Will we see a recent Symetra Tour star win on the LPGA?
The Symetra Tour is billed as the pathway to the LPGA and for that reason the Tour is always rooting for its graduates and stars to contend and win on the LPGA. We constantly speak of former stars like Inbee Park, Lorena Ochoa, Mo Martin, Christina Kim, Chella Choi and others that have gone onto contend and win on the LPGA. Who is going to be next? Is a more recent graduate ready to win in 2017? How about Annie Park, who was the Symetra Player of the Year in 2015 and finished 82nd on the LPGA money list as a rookie in 2016. All eyes will be on Madelene Sagstrom in 2017. She dominated the Symetra Tour with three wins in 2016 and many believe she’ll have a chance to contend right away. Alena Sharp, a 2013 Symetra Tour grad, is another to keep in an eye on in 2017. She had a career year on the LPGA in 2016 with a pair of top 10’s and finished 41st on the final money list. She is definitely trending up.
Will we see Paige Spiranac?
She went through the Q-School process in 2016 so she does have the chance to be a Symetra Tour member if she so chooses (deadline is Feb. 3 to take membership). Spiranac did not advance out of Stage I and therefore is No. 409 on the Tour’s priority list. The bad news is that it will be hard to get in events based on her status, but the good news is that if she receives exemptions, she could play her way into a better category if she takes membership. Although the exact dates of the two reshuffles haven’t been determined, the first reshuffle last year was after the sixth event. So, if Spiranac can get into one of the early events and plays well, she’ll have a chance to improve her status. Here is the reality: she has nearly 900K followers on Instagram which is by far the most of any women’s professional golfer so tournament directors are aware. She has received exemptions into Ladies European Tour (LET) events and it won’t be a surprise if she gets exemptions into Symetra Tour events or maybe LPGA events.
Could Olympian Tiffany Chan be a strong mid-year contender for a card?
Tiffany Chan won back-to-back NJCAA individual national titles at Daytona State College in 2014/2015 and then transferred to USC in 2016. She was a Second-Team All-American and All-Pac 12 in her first season as a Trojan. She is currently the No. 17 ranked amateur in the world according to the World Amateur Golf Rankings (WAGR). Probably safe to assume that she will join the Symetra Tour following her season in May. She made it to Final Stage of Qualifying Tournament and finished T96 to secure Symetra Tour membership. She is No. 121 on the priority list which means she will get into most full field events (144). Chan already has a pair of professional wins in Taiwan and Hong Kong so it’s safe to assume she has the talent to compete even if she starts mid-year. Katelyn Dambaugh (South Carolina) is another senior in college that will have very good status on the Symetra Tour once she graduates.
2013-14 National Player of the Year Boutier is Player to Watch
The recent Duke graduate, Celine Boutier, was the 2013-14 WGCA Player of the Year and finished her career with four wins. She has taken Symetra Tour membership and will get into every event with her priority number at 91 based off her T44 finish at LPGA Qualifying Tournament. She does have LPGA status based on the finish, but she is No. 185 on the LPGA priority list so you may see her focus on the Symetra Tour. The above is certainly speculation, but she’d be an interesting follow on either Tour. She qualified for the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open, won the Ladies British Open Amateur in 2015 and finished T29 at The Evian Championship in 2014 as an amateur. She leaves Duke with the fifth
Guce/Popson Returners to Watch
It’s a double-edge sword to be numbers one and two on the Symetra Tour priority list heading into a new season. On one hand, it means you finished 11th and 12th on the final Volvik Race for the Card money list. On the other, it means you were so close to earning your LPGA Tour card. It’s the old argument of would you rather your favorite team get blown out or lose on a last second shot or kick? That’s a long preamble to talk about Clariss Guce, who finished 11th and Erica Popson, who finished 12th. Unfortunately, neither was able to earn LPGA status through Qualifying Tournament so they will both be back on the Symetra Tour in 2017. Guce won twice with two additional top 10’s while Popson won once with five other top 10’s. It’s a no-brainer to include Guce and Popson in the early discussion of those that will contend.