career. But Kang’s a scrappy, persistent, and consistent golfer. She’s missed only two cuts in the eighteen events she’s entered this year.
Kang has a solid drive, hits about 70% of the fairways, gets to the green in regulation about two-thirds of the time, and has fired off 187 birdies this year. It won’t be long before Kang is finishing on the first page of the board. I have her on my radar.
England’s teen star Charley Hull accepted her fifth LPGA sponsor exemption to the Portland Classic this week and will have another chance to earn money toward gaining LPGA status next season. Hull has already earned a total of $193,886 at six events this season as a professional and has positioned herself well to have a chance at finishing the equivalent of top-40 on the LPGA Money List. Through last week’s Canadian Pacific Women’s Open, where Hull finished T55, she would rank 44th on the Money List with her earnings. She qualified for the Evian Championship based on her Rolex Rankings and that will be the final chance to add to her winnings.
The 18-year old accepted her sixth and final sponsor invite to the Sime Darby Malaysia in October but earnings at the event will not count toward earning status since the event does not have a cut. Hull knows what’s at stake this week in Portland. I’m looking for her to turn up the heat on her game.
Marissa Steen doesn’t have the name recognition of Danielle Kang or Charley Hull, but I’m impressed that she played her way into this week’s field after winning her third event on the Symetra Tour this season at the Eagle Classic in Richmond, Va. on August 17th. The University of Memphis alum became the first player to accomplish the feat since 2010 and received Category 13 status.
Steen has been dominant on the Road to the LPGA Tour with seven top-10 finishes in addition to her three wins this year. She leads the money list with $75,348, the most earned on Tour since 2010. She’ll be making her third LPGA start this year after qualifying for the U.S. Women’s Open and Monday qualifying for the Marathon Classic. Steen’s a rising star. Keep her on your radar.
This Week’s Amateur
Gigi Stoll, a rising senior at nearby Beaverton High School won the Portland Classic Amateur Open last Monday to earn a spot in the field this week. It won’t be the first time Stoll has teed it up next to the world’s best female golfers, but will be the first time playing in a pro event in her home town.
She played in the U.S. Women’s Open at the age of 15 and has had a successful summer circuit, winning the Bob Norquist Oregon Junior Girls Amateur and the Oregon Amateur Championship.
Stoll has been volunteering at the Portland event since she was nine years old as a standard bearer and will have quite a different role this year inside the ropes. Let’s enjoy watching Gigi Stoll hit ‘em long and straight on golf’s big stage!
Wednesday at the Portland Classic
With tee times starting around 7:00 am, the top pros are scheduled to play 18 holes on the tournament course in a scramble format with amateurs, mostly representatives of tournament sponsors. For fans, this is an excellent day for photos and autographs. For the amateurs, it’s a chance to spend time with the LPGA pros and see up close how the best in the world perform their craft.