LONGWOOD, FLORIDA, October 16, 2016 - The Symetra Tour, Road to the LPGA, crowned the final top 10 on the Volvik Race for the Card money list during a ceremony at Alaqua Country Club following the conclusion of the Symetra Tour Championship presented by IOA.
The class is headlined by Symetra Tour Player of the Year and Gaelle Truet Rookie of the Year Madelene Sagstrom, who won three times and posted 11 top 10 finishes. Ally McDonald finished second at the Symetra Tour Championship and moved up to second on the final money list.
Laura Gonzalez Escallon and Nelly Korda both jumped into the top 10 while Clariss Guce and Erica Popson fell out of the top 10.
First-year players dominated the 2016 season. The final top 10 featured six players that were playing their first full seasons on Tour (Madelene Sagstrom, Ally McDonald, Wichanee Meechai, Dana Finkelstein, Nelly Korda, Peiyun Chien).
Here is a look at the final top 10.
1. Madelene Sagstrom, Enkoping, Sweden, LSU, 23-years-old, $167,064
Sagstrom wasted no time making a name for herself by finishing in a tie for third at the season opener and playing in the final group. She finished in a tie for second at the second event and then won the Chico’s Patty Berg Memorial to take over the top spot on the Volvik Race for the Card money list. Sagstrom also won the biggest purse of the season, the Self Regional Healthcare Foundation Women’s Health Classic. She broke the single-season earnings record after a solo second place finish at the Gosling’s Dark ‘n Stormy Classic, which was her seventh start of the season. Sagstrom also played in two LPGA Tour events this year - the U.S. Women’s Open and the Canadian Women’s Pacific Open - and made the cut in both.
Sagstrom on Earning her Tour Card
“I’ve learned so much about myself and my game during my first season on the Symetra Tour. I’m super
excited to bring it onto the next level against the best players in the world. It is going to be a dream come true to play on the LPGA. It is a childhood dream of mine to play out there and I am just super thankful to have this opportunity to play out here (Symetra Tour) and really learn. It has been so much fun and I am honored and blessed to be part of this.”
- Sagstrom broke the single-season earnings record, which was previously held by Cindy LaCrosse ($94,578 in 2010). She is the first player in Symetra Tour history to cross $100,000 in earnings and $150,00.
- Her mentor is 11-time European Tour winner Robert Karlsson, who she was first introduced to before
- Qualifying Tournament in 2015
- She will play Ladies European Tour Qualifying School with an eye on the 2017 Solheim Cup
2. Ally McDonald, Fulton, Mississippi, Mississippi State, 23-years-old, $110,359
McDonald finished in the top 15 in each of her first three events to start the season and never looked back. She had her big breakthrough at the Self Regional Healthcare Foundation Women’s Health Classic, the biggest purse on Tour, when she finished in a tie for 3rd. The rookie exploded in mid-June when she had a stretch of three second place results in four events. McDonald’s consistency was incredible. She made the cut in each of her 18 starts and finished inside the top 25 in 16 of those events. McDonald is the second player in Tour history to cross $100,000 in earnings.
McDonald on Earning a Tour Card
“This was a big step for me in my career. The LPGA is where we are all striving to be so I am just really excited to be moving up and hopefully I can play some solid golf out there. I’m excited to be on the LPGA competing against the best in the world and hopefully I find myself up towards the top by the end of the year. My rookie year on the Symetra Tour was a learning experience. Once my mom got on the bag in South Bend, I started to step up and play more how I am capable of playing. I’ve had a lot of fun experiencing this new life of being a professional.”
- She qualified for The Evian Championship and finished T30 to earn over $23,000
- She finished 2nd as a sponsor exemption at her first Symetra Tour event in El Dorado, Arkansas in 2015
- She is a volunteer assistant golf coach at Mississippi State and plans to lend her help when time allows during the off season
3. Jackie Stoelting, Vero Beach, Florida, Florida Southern College, 30-years-old, $97,886
After graduating from the Symetra Tour to the LPGA in 2014, Stoelting struggled on the LPGA and returned to the Symetra Tour late in 2015 as a non-member. She posted her first two Symetra Tour victories late in 2015 and that gave her momentum into the 2016 season. She started somewhat slow for her standards with no top 10 finishes until her first win in early June at the Fuccillo Kia Championship at Capital Hills, a special place to win because her parents were born in the area. After a Tour week off, she won again at the Four Winds Invitational to cement her spot in the top 10. Stoelting had back-to-back second place finishes in late July/early August. Stoelting also qualified for her second U.S. Women’s Open this season. She also eclipsed the previous earnings record this year.
Stoelting on Earning a Tour Card
“I’m really excited to get my LPGA card for the 2017 season. Last year I really struggled on the LPGA and lost my card and I told myself that I’d give myself one more year on the Symetra Tour to try and get it back and I’m really excited that I was able to accomplish that goal. Now that I have experience out there (LPGA) and I have finally won on the Symetra Tour I feel more prepared for the LPGA and I can’t wait to get out there.”
- She has 27 career top 10 finishes and four victories during her career on the Symetra Tour
- She has the all-time career earnings record on the Symetra Tour at $253,806
- She won Golf Channel’s reality show Big Break Florida in 2014
4. Wichanee Meechai, Bangkok, Thailand, 23-years-old, $86,217
Meechai came over to the United States to play the Symetra Tour after narrowly missing her LPGA Tour card by finishing T22 at LPGA Qualifying Tournament in 2015. Her early season breakthrough came at the Self Regional Healthcare Foundation Women’s Health Classic when she finished second. She went onto to post four top 10 finishes in her first six starts and was well on her way. Meechai left no doubt by finishing second at the Sioux Falls GreatLIFE Challenge and the Garden City Charity Classic presented by Mariah Fund.
