The tournament is the second of three 54-hole tournaments on the 2019 schedule and boasts a list of champions that held the World No. 1 spot including Jiyai Shin (2009), Yani Tseng (2010, 2011), Ai Miyazato (2012), Inbee Park (2013), Stacy Lewis (2014), Lydia Ko (2016) and So Yeon Ryu (2017).
Defending champion Nasa Hataoka is making her 11th start on the 2019 season, returning to Rogers, Ark. for her title defense just after a T14 finish at the LPGA’s third major, the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. Last year, Hataoka set a 54-hole tournament record while carding a final-round 63 to win the tournament two strokes ahead of runner-up Austin Ernst and six players tied for third place. Since then, Hataoka has earned two additional victories on the LPGA Tour including the 2018 TOTO Japan Classic and the 2019 Kia Classic.
This week marks Hataoka’s third appearance of the event and is joined by six of the top-10 in the world including World No. 1 Jin Young Ko, No. 2 Sung Hyun Park, No. 3 Minjee Lee, No. 7 Brooke Henderson, No.8 Ariya Jutanugarn and No. 9 Inbee Park. Six past Walmart NW Arkansas Championship winners return to Pinnacle Country Club including So Yeon Ryu (2017), Lydia Ko (2016), Na Yeon Choi (2015) and leading the Razorback brigade is Stacy Lewis (2014).
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE WALMART NW ARKANSAS CHAMPIONSHIP PRESENTED BY P&G
NEW MOM STACY LEWIS EXCITED TO BE BACK IN ARKANSAS
For Razorback alumna Stacy Lewis, coming back to Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers, Ark. for the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship is nothing short of a homecoming. In this event, Lewis has three top-5s and two top-10 finishes, also claiming victory by one stroke in 2014 over fellow Americans Cristie Kerr and Angela Stanford.
“Just looking forward to playing here again. There's so much going on in the community from the food events, the run on Saturday morning to this pro‑am's a big event being two days. There's a lot going on other than just a golf tournament,” said Lewis, who is making her 12th start of the event. “Comfortable with the golf course obviously with the results, so excited to be back and hopefully get some good momentum coming up going out of this week.”
For the 34-year-old professional, life hasn’t been the same since the birth of her daughter, Chesnee – especially her golf game. Disappointed after a missed cut at last week’s KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, Lewis keeps reminding herself of the bigger things in life.
“My perspective of golf and life is just so different. I played horrible last week and walked into daycare and [Chesnee] had a big old smile on her face and came crawling up to me. I mean, I didn't care what I shot,” said Lewis. “The golf doesn't really matter. The fact that she's healthy and she's adapting to all this, that's all I can ask for right now.”
PARK IN THE GIVING SPIRIT AT WALMART
On Tuesday, Annie Park walked into Arkansas Children’s Hospital, and walked out inspired. During the visit, the 24-year-old met with young patients and was on hand as The Walmart Foundation presented a $275,000 check benefiting the hospital’s children’s programs and Hall of Fame golfer Jack Nicklaus’ Play Yellow program. Park felt compelled to give back as well.
“It was great. I saw a lot of great kids. They were adorable, and a lot of troopers out there,” said Park. “It was a great environment to be in and really inspiring as well. I think this week will be a good week to bring awareness and give back.”
This week, Park pledges to donate to the Walmart Foundation for every birdie she makes at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship. She also hopes anyone else inspired will join her in making donations, whether it be golfers or LPGA fans.
The visit put golf in perspective for Park as she tees off No. 10 on Friday at 8:21 a.m. with Brittany Altomare and Inbee Park.
DYLAN KIM MONDAY QUALIFIES TO BECOME SIXTH RAZORBACK IN THE FIELD
Razorback Dylan Kim qualified for this year’s Walmart NW Arkansas Championship for the second consecutive year. Kim went out and shot a 68 to earn her way into this year’s tournament, making her the sixth University of Arkansas Razorback to play in the field this week. She is looking forward
“I had really positive vibes going in. It just kind of felt like my day,” said Kim, making her second start of the championship. “I chipped in a couple times so that’s always fun, and I made a lot of birdies after a bit of a rough start.”
