The Prairie Invitational is a premier women’s event in Kansas City for amateur and professional players. Its purpose is to enhance women’s golf and junior women’s golf not only in the Kansas City area but on a regional level. Formerly known as the Women’s Amateur of Kansas City, the Prairie Invitational was founded to determine the best female golfer in the Midwest. The 2017 event was the first time the event was conducted over 54 holes in the Open Division and was also the first year the event was included in the World Amateur Golf Rankings.
The championship includes two-separate divisions. The Open division is targeted toward expert level players and will be played at championship yardage of 6,100-6,200 yards. The Open Division features a cut to the low 18 players and ties after play on Tuesday with a final-round finish for those who advance on Wednesday. A 36-hole Players division will be for gross and net players who want to play from the traditional ladies’ tees.
The 2018 Prairie Invitational was held on July 23rd-July 25th at Indian Hills Country Club. It proved to be an excellent test of golf for both the Open and Players Divisions. The tree-lined fairways and undulating greens made making par very difficult and gave up very few birdies. The course gave up a low single-round score of 71 (+1) and a record-high winning total of +14. Emma Whitaker of Wichita, Kansas claimed the Open Division title over defending champion Kristen Samp. She also won the Kansas Women’s Amateur title. Reagan Zibilski of Nixa, Missouri won the Open Division Low Junior award, while Julia Misemer claimed the Kansas Low Junior. Hope Robinett won the Players Division Gross title, and her twin sister Hanna Robinett won the Players Division Net title.
The 2019 Prairie Invitational will be held at The National Golf Club of Kansas City in Parkville, Missouri on July 22-24, 2019 and will be run as an individual championship with the Kansas Women’s Amateur to be run in August.
Players to Watch
With the lowest handicap index of the field of +3.4, Sarah Bell already sticks out as a player to watch for this year’s championship. From Jackson, Missouri, Bell just finished her freshman year at Oral Roberts University. A two-time high school girls golf Champion at Notre Dame High School, Bell’s talent and proximity to the Kansas City area makes her a great choice to take away the trophy.
Kristen Samp is no stranger to the Prairie Invitational. Samp’s finishes in the Prairie include a tied for 2nd finish in 2016, Champion in 2017 and a runner-up finish in 2018 after losing in a playoff. Following a tenured professional career and competing on the LPGA Tour, Samp is a PGA/LPGA Professional in Lawrence, Kansas.
After a few years being at the top of the leaderboard in the Prairie Invitational, Samp’s experience in the event gives her the ability to win it all again.
Ellen Port is a name you should know if you follow amateur golf. A seven-time USGA Champion, Port will be playing in the Prairie Invitational for the second year in a row. From St. Louis, Port is no stranger to the Kansas City area, and it showed with a tied for 5th finish in last year’s event.
Port’s Championship accolades include four US Women’s Mid-Amateur titles and three US Senior Women’s Amateur titles. It wouldn’t be surprising to see her add the 2019 Prairie Invitational to that already distinguished list.
Stacy Dennis is set to make her first appearance in the Prairie Invitational. Executive Director of the Texas Golf Association, Dennis comes all the way from Plano, Texas to compete against a highly talented field.
Dennis’s playing career is not something that goes unnoticed. Dennis was a member of the Texas A&M Women’s Golf team and winner of two Texas Women’s Amateur Championships (2004, 2009). She also won the Women’s State Four-Ball Championship twice (2009, 2015) and was a US Women’s Mid-Amateur semifinalist in 2012.
Her knowledge of the game and experience competing at the highest level gives her an edge in this year’s event.
Emma Whitaker is the current Defending Champion of the Prairie Invitational. Just finishing up her sophomore season at Oklahoma State, the 20-year-old is used to performing under pressure. After winning in a playoff over Samp, Whitaker completed one of the biggest wins of her career.
Originally from Wichita, Kansas, Whitaker is a talented young golfer that should thrive on a course like The National. It will be exciting to see how she fares as the defending champion.
Rachel Stous, a Topeka native, won the Kansas City Women’s Match Play in early June in record fashion – with a walk-off Hole-In-One to close out the match. With length being a strong suit of her game, Stous should thrive on a modern course like The National and will be one of the few players in the field with ability to reach some of the long par-5 holes. Stous has also advanced through the men’s Topeka City Match Play, winning matches against men while competing from the same tees the last two years. She played one season at Wichita State and is set to represent Kansas on the Fore State team at the end of the month.
Haley Thiele just won her second Nebraska Women’s Amateur Championship in three years. A standout for the University of Nebraska women’s program, she went deep in the KC Women’s Match Play Championship last month as well. She will be joined by several of her teammates in the field.
Whitney Pyle was a standout on the Kansas State University team. Whitney has been preparing to play LPGA Q-school in the fall with a solid off-season of play in Florida.