CARLSBAD — A North County woman’s homecoming came up a little short, but the experience gained should lift Alana Uriell’s progression during her rookie season on the LPGA Tour.
Uriell, a Carlsbad resident, carded a 2-over par (146) during the first two rounds, missing the cut, at last week’s Kia Classic at the Park Hyatt Aviara golf course.
Nasa Hataoka of Japan won the tournament, shooting -18 (270), by three strokes over Danielle Kang, Jin Young Ko, Azaahara Munoa, Sung Hyun Park and Inbee Park.
“We had a great week of weather and that really helped the tournament,” said Lindsay Allen, tournament director of the Kia Classic. “We had such a diverse leaderboard for the third and fourth round.”
Uriell’s first round was a mixed bag, but ended with her 1-over par and in good position to make the cut. She bogeyed her first hole, the par-5 10th, but carded a birdie on 12 before a bogey and double-bogey on 16 and 3, respectively, leaving her at 3-over par.
However, the recent University of Arkansas graduate finished strong with a trio of birdies (5, 8 and 9) with one bogey (6) to cap the round.
“I played pretty consistent, but I didn’t come with my best game,” Uriell said. “I had a lot on my mind and I was really trying to focus on enjoying it. I didn’t have the aggressive birdie game that I was hoping.”
She got back to even par on the first hole of the second round, but two bogeys on 7 and 14 left her just one shot short of the cut. A few putts were the difference during the second round including just missing a birdie on 14 by an inch.
“With all the eyes on me, I did feel that pressure to play well,” Uriell said. “The interesting thing, Aviara isn’t always like it is at the Kia Classic. The rough is thicker, greens are rolling a little better. It’s a different game you’re suddenly playing.”
As for the tournament, Lindsay Allen, tournament director, said despite all competition from other sports — Opening Day for the San Diego Padres and the Encinitas Marathon — turnout was consistent with previous years.
Additionally, several golfers carded a hole-in-one including former Kia Classic champ (2015) Cristie Kerr, who aced the par-3 14th to win a Kia Telluride.
Hataoka, meanwhile, is just 20 years old and one of the “rising stars” on tour, Allen said. Hataoka is the 10th different winner of the tournament, as the Kia Classic has never had a repeat or back-to-back champ in its history.
“Nasa is kind of a rising superstar and we’re glad to have her as one of our champions,” Allen said. “It was a really close tournament, down to the end.”
Looking forward, Allen said the tournament is in discussions for an extension with Kia as the title sponsor. Kia has one year left on it contract, so any announcements are not expected soon.
Regardless, Allen said the tournament is focusing on other areas to expand including highlighting its Military Appreciation Day, which is every Friday of the tournament.