Kim, who graduated in May after transferring from Baylor University to Arkansas in 2015, earned First-Team All-SEC honors this past season and was named WGCA Second-Team All-American. Her collegiate career was put on hold for a bit after redshirting her sophomore year after a benign tumor was removed from her leg in October of 2015. As she continues to her journey to one day turn professional, she will be joined by one of her biggest fans on her bag – her mom.
“She caddied for me in the qualifier and I’ve played a lot of good golf with her on the bag in the past, so we’re going to have a good time,” said Kim.
Kim she is enjoying the professional atmosphere at Walmart. She said she especially enjoyed her practice round with Razorback graduate Stacy Lewis, former teammate Kaylee Benton and Razorback coach Shauna Taylor..
“I think that it shows what Stacy and Shauna have done for the program,” said Kim. “To have that many Razorback pros in the field, it’s going to be a great week to be a hog.”
NOTABLE FIRST-ROUND GROUPINGS
Highlighting the morning groupings are past Walmart NWA champions So Yeon Ryu, Lydia Ko and nine-time LPGA winner Brooke Henderson at 7:59 a.m. off the first tee.
Lizette Salas tees off at 8:21 a.m. with Razorback alumna Stacy Lewis and Rolex Rankings World No. 1 Jin Young Ko on the first tee.
Defending champion Nasa Hataoka, Charley Hull and Ariya Jutanugarn will tee off at 8:32 a.m. on the first tee.
DESIGNATED HOLE FOR AON RISK REWARD CHALLENGE
The season-long Aon Risk Reward Challenge will highlight the world’s best professional golfers as they tackle the most strategically challenging holes across both the LPGA Tour and PGA TOUR schedules. The player from each Tour on top of the Aon leaderboard at the end of the regular season will receive a $1 million prize. The scoring system is identical on both the LPGA Tour and PGA TOUR, and players will take their best two scores from each Aon Risk Reward Challenge hole, with the winners having the best average score to par at the end of the season. Players must play a minimum of 40 rounds throughout the season. The Challenge runs across regular season tournaments (29 LPGA Tour; 36 PGA TOUR).
The designated Aon Risk Reward Challenge hole at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship is the 12th. This 394-yard par 4 is a wonderful risk-reward hole that allows players to decide if they should play it safe and lay back off the tee, or take the risk and use driver over trees on the right to set up a shorter approach into a difficult green. The huge putting surface features a lower right-side shelf that requires considerable skill to get the ball close.
For more information about the Aon Risk Reward Challenge, visit www.lpga.com/statistics/aon-risk-reward-challenge.
RACE TO THE CME GLOBE UPDATE
World No. 1 Jin Young Ko continues to lead the 2019 Race to the CME Globe with 2,359 points, followed by Meijer LPGA Classic winner Brooke Henderson with 1,945 points and LPGA Mediheal Championship winner Minjee Lee in third with 1,824 points.
The 2019 season brings a fresh face to the Race to the CME Globe. LPGA Members will accumulate points at each official LPGA Tour event leading up to the CME Group Tour Championship. The top 60 points earners and ties will then earn a spot in the CME Group Tour Championship, with the entire field competing for the $5 million purse and the $1.5 million winner’s check, the largest single prize in the history of women’s golf.
SHARON TAYLOR NOMINATED FOR LPGA’S AXA LPGA VOLUNTEER SERVICE AWARD
Sharon Taylor has been volunteering for the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship over a decade and has managed two volunteer committees during her volunteer experience. She takes great pride in ensuring that all players and guests have the best experience possible at Pinnacle Country Club. Every year, she even hosts an annual dinner at her residence for the tournament staff and is a huge hit! The tournament is proud to recognize Sharon as an outstanding volunteer from the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship for the 2019 AXA LPGA Volunteer Service Award.