ROGERS — Alana Uriell will be following a long line of former Razorback greats when she steps onto the course at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship this week.
It just so happens a good number of those former Razorbacks will be playing alongside the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, senior when tournament play begins Friday.
Uriell is one of five golfers with UA ties who will be competing this week at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship presented by P&G. Stacy Lewis, Gaby Lopez, Regina Plasencia and Emily Tubert are the other four.
“I don’t get to see them much because they travel so much,” Uriell said. “So to be able to see them and play with them is awesome. Just to see them succeed is a huge thing, to be able to go up to them and say, ‘Hey, you are such an inspiration. You did so much for me personally and the Razorback team. It’s just so amazing what you’ve done.’”
It will be a reunion for Uriell and her former teammates and mentor, who are already familiar with playing at Pinnacle.
“We know a lot of the little things that go on in the course and it’s just comfortable playing out here, not only because of the course but because I’m playing with my fellow Razorbacks,” Uriell said.
Plasencia echoed Uriell’s thoughts on the home-course advantage and said being back in Northwest Arkansas feels like home to her.
“It’s awesome,” Plasencia said. “I love it here. I really had a good experience playing for the university here. The support you get walking around the golf course, you get all the cheers, you have big crowds following you, it’s awesome.”
Razorback golf coach Shauna Estes-Taylor, who has coached all of the former Hogs in the field this week, said the success of the players reflects well on the program, and she hopes it encourages others to want to come play for the university in the future.
“I’m really proud that the girls are reaping the benefits of their time as Razorbacks and the work they put in here,” Estes-Taylor said.
For Uriell, one of the biggest advantages of playing next to LPGA Tour pros such as Lewis and Lopez has been the instruction they have provided.
Lewis’ advice has especially been helpful given her almost-decade’s worth of experience on the Tour.
“She’s been saying to me a lot of positive things about going on the Tour,” Uriell said. “She’s just has been telling me what it’s like to play professionally.”
One thing the pros are helping Uriell with is making sure she’s ready for all of the exposure that comes with competing at the next level, whether it’s becoming more comfortable in front of a camera or playing with the top golfers in the world. She said she’s a lot more prepared going into this year.
“I won’t be so overwhelmed by being around so many incredible players,” Uriell said. “It’s still a thrill to be around them, I’ll be focused on the golf this year, and I kind of know what I’m getting into with the cameras, the people and the tournament setting.”
Uriell earned a sponsor’s exemption spot by recording a team-best 72.04 scoring average this past year. This is the second year she has competed in the tournament after she qualified in 2016, but missed the cut going into the last round.
“Alana’s coming off her best year as a Razorback,” Estes-Taylor said. “She brings a lot to the game. She’s a great putter and a good ball stiker. I think she’ll do great at the tournament.”
She is currently ranked No. 63 out of 2,682 qualified golfers on the World Amateur Golf Rankings and is coming off an impressive junior campaign. She notched four top-10 finishes and accomplished a first by winning the UTSA Maryb S. Kauth Invitational back in October.
“Going into the next year, I think I’ll have a more confident game than ever before after this,” Uriell said.
Walmart NW Arkansas Championship
At Pinnacle Country Club, Rogers
WHEN Friday-Sunday FORMAT 54 Holes YARDAGE 6,386 PAR 71
PURSE $2 million FIELD 144 golfers DEFENDING CHAMPION Lydia Ko TV Golf Channel 5:30-7:30 p.m. Friday; 4-6 p.m. Saturday; 4-6 p.m. Sunday
TICKETS Daily tournament ticket $10; Weekly tournament ticket $25; Kids free with ticketed adult MORE INFO nwachampionship.com
Print Headline: UA senior learns from former Hogs