Defending champ Savannah Vilaubi near leaders at Texas Women's Open
But with about a month remaining before the tournament, Vilaubi was informed that a mistake had been made in awarding her the sponsor’s exemption and that she wouldn’t be playing after all.
“It was a shock,” the Californian said Wednesday after shooting a 1-over 72 in the first round of this year’s Texas Women’s Open at Rolling Hills Country Club. “They just told me that there was a mistake in the language of the contract that wouldn’t allow me to play because I wasn’t an amateur.
“It was a hard thing to hear, but they did what they could to make it right and I ended playing in an incredible event.”
Instead of showcasing her game locally, Vilaubi was granted an invitation to the Volvik Championships in Ann Arbor, Mich., in late May. Vilaubi missed the cut by four shots after firing a 36-hole score of 74-73—147.
“They were great and once the story got around about what had happened with the Volunteers of America tournament, they really treated me great in Michigan,” Vilaubi said. “They were superb and I had my family there with me and it was great.”
The North Texas PGA, in a statement Wednesday night, reaffirmed that the 2017 Texas Women’s Open Champion will receive a sponsor’s invitation for the 2018 Volunteers of America Shootout.
It was a shock. They just told me that there was a mistake in the language of the contract that wouldn’t allow me to play because I wasn’t an amateur. It was a hard thing to hear, but they did what they could to make it right and I ended playing in an incredible event.
That’s good news for Vilaubi, who is tied for 16th and four shots off the lead at Rolling Hills heading into Thursday’s second round.
Denton amateur Suzy Grunden and Panama’s Laura Restrepo are tied for the lead at 3-under 68.
“Today, I just really wanted to stay in the present and take it one shot at a time,” Vilaubi said. “It’s easy to get wrapped up in the high energy and being around some of the familiar faces I haven’t seen in a year.
“Overall, we played steady and I only had one bad hole to speak of so I feel pretty good about things.”
Vilaubi had birdies on No. 2 and No. 11 to help balance out three bogeys.
Still, Vilaubi said she’s gained considerable confidence since her win here last year and is poised to accomplish her goal of transcending her social media identity.
Vilaubi began collecting followers on Instagram during her college career at UC-Riverside and now has more than 33,000.
But it took her a second go through LPGA qualifying school this past fall to gain playing privileges.
She earned her status on the Symetra Tour from that finish where she’s gone on to make two cuts in 11 starts this year.
Vilaubi’s best finish is a tie for 37th at the Sara Bay Classic.
“Winning this tournament gave me a lot of good momentum into Q-school, which is the career determining part of your year,” Vilaubi said. “You feel like you really belong.”