LPGA Q-School Stage III Results

The grind of Q-school is over for the ladies and congratulations to the women that got their LPGA cards for 2013!  For anyone following my blog you know that I have been following the LPGA Q-school since stage I.  After stage II I reported that I would be watching four players in Stage III:

  1. Moriya Jutanugam (Thailand) – One of the top amateur players in women’s golf.
  2. Brooke Pancake – Winner of the 2012 Collegiate Women Sports Award for Golf.
  3. Anya Alvarez – A player from the 2012 Big Break Atlantis.
  4. Christina Kim  –  LPGA Professional that has been on tour for 10 years, is very popular, well-known on Twitter, and struggling with her game.

Note: On September 4, 2012, I wrote an overview of the LPGA Q-School.

LPGA Stage III Q-School Results

Stage III of the LPGA Q-school was held Nov 28 to Dec 2, at LPGA International in Daytona Beach, Florida.  They played two courses, the Champion & Legends.  The full results give the scores for all five rounds and the final positions. The top 20 get full-status on the LPGA tour for 2013 and players finishing 21-45 get conditional status (so they may get to play a few tournaments but not many).  If you want to see a good list of the 20 players to secure their cards read the Golf Week Article.  Here are how the four I followed finished:

  1. Moriya Jutanugam – Tied 1st place, total score 347 (13 under par). As a winner she will forever have the title of medalist honors for Q-School!  This is a good omen given that past medalists include Stacy Lewis (2012 Player of the Year). I am not surprised she won since she has been one of the top amateur players this year.  But, she did not end with a solo win.  Jutanugam shares the medalist honors with Rebecca Lee-Bentham (who was a rookie on the LPGA in 2012 but needed to go to Q-school to retain her LPGA status).
  2. Brooke Pancake – Tied 11th, total Score 356 (four under par). I’ve been following Pancake since her last year in college (because I liked her name and now I am a fan of her game).  It will be fun to watch her during her rookie year in 2013.
  3. Anya Alvarez – Tied 54th, total score 363 (four over par). Unfortunately for Alvarez she did not get her tour card.  Shooting 75, and 75 the first two days was not a great start and even with a 69 on day three she did not recover and shot 74, and 70 to finish out her week.
  4. Christina Kim – Tied 39, total score 361 (one over par). Kim only had one good day during the week.  Round 2 she shoot a 67 (but the rest of her scores were 72,73,74,75 – not in that order).  But Kim fares better than Alvarez because of her career she will play with sponsor exemptions too.  I wasn’t sure how sponsor exemptions work so I tweeted a question to Stina Sternberg, Senior Editor, Golf Digest, covering women’s golf.  As Sternberg explains, Kim won a conditional card (for finishing in T39) but that does not help a lot.  But she gets in to at least 6 tournaments on sponsor exemptions; and can play in USWO (United States Women’s Open) qualifiers to get into the US Women’s Open.
Image of Twitter Conversation with Stina Sternberg

Twitter Conversation with Stina Sternberg

Results for Big Break Alum

Anya Alverez was not the only Big Break Alum in Stage III.  There were two other players at Q-school from past Big Break shows.

  1. Kim Welch – Tied 11th, total score 356 (4 under par).  Welch was the winner on Big Break Ka’anapali in 2008 so it just shows how hard it is to make it on to the LPGA tour.
  2. Kelly Jacques – Tied 17th, total score 357 (3 under par).  However, Jacques (from Big Break Ireland 2011) had a more heartbreaking end to her Q-school.  Jacques ended in seven-player tie for the final four spots in the top-20 so she had to go into a playoff.  Unfortunately she did not win one of the 4 spots and only got conditional status but it is still a great accomplishment.

Final Thoughts

The LPGA Q-school is great golf drama and I wish it had been televised on the Golf Channel.  I know it is expensive to televise golf but I think the final round would have been exciting for golfers to watch on TV.  At a minimum, I would have liked the Golf Channel to have more video from each day.  After all, the Golf Channel did show clips from the PGA Q-school on Golf Central each day.  Perhaps next year the Golf Channel will give air time to LPGA Q-school.  Given that the PGA is changing their process for next year and getting rid of Q-School for the PGA tour — maybe, just maybe the LPGA will get the spotlight next year.

