Handicapping the Field for LPGA Qualifying School

Photo by Dave Andrews

The final stage of the LPGA Q School is one month away (Nov. 30-Dec.4). 144 players will compete for 20 “full status” LPGA cards for the 2012 season. The 20 top finishers will be assured of getting into all of the “full field” events on the LPGA schedule (there were 11 this year). Finishing in the top 20 opens the door for those players hoping to make a career on the LPGA, but it is then up to each player to perform well enough to keep her card.

The five-day tournament at LPGA International in Daytona Beach, Florida is often called the most pressure-packed event that any aspiring LPGA professional ever plays in. Last year it took a 5-day total score of 2 over par to finish in the all-important top 20. Another 20 or so of the top finishers earn “limited” LPGA status, but that will only get them into 2 or 3 LPGA events next year, making it very hard for them to earn enough money to keep their LPGA status for the following season.

88 players advanced to the final stage of Q School by finishing high in the second stage of qualifying. The second stage event was held in September in Venice, Florida. Another 17 players qualified for the final stage by finishing high on the LPGA Futures Tour’s money list this year. Another 40 players currently hold low-level LPGA status based on their earnings this year, but they have been forced to return to Q School to maintain their “full status” for next season. No LPGA player ever wants to have to return to Q School to maintain her status, but that is the hard reality in professional golf. If you don’t make enough money one year, you run the risk of not being able to play on tour the following year.

Unlike some previous years, there is no clear “sure thing” this year – that is – a player considered likely to win Q School. 16 year old Lexi Thompson could well have have been that player this year, but she will not have to compete in Q School because of her big win on the tour in September and the tour’s decision to waive the 18 year old age requirement and grant her LPGA membership for next season. I’ve had the chance to attend the last three Q Schools in Daytona (I caddied in one a couple years ago). I’ll be heading there again this year to take in the action and the final day drama. There will be a lot of smiles and a lot of tears among the players that day, on one of the most important days of the professional careers.

I’ve gotten to know several of the players that will be competing this year and I’ll be rooting for them to earn their cards. Below is a list of the 40 players I think have the best chance of finishing in the top 20. I’ll be curious to see how my picks hold up. There are always surprises at Q School… favored players who don’t play well that week and players that come out of nowhere to earn their cards. It is five days of golf where every shot seems to count so much.

Here is my list (in alphabetical order) of 40 players, out of the 144 in the field, that I think have the best chance of finishing in the top 20. I’ll be curious to see how my predictions hold up. Don’t be surprised if I’m way off because anything can happen in golf… Here is the full list of players that will be competing in the final stage of LPGA Q School: http://www.lpga.com/content/QUALIFYINGTOURNAMENTSTAGE3FIELDLIST.pdf

My Predictions

(* player has current LPGA status)
(# qualified via LPGA Futures Tour money list)
Jackie Barenborg#
Mallory Blackwelder#
Minea Blomqvist*
Sara Brown*
Sarah Brown*
Misun Cho*
Cydney Clanton
Jacqui Concolino
Stephanie Connelly
Valentine Derrey#
Jodi Ewart*
Allison Fouch Duncan*
Jennifer Gleason*
Junthima Gulyanamitta
Ginger Howard
Jimin Jeong*
Brittany Johnston#
Hannah Jun*
Ayaka Kaneko#
Danielle Kang
Mitsuki Katahira
Kimberly Kim*
Stephanie Kono
Laura Kueny
Jennie Lee*
Tzu-Chi Lin
Paola Moreno*
Junko Nakada*
Jean Reynolds*
Samantha Richdale*
Lizette Salas
Elisa Serramia
Natalie Sheary
Jessica Shepley*
Sophia Sheridan#
Kristie Smith
Jenny Suh*
Mariajo Uribe*
Leah Wigger#
Hannah Yun

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 Duramed Futures Tour and is the author of Pops and Sunshine, a novel and screenplay about life on tour. His home course in New Hampshire is annually the site of one of the tour’s events.

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