02 May 2023 Golfers gather for fourth year in Conway for Women’s All-Pro Tour
By Donna Lampkin Stephens
For the fourth consecutive year, women’s professional golf is coming to Conway.
With the theme of “Empowering Women to Dream Without Limits,” the Genesis of Conway Central Arkansas Open is part of the Women’s All-Pro Tour and will feature 108 professional and 36 collegiate golfers at Centennial Valley Golf and Athletic Club July 19-22. The event, which will include $55,000 in prize money, will also feature a collegiate/junior event on July 17 and a pro-am on July 18.
According to wapt.golf, the tournament is an official event on the Women’s All Pro Tour (WAPT), the official qualifier of the Epson Tour, which is a feeder to the LPGA and a life of professional golf. Each WAPT tournament mirrors an LPGA tour week, with practice rounds, parties, clinics and pro-ams in addition to the 72-hole tournament. Fields typically include recent college graduates as well as conditional players on the Epson and LPGA tours.
Last year, the Conway event featured 100 golfers from 17 countries. “This year we will have 100 pro women players and 35 collegiate players,” said Tournament Director April Worley. Professional golfers from around the world will compete for $55,000 in prize money.
Pete Tanguay of Conway, founder and tournament chair, said the WAPT approached Centennial Valley several years ago with an opportunity to add an event there in 2020.
“Mike Smith, the golf pro, needed someone to run it and asked me,” Tanguay said. “I retired in 2018 and am interested in taking the lead on projects that would be impactful to Conway, especially those that bring us a global connection, and this opportunity met both of those criteria.”
Tanguay’s company, Rock Pond Pros, has been a presenting sponsor every year. The previous title sponsor, the Women’s Leadership Network, remains a beneficiary of the event.
“Proceeds support women’s initiatives in Central Arkansas throughout the year,” Tanguay said. “We are the underwriting sponsor for the Women’s Leadership Academy which started two years ago, and also support a number of other initiatives.”
The 501 area has been generous to provide sponsorships and volunteers for the event. “The business community is very giving, especially to causes that improve our community and make Conway a better place to live,” Tanguay said. “Being the only professional athletic event to ever be held in Faulkner County, there is excitement about seeing professional athletes from around the world compete here. Promotion of the tournament as an event that ‘Empowers Women to Dream Without Limits’ and extending this to include other women’s initiatives here in Conway throughout the year has also been a big draw.”
As tournament director, Worley looks forward to their arrival in July. “I love this event and seeing these ladies work towards their goals and dreams of getting closer to the LPGA. We have had several ladies who played in our tournament who are getting to play in the LPGA tournaments.”
Last year the tournament was voted “Top Tournament,” and Tanguay believes the community’s hospitality played a role in the honor.
“I think what sets us apart is the way our community supports the players’ dreams, gets personally involved with them beyond just watching them play golf and invites them into our homes,” Tanguay said. “Not all tournaments offer host housing for players. The Genesis of Conway Central Arkansas Open has provided housing for 100 percent of the players who have requested it over the past three years. Last year we housed 65 players in 50 homes. (Volunteers) Jill Enderlin and Lisa Roachell make all this magic happen.”
Enderlin is in charge of player housing; Roachell works with volunteers and support.
“The host families that I have had before have enjoyed every minute of it,” Enderlin said, explaining that as players pursue their dream of an LPGA Tour card, they need to save as much money as possible, and player housing helps that effort. “Lisa and I started with maybe 35 or so the first year. Last year we housed 65, thanks to our great community and friends. This year it may be close to 80 or more.”
The week will include a gathering for all the host families and players.
“These women are low-maintenance and appreciative of everything they get,” Enderlin said. “The one thing I would want to stress is they aren’t kids — these are mature women, ages 20 to 30. They aren’t going to be up late partying. It’s their job.”
Roachell’s daughter, Summar, the most recent in a line of top-notch women golfers from Conway, played in the event the first two years, but she has since taken a teaching professional job at a country club in northwest Arkansas.
Tanguay said it was unlikely any local golfers would play in the event other than entries the WAPT offers as a gift.
This is the 12th of 13 events on the 2023 WAPT Tour. Tournaments are held in Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri and Kansas. The only other Arkansas stop is the Texarkana Children Charities Open at Texarkana Country Club (and Northridge Country Club in Texarkana, Texas) July 12-15.
“Lisa and I work hard on this, and we would love to have anyone on board to help us,” Enderlin said. “The money (the players) save (on housing) helps them to pay for their next tournament entry. I stay in touch with so many of them, I feel like they are our own daughters.
“We are Mama Jill and Mama Lisa here.”
For more information about attending the tournament or playing with a pro, visit centralarkansasopen.com.
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