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Lydia Ko makes history, again. Is Ko an “amateur” in name only?

It was amazing to watch Lydia Ko win the CN Canadian Women’s Open.  However, what was really surprising was that Ko was the lead story on Golf Channel’s wrap-up show, Golf Central.  It is rare that a ladies event overshadows a PGA event, but Lydia Ko’s win overshadowed Nick Watney’s win at the Barclays.

I wrote about Lydia winning the US Women’s Amateur just a few weeks ago.  Ko is an amazing golfer; but what is really surprising is her demeanor on the golf course and during her press conferences.  She has a lovely personality.  She smiles all the time (and said in the press conference she tries to smile even when she makes a bad shot).  She is quick to acknowledge all the people supporting her golf career and seems to recognize that her amateur schedule is like a job.  She stated in various interviews that she has missed many months of school with all the world traveling she is doing for golf.

As I watched Ko play, I noticed she had a Srixon logo on her golf cap and a New Zealand Golf Logo on her shirt.  I did a bit of research and found the New Zealand Golf website.  As an amateur Ko cannot have sponsors but what she does have is the support of the New Zealand Golf Federation.  Lydia Ko is one of the shinning stars of the New Zealand Golf Federation’s National Development Program (or better known to the golf viewing public as the “Srixon Golf Academy.”)

When you read the details of the “National Development Programme” on the New Zealand Golf Website, you realize how much of an advantage players supported by a national federation have over an amateur without such support.  The website states “The National Development Programme is the pathway that assists young emerging talent from throughout New Zealand to succeed on the international stage.”  Here is what the website states a Srixon Golf Academy player can expect:

  • Primary coach
  • Sports psychologist
  • Strength and conditioning coach
  • Golf specific physiotherapist
  • They will also have funding assistance to ensure their attendance at national events throughout their term in the Academy.
  • For the very best of the Academy there will be a contestable ‘International Tournament Campaign Fund’ to help assist them create and manage their own international tournament campaigns.  (Note: the website even lists specific tournaments in Asia, UK/Europe, Canada, and the USA).

Wow, given the “funding” support it is hard to call Lydia Ko an Amateur.  Clearly, the financial support to travel all over the world to compete against the worlds best golfers is a luxury most American amateurs would love.  Actually, I think a lot of “journeymen” players and “rookies” on the professional tours would love that kind of financial support.

The support Lydia Ko receives does not take away from her talent or her win.  She is still a 15-year-old playing an individual sport and it is her talent and mental fortitude that has allowed her to win at the highest level of golf.  However, the support Ko receives “outside the ropes” is not something all amateurs get.  Judy Rankin, Golf Hall of Fame member and commentator for LPGA golf events, often comments during her on-air TV analysis that international amateurs (supported by golf federations) have an advantage over American amateurs.  The lack of international travel and opportunity to play against the best in the world is a big issue for the development of American Amateurs.

Is Lydia Ko like other Amateurs at all?  One way Lydia Ko is a normal amateur is that she does not have the pressure a professional has to win.  Professionals feel pressure because golf is how they make their living.  Maybe a good example is Lexi Thompson.  In 2007, at age 12, Thompson was the youngest golfer to qualify for the US Women’s Open and turned pro at 15 but did not have her LPGA card. Thompson was entering LPGA tournaments on sponsor exemptions. Thompson made history when she won her first LPGA event (the Navistar LPGA Classic) at 16 years, 7 months and 8 days old.  Given her win, the LPGA waived the age minimum/restriction and granted Lexi Thompson her card.  But as a professional, Thompson has struggled this year and missed the cut at the CN Canadian Women’s Open.  The other past “amateur phenom” to miss the cut this week — Michelle Wie.

Is Lydia Ko an amateur in name only?  I say yes because she plays like a professional, she travels and competes worldwide like a professional, and she has “financial support” that mirrors the economic benefit to cover travel costs that a sponsor deal might cover (without the official sponsor).

Who knows when Lydia Ko will become a professional.  Until that time, I’m sure Lydia Ko will continue to amaze the golf viewing public with her amazing talent.  The next big question is when she does turn professional, will she continue her phenomenal rise?  Will Ko be the next Annika or Tiger?.  Only time will tell.  One thing is for sure —  the golf world will be watching.