SPILKOVÁ HOLDS 54-HOLE Q-SERIES LEAD
Klara Spilková (-11) has kept the bogeys away for the last 36 holes and consequently holds the 54-hole lead at the inaugural LPGA Q-Series presented by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina. After rain washed out play on Friday, players returned to Pinehurst No. 6 fresh on Saturday morning to battle more cool temperatures.
A Ladies European Tour veteran, Spilková holds a two-shot lead over 2015 LPGA rookie Jackie Stoelting (-9) and is trying to keep it simple during these next two weeks as she fights for an LPGA card.
“It was a good day after a day off,” Spilková said following a 3-under par 69 on Saturday. “It was nice to have a day off, to be honest. I’ve played a lot of golf these last few weeks, and next week too so it was nice to rest. I just hit fairways, tried to hit greens and then two-putt, that’s what I’m trying to do all week. It works, so I’m happy.”
Stoelting took advantage of the unplanned day off on Friday and came out firing on Saturday with a 4-under par 67. “I got some good rest in yesterday,” she said. “It was a little bit weird taking a day off in between rounds, but I just really tried to relax and stay patient today. I got off to a good start, it’s always good to pick up where you left off.”
With 11 amateurs in the 102-player Q-Series field, it is Ohio State University senior Jaclyn Lee (-8) leading the pack as she is in third through three rounds. The Canadian amateur made the turn at 2-over on Saturday, but showed some fight as she played the front nine in 4-under to card a 70 and sit three shots back from Spilková.
One round remains at Pinehurst No. 6 before Q-Series moves to Pinehurst No. 7 for the final four rounds of the marathon eight-round tournament. The top-45 finishers and ties receive LPGA membership in Category 14 on the LPGA Priority List with the remaining competitors earning Symetra Tour status.
WEIGHING HER OPTIONS
Jeongeun Lee6 (-6) has played on the highly competitive KLPGA since 2015, and her experience is showing at Pinehurst Resort this week as she has posted three consecutive rounds of 70 to sit in fourth place.
At No. 19 in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings, Lee was offered a spot into the Q-Series field. The 22-year old is a seven-time winner on the KLPGA, including two victories in 2018, and isn’t quite sure if she’s ready to make the move over to the LPGA.
“I haven’t 100 percent decided whether I want to come [to the LPGA] or not,” Lee6 said. “With my world ranking I was exempt, so I thought it was a good opportunity to try it out at least. Then I’ll decide after, if I make it, whether or not to come to the LPGA.”
Lee6 is used to high-level competition on the KLPGA, and she is confident that she could also perform well on the LPGA Tour. “All the competitiveness [on the KLPGA] has prepared me well for the LPGA,” she said.
Lee6 wouldn’t be the first player in recent history to make the jump from the KLPGA to the LPGA. The last four Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year award winners on the LPGA each had previously won multiple titles on the KLPGA: Jin Young Ko (2018), Sung Hyun Park (2017), In Gee Chun (2016), Sei Young Kim (2015). Kim is the only one of those four to have gone through LPGA Qualifying School, as she earned her card by tying for ninth at the 2014 LPGA Final Qualifying Tournament.
There are 11 amateurs teeing it up this week at Pinehurst No. 6, each searching for a way to fulfill their dreams of playing on the LPGA Tour. Five amateurs sit comfortably inside the top 10 through three rounds with Jaclyn Lee (Ohio State) leading the way at 8-under par and a quartet tied for seventh at 3-under par: Maria Fassi (Arkansas), Jennifer Kupcho (Wake Forest), Lauren Stephenson (Alabama) and Kristen Gillman (Alabama).
Wake Forest senior Kupcho climbed the leaderboard on Saturday with a 4-under par round that included an eagle on the par-5 sixth. “I’ve just been grinding,” she said. “I’m not trying to get ahead of myself, since we have so much golf left and we’ve only played three rounds. I’m just trying to keep it around par, at least on this course, since I don’t know how the other course is going to play. This course is pretty long, and I think it’s hard for a lot of the girls. Just trying to stay steady and see what I can do.”
