This past weekend (Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic) is hopefully a sign that the previous years' Symetra Tour graduates and those that advanced through Qualifying Tournament are for real.
Nelly Korda, who finished 9th on the Vovlik Race for the Card money list, stole many of the headlines with a 10-under, 63 on Saturday and closed with a 67 to finish in a tie for fifth. Keep in mind folks, she’s just 18-years-old. Not sure many expected a T5 from Korda, but you shouldn’t be surprised by any means. Think about what she did at the Symetra Tour Championship last year. She had all the pressure in the world as "Jessica’s sister” and was outside the top 10 heading into the final tournament. She carded rounds of 72-65-71 through the first three days and then dropped a 66 on the final day to stamp a card.
Laura Gonzalez Escallon, who finished fifth on the money list last year, posted four rounds in the 60’s to finish T9 in her debut as an LPGA member. Talk about consistency - 69–68-68-69. She made just four bogeys the entire week in the Bahamas. Gonzalez Escallon proved on the Symetra Tour that she can play. She won twice in 2016 and had seven top 10 finishes. The turning point for Gonzalez Escallon was winning the FireKeepers Casino Hotel Championship and getting an automatic invitation to play The Evian Championship. She made the cut and finished T55, but more importantly got a taste of the LPGA and it drove her to finish in the top 10 and gave her the belief that she belonged on the big Tour.
Sherman Santiwatthanaphong, who finished sixth on the money list, closed T31 in the Bahamas with rounds of 68 and 70 over the weekend. Santiwatthanaphong, whose nickname is “Champaign”, is a 2-time Symetra Tour player and another young player from Thailand that certainly has the game to make noise in her first year on the LPGA. She peppered the fairways all week by hitting 49-of-56 fairways in the Bahamas.
Marissa Steen, who closed eighth on the money list, made the cut and finished T42. Great sign for Steen to get off to a positive start on the LPGA. When she first played the LPGA in 2015, she started that season with a missed cut and things sort of spiraled from there. She also dealt with three cracked ribs that season. Ally McDonald, who finished second on the Volvik Race for the Card money list, also made the cut.
In addition to the Tour graduates, there were 2016 Symetra Tour players who advanced through Qualifying Tournament that got off to great starts. Chief among them was Katherine Perry, who finished T14 at Final Stage to earn her card. Perry, who has her husband on the bag this year, posted a final-round 68 in the Bahamas to finish T21. She only made three bogeys the entire week out there (18 birdies). Therese O’Hara, who also played a full year on Symetra Tour in 2016 and finished T8 at Q-School, started the year with a T31 in the Bahamas.
Other 2016 Symetra Tour players that made the cut include Stephanie Meadow (T31) and Nicole Broch Larsen (T65).
The one surprise of the first week was Madelene Sagstrom, who posted rounds of 80-77 and missed the cut. Sagstrom put out her first vlog of the year on Monday and explained that she was dealing with some back discomfort in the Bahamas. She refused to use that as an excuse, but did explain that it affected her golf swing. Here is a link to her vlog —> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fLdoLaUwdlY
Next up for our Symetra Tour graduates is a trip to South Australia for the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open from February 16-19