The expanded 2014 Symetra Tour schedule tees off February 21 in Mesa, Arizona. This year the tour will have 20 events, five more than last year, with purses totaling more than $2.2 million, a record for the tour.
Again this year, as it has for the last two seasons, the LPGA will award full status cards for the following year to the top 10 money earners on the Symetra Tour. The tour is owned by the LPGA and is nicknamed “The Road to the LPGA.”
There are 30 or more players whose past performances have shown they have a good chance of finishing in the top 10. Here are my predictions of those that will get it done and move on to the LPGA at the end of this season.
Predictions for Top 10 Money Winners
Having turned 18 years old earlier this month, this powerful young ball striker from China begins her first season as a professional golfer. Feng has developed a strong reputation as an amateur player here in the United States over the past several years. She qualified for three of the past five U S Women’s Opens, making her first appearance in 2009 when she was just 13 years old.
Watch for Feng to capture multiple victories this season and to finish the year first on the tour’s money list. She should be an LPGA rookie in 2015.
This 21 year old from Bradenton, Florida earned her 2012 LPGA rookie card through Q School. Yun struggled in her first two seasons on the premier tour however, and was forced to drop down to the Symetra Tour midway through the 2013 season. She won the tour’s Volvik Championship last summer in Reunion, Florida, and finished 20th on the season money list while playing in only ten events.
Yun has all the natural skills to successfully compete on the LPGA. She should find her mental game this season and finish in the top two or three on the tour’s money list, returning her to the LPGA in 2015. Two or more victories for her are not out of the question this season.
A mere $115 kept this fourth-year Symetra Tour player from earning her LPGA rookie card for this season. Last year Jordan-Higgins, who hails from the Channel Islands in the English Channel, finished 11th on the tour’s money list. She missed the cut in the final event of the season. Had she made that cut she would have captured the 10th spot on the money list and would be playing on the LPGA this year.
Jordan-Higgins’ game improved steadily over her first three seasons on the Symetra Tour. She got her first tour victory last year at the Credit Union Classic in Syracuse, New York, and had three other top 10 finishes. If her game continues to improve she should finish within the top five of the money list this season.
This 5’11’’ player wasted little time last year in establishing herself as a force on the Symetra Tour. Kaufman joined the tour in June after graduating Texas Tech University, and in just her third event as a professional she captured a victory at the Island Resort Championship in Harris, Michigan.
Kaufman went on to earn three other top 10 finishes and made the cut in all of the ten events she entered in 2013. That type of consistent golf was good enough to give her the 12th spot on the tour’s money list at the end of the season. She earned limited LPGA status for this season at Q School in December. She could make it into a handful of LPGA events this year. If she focuses on the Symetra Tour for the entire year she should finish the season well within the top 10 on the money list.
Hard work and steady progress over the past five years on the tour should earn Jackie Stoelting her full status LPGA card for the 2015 season. The Vero Beach, Florida native begins her 7th season on the Symetra Tour this year. She finished 22nd on the money list last year and earned partial status on the LPGA for this season through her T38 finish at the final stage of Q School last December.
Stoelting had five top 10 finishes in 2013 and missed only 3 cuts in 14 events. She also qualified for last year’s U S Women’s Open. Look for her to capture her first Symetra Tour victory this season and easily finish inside the top 10 on the money list.
An 18-year-old rookie last year, this Taiwanese player became one of the youngest-ever winners on the Symetra Tour when she captured the victory in the Credit Union Challenge in Albany, New York. Hsu had two other top 10 finishes during the season and made the cut in 12 of her 14 events.
Very accurate off the tees and a strong putter, Hsu is another impressive teenager from Asia where women’s golf has developed in amazing fashion over the last several years. Expect her to be in the winner’s circle again this season on the Symetra Tour and on to the LPGA next year.
After winning the second event of the 2013 season on the Symetra Tour, Melissa Eaton was in the driver’s seat for capturing one of the 10 LPGA cards at the end of the season. But that turned out to be her only top 10 finish in 14 starts for the tour veteran from South Africa. She ended the year in 13th place on the money list.
A graduate of Louisiana State University, Eaton turned pro in 2008 and has spent 6 years on the Symetra Tour. She has also had status on the Ladies European Tour for the past two seasons. She has a twin sister who also played briefly on the Symetra Tour. Eaton’s close brush with earning her LPGA card last year should be enough to inspire her to a better season in 2014 and a top 10 finish on the money list.
Following a very impressive 2012 rookie season on the tour, Therese Koelbaek is hoping to bounce back from an injury that kept her out of action most of last year. The tall (5-9”) Dane made the cut in all of her 15 starts in 2012 and finished 26th on the tour’s money list. But the two-time All-American from the University of Nevada-Las Vegas suffered a back injury early last season and only appeared in 4 events, making just one cut.
A lengthy recovery and recuperation has apparently worked. Koelbaek has already won two events early this year on the Cactus Tour in Arizona and has shot several impressive rounds in the 60’s. If her back holds up she can expect to repeat her winning ways on the Symetra Tour at an event or two in the 2014 season. She should also be able to finish the year in the top 10 on the money list.
This third-year Symetra Tour player from California won the U S Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship in 2011 while she was a player on the UCLA women’s golf team. Last December she finished T32 in the final stage of LPGA Q School, earning limited playing status for this year’s LPGA season. Unlikely to get many starts on the LPGA, she will likely focus her playing time on the Symetra Tour.
Last year, in her first full Symetra season, Brianna Do made 10 of 14 cuts and had one top 10 finish. A solid ball striker with an excellent short game there is no reason that she can’t make another big jump in her career this year and earn her full status for next year’s LPGA season.
Every year there are one or two players that seemingly come out of nowhere to finish high on the Symetra Tour money list and earn their way to the LPGA. This year one of those players could be Jenni Jenq. The native Californian is beginning her second pro season on the tour, having decided to turn pro a few years after graduating Wellesley College in Massachusetts. She won the California Women’s Amateur title in 2011.
Jenq is very accurate off the tee, with her approach shots, and around the green. She has an excellent putting game. Her commitment to practice and her strong mental approach to the game could be enough to propel her into the top 10 this season. Don’t be surprised if she wins an event this season.
About the Author: Dave Andrews is a Harvard-educated former television news reporter. Dave is an avid golfer who has become a fan of the LPGA and the Symetra Tour. He is the author of Pops and Sunshine, a novel and screenplay about life on the women’s tour. The screenplay has been optioned by a production company in Hollywood.