Alabama senior Stephenson had just one bogey on the card en route to a 4-under par 68 and was all smiles as she walked off Pinehurst No. 6 on Saturday. “It’s great, she said. “You always want to be playing well. I didn’t play my best the last two days, but with eight rounds you really just want to keep it around par and keep in the mix. After today’s round, I’m really happy.”
New this year for the LPGA Q-Series, an amateur competitor earning LPGA status may defer her acceptance of LPGA membership until July 1 the following year, allowing her to finish the college golf season if she wishes.
“It’s big for a couple of us,” Kupcho said. “A lot of us just want to finish school, and I think that’s good because school is important and a lot of us want to finish. It’s just a good option for everyone.”
“It kind of alleviates some pressure,” Stephenson said. “Basically, we’re just here to see how we do and then there’s no pressure to turn pro right now, you can kind of decide what you want to do. For us, we have multiple options so it’s really nice.”
Klara Spilková (1, -11)
- Spilková, 23, is from Prague, Czech Republic and has played on the LET since 2011
- When Spilková earned LET membership as a 16-year old, she was the youngest member in history
- As an amateur, she was named the Czech Republic‘s Golfer of the Year in 2009 and 2010. Then, as a permanent member of the Czech National Golf Team, she won both the International Championship of Austria and the Junior Championship of Germany in 2010.
- In 2017, Spilková became the first Czech winner on the LET with a win at the Lalla Meryem Cup where she beat Suzann Pettersen; there has never been a Czech winner on the LPGA
- Spilková represented the Czech Republic at the 2016 Rio Olympics, finishing T48
- She has made 16 career starts on the LPGA Tour with a career-best T50 finish at the 2018 Ricoh Women’s British Open
- In 2018, Spilková is ranked seventh on the LET Order of Merit with a season-best runner-up finish at the Lalla Meryem Cup
Jackie Stoelting (2, -9)
- Stoelting, 32, is from Vero Beach, Fla.
- Finished third on the 2014 Symetra Tour money list to earn LPGA Tour status for the first time in 2015
- Stoelting made seven cuts in 18 starts on the LPGA in 2018, recorded her first career top-10 finish with a T8 showing at the Volunteers of America LPGA Texas Classic, which was shortened to 36 holes
- Has four career Symetra Tour wins and 28 career top-10 finishes, including a T6 finish at the 2018 Murphy USA El Dorado Shootout in September
Jaclyn Lee (3, -8)
- Lee, 21, is from Calgary, Canada and is a senior at Ohio State majoring in finance
- Lee is one of 11 amateurs in the LPGA Q-Series field
- In 2018, Lee was named a WGCA Second Team All-American and represented the Buckeyes as a First-Team All-Big Ten selection
- As a junior, Lee collected three wins in collegiate competition and has already notched one win this season at the East & West Match Play Challenge in September
- Lee has made four career starts on the LPGA, including a T35 finish at the 2018 Meijer LPGA Classic where she was a sponsor’s invite
- Lee is a member of the Canadian National Team
Jeongeun Lee6 (4, -6)
- Lee, 22, is from Yongin, Republic of Korea and has played on the KLPGA since 2015
- Lee is ranked No. 19 in the Rolex Rankings, the highest ranked player in the Q-Series field
- Lee has seven career victories on the KLPGA, including two wins in 2018 and is currently ranked No. 1 on the season money list
- She has six career starts on the LPGA Tour with two top-10 finishes, both coming in majors: T6 at the 2018 Evian Championship and T5 at the 2017 U.S. Women’s Open
- She’s the sixth player on the KLPGA with the name Jeongeun Lee, hence the number 6 in her name
- Her fan club in Korea is called ‘Lucky 6’
Sarah Schmelzel (T5, -4)
- Schmelzel, 24, is from Phoenix, Ariz.
