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Fledgling pros put talents on display at Shootout

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Photographs by Ben Goff

Former University of Arkansas standout Regina Plasencia is among those competing in the fourth annual El Dorado Shootout, which begins today at Mystic Creek Golf Cub.

The Road to the LPGA Tour returns to southern Arkansas this weekend for the fourth annual El Dorado Shootout, which begins today at Mystic Creek Golf Cub.

The tournament, which offers a $150,000 purse, is the 18th of 21 this season on the LPGA's second tier as players use their Symetra Tour money finish and different stages of qualifying school to jockey for next season's status. With no multiple winners this year on the Symetra Tour, the race is tight for those trying to finish in the top 10 of the money list and automatically earn their LPGA Tour card for 2019.

El Dorado Shootout

WHAT Symetra Tour event

WHEN Today-Sunday

WHERE Mystic Creek Golf Club (Par 72, 6,509 yards), El Dorado

PURSE $150,000

WINNER’S SHARE $15,000

TV None

ADMISSION Free

Former Alabama All-American Stephanie Meadow of Northern Ireland is one of 17 players to have won one tournament this season. Meadow, who is third on this year's money list, has had success on the LPGA Tour, including in 2017 when she won $33,495 in 17 events. Recovery from a back injury and a new swing coach have provided the 2016 Olympian another look ahead for next year's top women's tour if she doesn't slip out of the top 10 in the closing weeks.

"I feel I am finally healthy again and just playing my game," said Meadow, 26. "I think it's comforting to know if I graduate from here to the LPGA Tour that I've done it before. I've already been out there. I know what to expect as opposed to going out there as a rookie and trying to learn my way through it again."

This year's El Dorado Shootout boasts 33 of the top 35 players on the money list. Defending champion Hannah Green has advanced to the LPGA Tour, but the field includes Jackie Stoelting, the first winner of the event in 2015, and former University of Arkansas standouts Regina Plasencia and Summar Roachell.

Plasencia, 24, earned full-time Symetra Tour status this season where she has one top-10 finish and currently sits 65th on the money list. Though 2017 was considered her official rookie year, the former All-SEC performer for the Razorbacks said the Symetra Tour has given her a chance to refocus on her game.

"I learned you don't need perfect golf to play well," said Plasencia, who missed the cut at the 2015 U.S. Women's Open by two strokes. "I guess I was always a little bogged down before the week of the tournaments if I felt something was a little bit off or a part of my game was not as strong as I wanted it. I would worry too much about that instead of going out there competing with the course. I would worry about playing this week and next week, then worrying about the next week. So it's been a learning experience, especially playing in so many events.

"Luckily I have been able to play eight LPGA events, so that's quite a good number to have under my belt."

Plasencia said she's been following the professional careers of former Razorbacks Stacy Lewis and Emily Tubert but believes her connection with fellow Mexican Gaby Lopez, another former Razorback, will be invaluable as she rises through the professional ranks.

"We're the same age and we were roommates through college," Plasencia said. "I guess when I make it on the LPGA Tour she'll be one of my closest friends and someone I can reach out to. But she'll probably say, 'Believe that you're good enough, you're here for a reason. If you play well, you deserve to be here.' "

Roachell, 23, played in the National Women's Golf Association in Florida her rookie season and returned to her hometown of Conway this fall as an assistant coach at Conway High School. She recently completed Stage I of Qualifying School and is awaiting a final decision Monday if she will advance to Stage II.

She also received a sponsor's exemption into the 2017 El Dorado Shootout and missed the 36-hole cut by a stroke.

"I think the time from last year to this year that I have gotten better," Roachell said. "I have been able to make a little money and get a good feel for my game. I just want to make the most of my opportunity this weekend. I plan on putting everything I have into my professional career the next two years and going from there. I know it's a tough road, but I believe there's nothing wrong with going the hard route."

Summar Roachell

Sports on 09/14/2018

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