Meechai on Earning a Tour Card
“I’m really excited to get a chance to play on the LPGA next year. I will try my best next year. I’m so proud of myself for how I played in my first season in the United States. I want to thank my sponsors and my family for always supporting me. I also want to thank all the staff from the Symetra Tour for always working hard for us.”
- Nickname is Jan
- She finished third on Tour in scoring average (71.220) and ninth on Tour in driving accuracy (79.6%)
- She has one win on the CLPGA (China), one of the TLPGA (Taiwan) and two on the Thai LPGA
5. Laura Gonzalez Escallon – La Hulpe, Belgium, Purdue University, 26-years-old, $77,997
Despite a slow start to her 2016 season, Gonzalez Escallon came on strong to earn her 2017 LPGA Tour Card. The Belgian started her run by winning the weather-shortened FireKeepers Casino Hotel
Championship. A victory three events later at the PHC Classic in Milwaukee put her squarely in the mix for a card and Gonzalez Escallon left no doubt with a third place finish at the Symetra Tour Championship presented by IOA to jump from 11th to fifth on the Volvik Race for the Card money list.
Gonzalez Escallon on earning her LPGA Tour card
“I’m excited. I gave it my all this week so it feels great. I really enjoyed my time at Evian so I’m excited to play a full season next year on the LPGA.”
- Played in the Evian Championship, her first LPGA event, and made the cut
- Became the first player from Belgium to win on the Symetra Tour
- Member of the Belgian National Team
- Speaks four languages (English, Spanish, French and German)
6. Sherman Santiwiwatthanaphong – Thailand, 19-years-old, $77,555
Santiwiwatthanaphong started her year with top-5 finishes in three of her first five events to climb into the top-10 on the Volvik Race for the Card money list. A win at the Island Resort Championship, the second victory of her young career, cemented her status there. The momentum from the win carried Santiwiwatthanphong to five additional top-10 finishes and a 2017 LPGA Tour Card.
Santiwiwatthanaphong on earning her LPGA Tour card
“I’m excited to play on the LPGA Tour because I’ve never played on the big Tour for a whole year.”
- Won the 2015 Symetra Tour Championship
- Nickname is Champagne
- Missed three months of the 2015 Symetra Tour season due to visa issues
7. Dana Finkelstein, Chandler, Arizona, UNLV, 23-years-old, $76,314
Finkelstein earned her first win in September at the Garden City Charity Classic at Buffalo Dunes to
solidify her spot in the top 10. She was consistent all year with seven top 10 finishes and 18 cuts made in 19 starts. Finkelstein made up for her lack of distance off the tee with deadly accuracy and great ball striking. She finished the year in the top 10 in driving accuracy, greens in regulation and putts per greens in regulation. Prior to turning professional, Finkelstein had a tremendous final three years at UNLV. She was the runner-up for the ANNIKA Award in 2015.
Finkelstein on Earning her Tour Card
“It’s really a dream come true. Coming into this year, I probably wouldn’t have expected to get my card but obviously that was my ultimately goal. I’ve wanted it a lot this year and I feel ready to compete on the LPGA Tour next year.”
- She is one of the shortest players on Tour at just 5-feet 1 inches tall and has drawn comparisons to Mo Martin on the LPGA Tour
- She finished fourth on Tour in scoring average (71.40)
- UNLV was one of the very few schools that offered a scholarship coming out of high school
8. Marissa Steen – West Chester, Ohio, University of Memphis, 26-years-old, $72,496
Steen was one of the most consistent players on the Symetra Tour, missing only two cuts and tallying nine top-10 finishes. Steen’s run started at the beginning of the season when she finished tied for eighth at the IOA Championship presented by Morongo Casino Resort & Spa. From there, Steen didn’t finish outside of the top-20 in her next 12 events to plant herself clearly in the mix for her 2017 LPGA Tour card.
Steen on earning her LPGA Tour card
“I’m really excited to be going back to the LPGA next season. I had a tough season last year but I’m really proud of myself for fighting back hard and earning my Card for 2017.”
- Was the 2014 Symetra Tour Player of the Year with three wins
- Competed full time on the LPGA Tour in 2015
- Is the only University of Memphis grad to have competed on the LPGA Tour
9. Nelly Korda – Brandenton, Fla., 18-years-old, $70,564
Following a consistent summer which featured four top-10 finishes, Korda broke through for her first win at the Sioux Falls GreatLIFE Challenge. The win vaulted Korda into the top-10 on the Volvik Race for the Card money list but wasn’t enough to keep her there entering the final event of the season. However, Korda rose to the occasion and finished tied for sixth at the Symetra Tour Championship to jump into the top-10 on the money list.
Korda on earning her LPGA Tour card
“I’m so excited. That was my goal at the beginning of the year and it’s been my dream since 2013. The fact that it’s become a reality I’m just in awe. I’m so excited and I can’t wait to get out there and play with my sister next year.”
- Sister is four-time LPGA winner Jessica Korda
- Played on the 2015 U.S. Junior Solheim Cup Team
- Has competed in four LPGA major championships
10. Peiyun Chien – Chinese Taipei, 25-years-old, $67,577
Chien broke through for her first win at the Kansas City Championship. The win in Kansas City was part of a consistent season which saw Chien tally eight additional top-10 finishes. Despite missing the cut at the final event of the season Chien was able to hold on and lock up her 2017 LPGA Tour Card by a mere $1,004.
Chien on earning her LPGA Tour card
“I think I’m very lucky and excited to earn my card and go to the LPGA. It’s my dream in America to play golf and play in the LPGA.”
- Won four TLPGA (Taiwan) events
- Nickname is Money
- Once caddied for Yani Tseng in an LPGA event at the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic