By Dave Andrews
LPGA Veterans Kim and Diaz Headline Field
I follow women’s golf more than most people but I don’t claim to be an expert. With that said here are my look at the upcoming final stage of LPGA Q School and my prediction for those most likely to earn playing status on the LPGA for 2013.
The grueling five-day tournament begins this Wednesday on the Champions and Legends courses at LPGA International Golf Club, the home of the LPGA Tour’s headquarters. 125 players from around the world will be competing for 20 full status cards on the LPGA tour in 2013. Another 25 limited status cards will be given out to the players who finish 21st to 45th after the final scores are posted next Sunday.
As usual, this year there is a mixture of players in the field… current LPGA players who didn’t play well enough this year to maintain their full status, players trying to make the move up to the LPGA from the Symetra Tour (the LPGA’s official developmental tour,) a fairly large number of players from the Ladies European Tour, a few from Asian tours, and a handful of amateurs.
Probably the best-known players in the field are LPGA veterans Christina Kim and Laura Diaz. This year, Kim suffered through the worst season of her ten years on the LPGA and failed to finish in the top 100 on the LPGA money list. She has two LPGA victories to her credit, she has won more than four million dollars on the tour over the past decade, and she was on the U.S. Solheim Cup team just last year, but now she faces the prospect of having no LPGA playing status for next year unless she plays well at Q School. She suffered a series of physical ailments this year and she recently revealed that she has gone through serious bouts of depression, including thoughts of suicide.
Laura Diaz (also a two-time winner on the tour and a four-time U.S. Solheim Cup team player) is also forced to return to Q School after 14 years on the LPGA in which she has won more than five million dollars in purse money. This season however, Diaz made less than 44 thousand dollars in 14 starts and also finished outside the top 100 on the tour’s money list.
Other players in the Q School field who have several years of experience on the LPGA tour include Birdie Kim, Meaghan Francella, Nicole Jeray, Na On Min, Reilley Rankin, Eunjung Yi, Meredith Duncan, Maria Hernandez, and Nicole Hage. All tolled there are more than 40 players in this year’s field who have had or currently have some form of LPGA playing status.
This year there is a strong contingent of players in the field from the Ladies European Tour (the LET). They include Caroline Masson of Germany who was the second-leading money winner on the LET this year. Melissa Reid of England, another LET leading money winner and a member of last year’s European Solheim Cup team, is returning to LPGA Q School for the second time. Other LET standouts in the Q School field include Anne-Lise Caudal of France, Ashleigh Simon of South Africa, Frances Bondad of Australia and Felicity Johnson of England.
A large number of players in Q School this year come from the Symetra Tour. “The Road to the LPGA” as it is nicknamed is owned and operated by the LPGA. The ten leading money winners on the Symetra Tour this season earned automatic full playing status on the LPGA for 2013. The next ten players on the money list earned automatic entry into this week’s final stage of Q School. Others worked their way through the first and/or second stages of Q School which were held earlier this fall.
There are a handful of players competing this week who come from the professional tours in Asia. Several of them are seen as strong competitors for the top final spots at Q School. Notables include Chie Arimura and Ayako Uehara of Japan. Moriya Jutanugarn of Thailand, who recently turned pro at the age of 17, was one of the top ranked amateurs in the world. She is viewed as a likely candidate to earn her LPGA card at Q School.
A few players who graduated American colleges in 2012 and were standout players in school are also in the field. Some of them are former All Americans and have recently turned pro. Brooke Pancake from the University of Alabama and Austin Ernst from LSU lead that list.
My personal favorite is LPGA rookie Hannah Yun. Hannah struggled this season in her first year on the LPGA. She finished 116th on the money list and is returning to Q School to maintain her full status for next year. I had the thrill of caddying for Hannah last year at Q School and I’ll be out there again this week, rooting her on as she and her full time caddie Martin Bozek get the job done.
With that look at the makeup of the field, here are my picks (in alphabetical order) of the 40 players I think have the best chance of earning LPGA playing status at Q School this year…