Two local female golfers enter today's Futures Tour event in Beltsville from very different places in their careers, but with similar goals. Jessica Lewis, a professional golfer from Bethesda, and Rachel Malenich, an amateur from Alexandria, each is looking to benefit from playing against top competition in the Children's Hospital Golf Classic at Cross Creek Golf Club.
"My dad and I talked about it," Lewis said. "It's just a learning year. You can't expect anything. It's all about just going out there trying to get as much experience as you can."
The 54-hole tournament begins today and runs through Sunday. The winner will receive $9,800 of the $70,000 purse. The field of 144 players features the top 20 players on the Futures Tour money list, including top-ranked Lindsey Wright of Australia and No. 2 Aram Cho of Korea, who each has won two tournaments on this year's tour.
The Futures Tour, which provides female professional golfers with the opportunity to develop their skills and prepares them for the LPGA Tour, became the LPGA's official developmental tour in 1999. At the end of the year, the top five Futures Tour money-winners earn status on the LPGA Tour. The next 10 money-winners bypass the LPGA Qualifying School sectional qualifiers and automatically advance to the final tournament.
Lewis, a James Madison graduate, earned her status on the Futures Tour by finishing in the top 100 at the tour's qualifying school after turning professional last fall. She has played in 11 events this year, making 10 cuts and earning $3,313. Her best finish was tied for 22nd at the Lima Memorial Hospital Golf Club in Lima, Ohio, in mid-June.
"You're playing for the top five spots and the next 10, and that's what the tour is about," Lewis said. "It's not obviously about making money. It's a developmental tour."
Malenich, a recent Hayfield High School graduate who will join Robert Morris College's inaugural women's golf team in the fall, is playing in the event on a sponsor's exemption. Until this tournament, the biggest tournament she had played in was the U.S. Women's Public Links Championship last summer.
"There's no pressure," Malenich said. "It's not like I'm out there playing for money or anything like that. I just go out there and learn from people who have been playing the game for a long time."
A three-day pass for the tournament is $10. Parking for the event is at Gardens Ice House (13800 Old Gunpowder Rd., Laurel) or the Verizon Building (11750 Beltsville Dr., Beltsville).
-- Kathy Orton