QUITO, Ecuador—Coming off his second runner-up finish of the season to grab the lead in the Totalplay Cup standings, Conner Godsey is definitely the player to chase this week at the Kia Open. The last time he came to the Quito Tennis & Golf Club, almost two years ago, he fired a final-round 65 to force a playoff and then drained an overtime 10-footer for birdie to get the win.
“I remember making the putt in the playoff. That’s the biggest memory that I have from it”, said the 31-year old Godsey, a native of Alabama who resides in Jacksonville, Florida. “It’s great to be back. This place is a lot of fun, playing at elevation, a lot of elevation, the ball goes forever, which makes it tough and fun. I have some good vibes here, so I’m excited to play.”
Although he has yet to win during the 2022-23 PGA TOUR Latinoamérica season, Godsey remains a model of consistency. He leads the Tour in total birdies, with 131, 19 more than anybody else. He has the most sub-par rounds, at 20, and with a 69.46 stroke average, his is the lowest among players who have made at least four starts this season. Godsey’s Totalplay Cup points total, which improved to 850 with his runner-up finish in Peru, gives him a 151-point lead over New Zealand’s Charlie Hillier, who ranks third in the standings and is the next best player competing here this week.
“I feel really good about my game. I have a lot of confidence coming into this week, but I’m just really focusing on trying to get better every day,” said the talented lefty who is trying to earn his way back to the Korn Ferry Tour, where he spent the 2022 season after finishing third on the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica points list during the COVID-19 pandemic season of 2020-21.
Making his PGA TOUR Latinoamérica return with Kia as a new title sponsor eyeing a long-time commitment, the Kia Open is the eighth of 12 tournaments on the 2022-23 schedule. Established in 2014 and celebrating its ninth edition this week, this Tour stop is among the players’ favorites.
Aside from the local hospitality, the Kia Open is unique because of the altitude factor. Quito is 9,350 feet above sea level, the thin air allowing for a farther ball flight that forces players to adjust. It’s especially amusing for the Tour rookies playing here for the very first time.
“I played in Kenya to about 6,000 feet, and in South Africa at around something similar, so I have been exposed to (altitude) a little bit, but this is definitely extreme of what we play. It’s so different, and it’s such a refreshing new kind of experience. It’s cool, really cool,” says Scotland’s Sandy Scott, who has recorded two top-10s in seven starts to enter the week ranked 16th in the Totalplay Cup standings.
Scheduled to start Thursday morning, the Kia Open features a field of 144 players from 19 countries, including eight Ecuadorian players.
Totalplay Cup Points List through seven of 12 events
|1||Conner Godsey (U.S.)||850||—|
|2||Cristobal Del Solar (Chile)*||711||139|
|3||Charlie Hillier (New Zealand)||699||151|
|4||Chandler Blanchet (U.S.)||676||174|
|5||Linus Lilliedahl (Sweden)||669||181|
|6||Matt Ryan (U.S.)||608||242|
|7||Marcos Montenegro (Argentina)||606||244|
|8||Jake McCrory (U.S.)||567||283|
|9||Leandro Marelli (Argentina)||554||296|
|10||Davis Shore (U.S.)||532||318|
*Korn Ferry Tour member Cristóbal Del Solar is the only player inside the top-10 who is not playing here this week
|No.||Venue||No. of Events||Tournament(s)|
|1||Los Inkas GC||10||Diners Club Perú Open|
|2||Quito Tennis & GC||9||KIA Open|
|3||Córdoba GC||8||Abierto OSDE del Centro|
|4||Estrella del Mar||6||Estrella del Mar Open, Mexico Open|
|5||Fuego Maya GC La Reunión||5||Stella Artois Open|
Tournament Fast Facts
Official Name: Kia Open
Dates: May 4-7, 2023
Host venue: Quito Tennis & Golf Club, Par-72 (36-36) 7,412 yards
Field: 144 players from 19 countries
Countries and territories represented in the field: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, England, Finland, France, Guatemala, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Scotland, Sweden, United States and Venezuela
Last champion: Manav Shah (not playing)
Purse: U.S. $175,000 – Winner’s share U.S. $31,500
Totalplay Cup points: Awarded to the top-55 and ties, with500 going to the winner
Cut: Top 55 and ties
There are two past tournament winners in this week’s field, with Conner Godsey being the most recent. The 2021 champion, Godsey enters the week ranked first in the Totalplay Cup standings. The other past winner who is back this week is Colombia’s Ricardo Celia. He claimed the title in 2015.
Past Kia Open champions
|2014||Tyler McCumber (U.S.)||67-67-71-70—275 (-13)|
|2015||Ricardo Celia (Colombia)||70-66-70-69—275 (-9)|
|2016||Nate Lashley (U.S.)||68-67-67-67—269 (-15)|
|2017||Curtis Yonke (U.S.)||69-68-68-65—270 (-14)|
|2018||Horacio León (Chile)||69-66-74-67—276 (-8)|
|2019||Augusto Núñez (Argentina)||68-67-64-67—266 (-22)|
|2021||Conner Godsey (U.S.)||67-69-70-65—271 (-17)*|
|2022||Manav Shah (U.S.)||63-69-68-66—266 (-22)|
* Won in a playoff
PGA TOUR Latinoamérica tournaments left to play this season
|May 4-7||Kia Open||Quito Tennis &GC||Quito, Ecuador|
|Two weeks off|
|May 25-28||Colombia Classic||Ruitoque G&CC||Bucaramanga, Colombia|
|June 1-4||El Rincon Championship||El Rincón de Cajicá||Bogota, Colombia|
|Two weeks off|
|June 22-25||Jalisco Open GDL||Atlas CC||Guadalajara, Mexico|
|June 29-July 2||PGA TOUR Latinoamérica Championship||PGA Riviera Maya||Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico|
2022-23 PGA TOUR Latinoamérica Player Benefits
|2022-23 Final Totalplay Cup Position||Reward|
|No. 1||Will receive exempt status on the 2024 Korn Ferry Tour|
|Nos. 2-5||Will receive conditional status on the 2024 Korn Ferry|
|Nos. 1-5||Exempt into Final Stage of the 2023 PGA TOUR Qualifying Tournament|
|Nos. 6-25||Exempt into the second stage of the 2023 PGA TOUR Qualifying Tournament|
|Nos. 1-60||Status on the 2024 PGA TOUR Americas Latin America Swing|
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