ROGERS- A trio of University of Arkansas women’s golfers are scheduled to take part in the P&G Beauty NW Arkansas Championship next week.
Senior Kelli Shean was granted a sponsor’s exemption to play in the professional event Friday-Sunday. Shean is the second Razorback to earn a sponsor’s exemption joining former University of Arkansas standout Stacy Lewis who played on an exemption in 2008.
Shean advanced through last year’s qualifier and made the cut into the weekend event.
"I’m thrilled that Kelli will once again get to tee it up in the P&G Beauty NWA LPGA Championship," Arkansas head coach Shuana Estes-Taylor said. "She has worked extremely hard and I believe she can do something special next week. Kelli gained a ton of confidence from her U.S. Women’s Open experience this past summer. She is a great ambassador for our University, our women’s golf program, and for the community that embraces this great LPGA event. We look forward to cheering on another Razorback up the LPGA leaderboard."
Current Razorbacks Victoria Vela and Corinna Rees also have a chance to test their skills at this week’s event. Vela and Rees were selected to participate in the P&G Beauty NW Arkansas LPGA Qualifier Monday. The duo is continuing a tradition that started with the inaugural event in 2008 when Lucy Nunn and Kristin Ingram were invited to play in the qualifier.
"The exposure that the P&G Beauty NWA LPGA Championship brings to our community and women’s golf program is unbelievable," said Estes-Taylor. "It’s rare that you would have such a unique opportunity to compete against the best players in the world right in your back yard. We do and the experience that it provides our team is so valuable in all facets of our program. It helps us with recruiting, but most importantly it gives our players a taste of the next level of golf. Many of them want to play the LPGA tour after they graduate, and we are fortunate enough to be able to provide them with this avenue to test their skills."
Shean finished her junior season as the Razorbacks’ top scorer with a team-leading 73.27 stroke average. Shean earned All-Southeastern Conference and All-America honors and was on top of the leaderboard at the U.S. Women’s Open after her first round this summer.
Vela was second for the Razorbacks as a true freshman competing in eight of 11 tournaments. She also had a good summer finishing as the top amateur in a professional event in Texas.
"Victoria gets a unique experience on Monday," said Estes-Taylor. "She’ll have an opportunity to tee it up against the best golfers in the world to gain an exemption into the P&G Beauty NWA LPGA Championship. This is kind of experience for our team is priceless. Victoria is coming off of a great freshman year and will enter her sophomore year with a great deal of confidence. She has an amazing gift to compete and I am excited to watch her get out there and do what she does best. If she plays her game, she will be playing on Friday.
Rees is coming off her best collegiate season in 2009-10. Rees participated in a career-best nine events and tied for seventh posting her top finish.
"We had a one day qualifier for the final Monday qualifying spot on this week," Arkansas head coach Shauna Estes-Taylor said. "Corinna stepped up big to grab this opportunity. It has been a goal of hers for several years and it’s always great when one of your players is able to accomplish one of their goals. Corinna has been working very hard and this experience will be so valuable for her and give her some good confidence heading into our season.
Vela and Rees are scheduled for afternoon tee times on Monday. If they make the cut, they join Shean and the rest of the field to begin tournament play Friday, Sept. 10 with tee times. The tournament continues through the weekend.
The event brings the world’s best players to Northwest Arkansas. Cristie Kerr, the current No. 1 player, along with No. 2 Ai Miyazato, No. 3 and defending champion Jiyai Shin and No. 4 Suzann Pettersen are all scheduled to attend.
In addition, LPGA Tour professional and former Razorback Stacy Lewis will be in the field. Lewis received a sponsor’s exemption and was leading after the first round of the first-ever P&G Beauty NW Arkansas Championship in 2007 but the tournament was rained out and did not count. She has been in the field each year of the event.
Officials announced recently that the tournament purse increased this year to $2 million with $300,000 going to this year’s winner.
For more information about the Razorback women’s golf team and its players, log on to ArkansasRazorbacks.com.