The 2020 LPGA season began with two tournaments in Florida in January without two native Georgians who have been LPGA Tour members since the early 2010s.
Valdosta’s Dori Carter, who played on the LPGA Tour from 2011-19, left the tour after competing in 14 events last season to become an assistant women’s golf coach at Louisville.
Brunswick’s Katie Burnett was an LPGA Tour member from 2013-18 but did not play at all last year after regaining her status in the finals of qualifying in late ‘18. Burnett is currently working as a teaching professional at a club in Oregon.
Carter, who played in college at Mississippi, turned pro in 2010 and won an event on the Symetra Tour that year before joining the LPGA Tour in 2011. Early in her rookie season, she won the 2011 Georgia Women’s Open at Summer Grove GC. Her best season on the tour came in 2014, when she placed 70thon the money list with a career best sixth place finish in a tournament in Dallas. She earned just over $500,000 in her nine seasons on the tour.
Burnett played her college golf at South Carolina and qualified for the LPGA Tour in her first attempt in 2012. She played six seasons on the tour and also competed for several seasons on the Ladies European Tour. She ranked among the top 100 on the money list in each of her first five seasons on the LPGA Tour, finishing as high as 73rdin 2016 when she enjoyed her best career showing, a runner-up finish in Hawaii. She dropped to 139thin earnings in 2018, which turned out to be her final season.
For her career, Burnett collected $669,000 on the LPGA Tour, and twice placed second in LET events, once in South Africa in 2013 and in Australia in ’18.
The departures of Carter and Burnett leave just four players with ties to Georgia on the 2020 LPGA Tour, just one of them a lifelong resident of the state. Jonesboro’s Mariah Stackhouse is the lone native Georgian on the tour, with Jane Park and Min Seo Kwak both residents of metro Atlanta. Jillian Hollis, who played at Georgia from 2015-18, is the only LPGA Tour member who played her college golf in the state, and is a rookie this season.
Stackhousegot her fourth season off to a quality start, tying for 28thin the first full field event of 2020 in Boca Raton. Stackhouse joined the LPGA Tour in 2017 after an outstanding career at Stanford, leading her team to the 2015 NCAA Championship with a memorable clutch performance in the title clinching match. She also competed on a winning Curtis Cup team.
After playing well enough as an LPGA rookie in 2017, Stackhouse moved up to 70thon the money list in 2018 with a pair of top 10s, but slipped a bit last year to 100th. The highlight of her season was a career best tie for fifth in the Shoprite Classic in New Jersey, the second straight season in which she recorded a top 10 in the event.
Like Stackhouse, Parkwas one of the country’s top junior golfers, winning a U.S. Women’s Amateur and previously reaching the finals of that event plus the U.S Girls Championship. She competed on two Curtis Cup teams and played one season at UCLA before turning pro in 2006. She qualified for the 2007 LPGA Tour and enjoyed her best year in her first full season in ‘08, placing 29thon the money list. Since then, she has finished between 50 and 98 on the money list every year with four seasons in the top 60. She was 74thlast year with three top-10 finishes.
Park, who was born in Chicago and lived in California prior to attending college in Los Angeles, is a Woodstock resident.
Kwak has played on both the Symetra and LPGA Tours since 2009, competing for five seasons on the LPGA and the rest of the time on the LPGA’s feeder circuit. Her best LPGA season came in 2016, when she finished 76thon the money list with a tie for fourth her top finish. She dropped to 92ndthe next season and 151stin 2017, and returned to the Symetra Tour for the two most recent seasons.
In both 2018 and ’19, Kwak narrowly missed regaining her exempt LPGA status, placing 11thon the Symetra money list in 2018 with six top 10s, and 12thlast year with eight top 10s. Her best season on the tour came in 2014, when she won twice and placed second in earnings to earn fully exempt LPGA status for the first time after having limited status in both 2012 and ’13. She earned her return to the LPGA Tour for 2020 by tying for 24thin the finals of qualifying late last year, missing fully exempt status by two shots.
Kwak, a native of South Korea, plays out of Berkeley Hills CC in Duluth.
Hollis, an All-American in each of her three seasons in Athens, enjoyed an extremely successful first full season on the Symetra Tour last year, winning tournaments in California and Illinois and placing fifth on the money list to earn status on the LPGA Tour this year. She finished 40thin earnings in 2018, turning pro immediately after completing her junior season at Georgia. Hollis, who is from Ohio, made the cut in her first start as an LPGA Tour member recently in Boca Raton.
The 2020 LPGA season got under way in January with a pair of tournaments in Florida, and heads to the Far East for four vents beginning Feb. 6 with the first of two tournaments in Australia. An event in China set for early March has been postponed due to health concerns from the coronavirus. The tour returns to the U.S. for the Founders Cup in Phoenix later in March, with the first LPGA major set for Mission Hills in the California desert April 2-5.
The U.S. Women’s Open will be played June 4-7 at Houston’s Champions Club, with the Women’s PGA Championship scheduled for June 25-28 at Aronimink in Philadelphia. The 2021 Women’s LPGA will be played at Atlanta Athletic Club, which last hosted a women’s major in 1990 when the U.S. Women’s Open was played on the Riverside course. The 2021 Women’s PGA Championship will be played on Highlands, which is the course used for a men’s U.S. Open and three PGA Championships.
Olympic women’s golf in Japan will be played August 5-8, with the Women’s British Open two weeks later at Royal Troon.
The LPGA Tour returns to Asia for four events in October and early November before wrapping up the 2020 season Nov. 19-22 in Naples, Fla., with the Tour Championship. Tournaments played in 2019 in Wisconsin and Indianapolis have dropped off the schedule, with two new events added in Florida.
The 2020 LPGA season got off to a somewhat surprising start with victories in its first two events by players with a combined total of one career win on the tour. Mexico’s Gaby Lopez won the season-opening Tournament of Champions and Sweden’s Madelene Sagstrom followed with her initial LPGA win in a first year event in Boca Raton.
Lopez won in a 3-way playoff over Inbee Park, who has 19 career titles including seven majors, and young Japanese standout Nasa Hataoka, who finished one shot behind Sagstrom the following week.