Twenty-eight events. Ten months. Six states. The Peggy Kirk Bell Girls’ Golf Tour traveled across the eastern seaboard in 2019, summiting the northern peak of Delaware and savoring Georgia’s southernmost hospitality. The 13th running of the tour’s National Series comes to a close in an appropriate setting next weekend: Pine Needles Lodge & GC, home of our tour matriarch, Mrs. Peggy Kirk Bell.
What commenced in November’s bitter chill at the 10th anniversary of the tour’s premier event, the PKBGT Invitational, concludes in the steaming Autumn heat of Southern Pines, North Carolina: the heart of U.S. golf. In that time span, hundreds of the nation’s top junior girls’ golfers battled it out on revered golf courses.
Many Division I collegiate golf programs opened their homes to future recruits. Several former LPGA host courses welcomed the bright future of women’s golf. The tenth and final PKBGT Championship event supplies the field of 77 to the ultimate test: a three-time U.S. Women’s Open host course (with a fourth to come in 2022) and the host of the 2nd U.S. Senior Women’s Open this past May.
Strength in numbers
Stellar fields were a common theme on tour this season. The record-setting PKBGT Invitational field served as the granddaddy of opening acts in Bermuda Run. A pool of notable strength in the grand finale, next weekend’s PKBGT Tour Championship, consists of the fifth-strongest Bell National field and second-strongest Futures National field of the season to close out the year.
Aside from one last chance to claim a PKBGT championship trophy, Tour Championship serves as the final leg of a season-long marathon in the Order of Merit rankings. Though the Prep Preview champion – Macy Pate (Boone, NC 2024) – was decided months ago at the PKBGT Masters, two of the three names to be engraved on the OOM trophy remain up for grabs.
Key players in both the Bell National and Futures National partake in a 36-hole dash at Tour Championship, hoping to be crowned OOM champ at the culmination of Sunday’s final round. Despite the plethora of talent, only one player in each division will etch their name in permanence inside the PKBGT history books.
Let’s take a look at the scenarios surrounding next weekend’s 2019 PKBGT Tour Championship! All projections in this article are based on the current field sizes (42 in Bell National, 35 in Futures National) and are subject to change in the days prior to Tour Championship. They merely serve as a hypothetical projection for the multitude of outcomes possible in next weekend’s event.
Several of the top-ranked players from the PKBGT Performance Index are scheduled to appear in Southern Pines next weekend. Headlining the field, Kendall Turner (Chesapeake, VA 2019) enters the final event of her six-year PKBGT career in sole possession of first place on the Bell National OOM.
Turner’s 2019 season was her most decorated, a proper send-off. She earned her first career solo PKBGT victory at the Landfall Classic and followed with a second win at the PKBGT Open Championship. One of two multi-event champions this season alongside future Furman Lady Paladin Anna Morgan (Spartanburg, SC 2019), who will not appear at Tour Championship, she heads to Harrisonburg in the fall to join the James Madison University Women’s Golf team.
In order to secure the OOM win, Turner needs a top-ten finish at Pine Needles next weekend. Several players lurk in the shadows, holding on to the possibility of an OOM title with superb performances and a win at Tour Championship.
Amanda Sambach (Davidson, NC 2021) has a short resume this season, but she made the most of her PKBGT appearances. The top-ranked player on the Performance Index, Sambach finished runner-up at PKBGT Invitational and third at Tournament of Champions before earning her first win of the season at the PKBGT Masters.
Entering the tournament ranked third on the Order of Merit, Vynie Chen (Centreville, VA 2020) sports one victory and four top-ten finishes on the year. Chen’s first PKBGT win came at the Southeast Classic in Florence, SC.
In search of her first win of the season, Kara Carter (Kingsport, TN 2021) can make things interesting with a win in Southern Pines. Carter boosted into seventh place in the Order of Merit on the back of her runner-up finish at the PKBGT Open Championship.
Things get interesting in the Futures National division. Very interesting. Three players enter next weekend’s PKBGT Tour Championship with a legitimate chance of earning the Futures National OOM crown.
Combining for 10 wins on the tour this season, Sophie Lauture (Raleigh, NC 2024), Ellen Yu (High Point, NC 2026) and Grace Ridenour (Cary, NC 2025) enter next weekend’s tournament ranked first through third, respectively, on the Order of Merit.
Only 20 points separate the three and a multitude of scenarios exist for each to carve their name on the OOM trophy in Southern Pines. Additionally, the top two finishers on the Order of Merit earn invitations to next year’s PKBGT Invitational. With that in mind, the stakes at the PKBGT Tour Championship are at an all-time high in the Futures National division. At 12:50 p.m. on Saturday, the trio takes the starting tee as the featured pairing of the first round.
Lauture’s lane to victory
Sophie Lauture’s motto next weekend will be: win and you’re in. Should Lauture prevail victorious for the fourth and final time this season, she will secure her first-place position across the Order of Merit finish line.
If neither Ellen Yu nor Grace Ridenour wins at Pine Needles, Lauture can take home OOM champion honors with a third-place finish or better.
Yu wins and she’s in
Following Lauture’s path, Ellen Yu controls her own destiny at Tour Championship. If she wins her sixth event of the season, she’ll swipe the top spot as the champion of the Futures National OOM.
Yu can still jump to the top of the OOM rankings with a runner-up finish if a player other than Ridenour or Lauture wins the tournament.
Ridenour-ing to the top
With both of her wins this season coming in Palmetto fashion, Grace Ridenour looks for the first victory in her home state this season. To be crowned champion of the OOM, Ridenour will need to secure the victory and Lauture will need to finish T3 or lower.
A curtain call to the 2019 season, we look forward to the intense competition to take place next weekend. We wish all of our competitors the best of luck in Southern Pines at the PKBGT Tour Championship! To stay up to date on the leaderboard, be sure to follow live scoring HERE!
About the PKBGT
Founded in 2007 by the Triad Youth Golf Foundation, a non-profit 501(c)(3) charitable organization, as a local girls’ golf tour in the Triad region of North Carolina, the tour began as a simple concept: create more effective competitive playing opportunities for girls. By utilizing innovative yardage-based divisions instead of the traditional age-based format, the tour focused on developing tournament experience at the player’s pace. The 2019 season will feature over 90 tournaments in 9 states on the East Coast and with over 900 members, the PKBGT is the largest girl’s only tour in the country. Learn more about the PKBGT at http://www.pkbgt.org/.