FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Tournament time is finally here for a trio of University of Arkansas women’s golfers as first round play of the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship Presented by P&G gets underway Friday.
Current Razorbacks Samantha Marks and Gabriela Lopez join former Razorback and current LPGA Tour star Stacy Lewis in round one action at Pinnacle Country Club. Marks, a sophomore from Maitland, Fla., begins play at 7:48 a.m. and plays with Kim Kaufman and Permilla Lindberg going off the first tee.
Junior Mexico City native, Gabriela Lopez opens play at 8:43 a.m. and plays with Kelly Shon and Cheyenne Woods, Tiger Woods’ niece. She also opens play on No. 1. Lewis has to wait until the heat of the day, teeing off at 12:59 p.m. with Sandra Gal and Mariajo Uribe in the first round.
Marks played her way into the tournament winning the Monday qualifier. She posted an even par 71 becoming just the second Razorback to advance out of the qualifier.
“I mean, I’m extremely excited to be here,” Marks said. “I was excited to get the opportunity to qualify on Monday and then even more excited to play the way I did. Honestly, I wasn’t surprised with the way I played. I started off bogey-bogey, so that was interesting. I was so nervous. I was telling Gaby, I don’t really get that like physically nervous, but I felt like I was going to throw up. But I was really, really excited and I ended up playing well after those two bumps in the road at the beginning. I’m ready for a good week and I think my game is where it needs to be so I’m excited.”
Lopez earned her way into the tournament with a sponsor’s exemption for the third consecutive season. As part of the event’s #RoadToTheNWAChampionship, the Razorback women’s golf team member with the best stroke average, grade point average and community representation receives the automatic spot.
Lopez admits to some nerves in the first year but says that experience has made her better.
“Well, as I look back, I was really nervous,” Lopez said. “My brother was on the bag (in the first year) and I was just really nervous. I was playing with Michelle Wie, it was a new experience for me. I think she was like six feet tall and it was just really, really crazy.
“But looking back to the next year, I felt a little more comfortable with the arena and by then I had played the U.S. Open and a couple other LPGA events and I think just having that experience makes a lot of difference,” she added. “Looking back to last year, I made the cut so I think that’s an improvement. So being really nervous and not making the cut to making the cut last year, I see myself climbing the ladder and just really excited to see the process.”
Inside The Ropes:
7:48 a.m. Samantha Marks Hole 1
8:43 a.m. Gabriela Lopez Hole 1
12:59 p.m. Stacy Lewis Hole 10
Live Scoring: www.LPGA.com
For more information on Arkansas women’s golf, follow @RazorbackWGolf on Twitter.