CARLSBAD — There is nothing like coming home.
And for Carlsbad High School graduate Alana Uriell, it means returning home as a professional golfer and taking on the best at the 10th Kia Classic LPGA tournament March 28 to March 31 at Park Hyatt Aviara.
Uriell is excited to return to her home course and is coming off a victory in her pro debut at the SKYiGOLF Championship on the Symetra Tour, which is the developmental tour for the LPGA. She drained a 10-foot eagle putt on the first playoff hole to get the win on March 10 in North Port, Florida.
Still, Uriell earned her LPGA Tour card after tying for 20th at Q-Series last year, thus is eligible for LPGA events.
“I was using this tournament as a warm-up for the LPGA,” she said. “I think I was the underdog in it, and I like being in that position. I committed to what I had and I had this nice visual on the second shot, and came in at 10 feet and I made the putt.”
After a stellar prep and junior career, she played collegiately at the University of Arkansas where she was a second-team All-American in 2018 and named to the Southeastern Conference’s first team with a 71.68 stroke average.
“I’m sure it’s going to be exciting for her,” said Kia Classic Tournament Director Lindsay Allen. “She is an Aviara member and practices out of here. Everyone at Aviara is really excited to see her.”
However, the LPGA is a different animal, but coming off a pro win, in a playoff no less, plus playing at her home course has Uriell confident she will be able to perform.
She made her LPGA debut on Thursday at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup in Phoenix.
“I will be using the Founders as a king of feeling out,” Uriell said. “What it’s like on tour, what are the crowds looking like, how am I going to feel? Once I have gathered that and played a little bit, I think the Kia will be just a little bit easier even though I will have a large crowd following me.”
Another advantage is the sizable gallery she expects to follow her throughout her rounds. She said friends, family, former classmates and more are expected to be in attendance.
One goal is to make the cut, and to do it Uriell said she will have to play smart and leverage her detailed knowledge of the course. Putting, she said, will be key as she is intimately familiar with the breaks on the green.
Perhaps most importantly, she added, is her mental game. Being able to stay calm, focus on each shot and instantly disregard any wayward shots or missed putts will be critical for her to make the cut.
As for her personal goals, or expectations for the Kia Classic, Uriell said it’s more of staying committed on her shots rather than focus on making the cut or making a run.
“If I feel like if I’m staying committed and in the game, then I’ve met my expectations and the score will take care of itself,” she said.
Steve Puterski covers Carlsbad and Vista. For tips or story ideas, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @StevePuterski.