- Made cut in 18-of-21 starts on the Symetra Tour in 2018; her second season on the Tour
- Had seven top-10 finishes on the Symetra Tour in 2018; in her last five events, she had four top-five finishes to finish 13th on the Official Money List
- In 2018, she missed out on finishing inside the top-10 on the Symetra Tour’s Money List and earning her LPGA card by just $2,584, but earned a spot in the inaugural LPGA Q-Series
- Schmelzel earned All-America Honorable Mention while at University of South Carolina and was a 2016 Golfweek All-American
- When Schmelzel was in fourth grade she watched Annika Sorenstam’s historic 59 at the 2001 Standard Register PING at her home course, Moon Valley Country Club
Anne-Catherine Tanguay (T5, -4)
- Tanguay, 27, is from Quebec City, Canada
- Made cut in 18-of-20 starts on the Symetra Tour in 2017 with a win at the Garden City Charity Classic to finish eighth on the Symetra Tour Money List and earn LPGA membership for the 2018 season
- In 2018 on the LPGA, made seven cuts in 17 starts with a season-best T16 finish at the Cambia Portland Classic in September
- Played two events on the Symetra Tour in September and collected two top-20 finishes (T17 at the Murphy USA El Dorado Shootout; T5 at the Guardian Championship)
- Finished T36 in the Final Stage of the 2015 LPGA Qualifying Tournament to first earn LPGA card in 2016
- A two-time All-Big 12 and honorable mention All-American performer at the University of Oklahoma
Klara Spilková (1, -11), on how Pinehurst No. 6 played after receiving 1.68 inches of rain on Friday:
“The course was pretty good, no problems. They moved the tee up on every hole, so it was easier today for all of us.”
Spilková, on if she’s thinking about winning Q-Series:
“I’m not really pushing at all. I just want to get my [LPGA] card, that’s it really. I’m just going to enjoy myself on the golf course, and we will see – you never know.”
Jackie Stoelting (2, -9), on her position through three rounds:
“It’s still way too early to count your chickens, but we have less than 100 holes to go. Anytime I can keep making birdies that will put me in a position to enjoy next week. I’ve been enjoying the challenge this week too. I went into this with a really good mindset because I like that it’s eight rounds, because I’m more of a consistent player. They’re good and hard golf courses and I usually play better on those if I narrow my focus. Anytime that I can keep building on what I have, it will be really good for next week. To go into Monday and Tuesday being able to feel I don’t need to stress about learning the other golf course. I did play No. 7 a couple weeks ago, and I’m really glad I did that seeing as we’re not really going to get a day off now.”
Jeongeun Lee6 (4, -6), on who she looks up to on the LPGA:
“There’s not one particular player, but a lot of the Koreans have succeeded on the LPGA and the current No. 1 player is a Korean girl from the KLPGA [Sung Hyun Park]. I think that I could follow the good path they’ve made.”
Jennifer Kupcho (T7, -3), on her plan to finish the year/season at Wake Forest:
“Wake [Forest] is great I love it, it’s kind of sad to leave. Obviously, I’ll finish out this year no matter what, it’s fun to come down here and chase my dreams. I know my whole team is behind me, they’re playing in a tournament right now, but we’re all cheering each other on. It’s just a great environment.”
Kupcho, on the ability to defer LPGA membership if she finishes in the top 45:
“I think it takes a lot of the pressure off. It’s not like that’s what I’m going to do right after this. I get to go back to college and have some fun before I really start my life’s dream, so I think it’s good.”
Six of the 11 amateurs— Jaclyn Lee (Ohio State), Kristen Gillman (Alabama), Maria Fassi (Arkansas), Jennifer Kupcho (Wake Forest), Lauren Stephenson (Alabama) and Dewi Weber (Miami)— are inside the top-45 following the second round.
- 13 players are under par through three rounds, compared to just six after two rounds.
- Of the players inside the top 45, 22 would be rookies on the LPGA.
- 16 different countries are represented by players inside the top 20.
- Five players in the field have also won the prestigious North & South Women’s Amateur Championship at Pinehurst No. 2: Kristen Gillman (2016), Bailey Tardy (2015), Alison Lee (2014), Cydney Clanton (2010) and Amelia Lewis (2009).