With the traditional leap, cannonball or back flip (nice, Benyapa!) into the pool at LPGA International last week, the 2017 Symetra Tour season is officially in the books.
Here are ten takeaways from the 2017 season.
Benyapa Niphatsophon found her game
Nobody in the history of the Symetra Tour has ever earned more without the benefit of a win then Benyapa ($124,492). It’s a strange nugget, but when you digest it fully it’s really impressive. She finished second five times and recorded 12 top 10 finishes in 20 starts. The 20-year-old played the LPGA as a teenager in 2016 and didn’t have much success partly due to an injury. She’ll be fun to watch this time around. She plays with this fearless, but care free approach. The routine is simple: one practice swing, address and rip. Niphatsophon wastes very little time on the course and advocates of fast play will love her. All facets of her game are solid – she finished second in scoring average (69.93), fourth in putting average (29.13) and third in average driving distance (271.57). Her total of $124,492 is the second highest in the history of the Symetra Tour behind Madelene Sagstrom’s 2016 total of $167,064.
3 over $100K, 4 over $90K and 6 over $80K
For the first time in Tour history, three players earned over $100,000 (Benyapa Niphatsophon - $124,492, Hannah Green - $113,880, Celine Boutier - $112,044). For the first time ever, four players crossed $90,000 with Nanna Koerstz Madsen earning $93,115. Finally, six players earned over $80,000 for the first time with Yu Liu at $86,110 and Erynne Lee at $80,780. Katelyn Dambaugh finished tenth on the money list with a bit over $63,000 earned. She would have led the money list in 2013.
Most Countries in Top Ten Ever
Thailand, Australia, France, Denmark, China, USA and Canada. There were seven different countries represented in the top 10, which is the most ever. For comparison sake, there were five countries represented in 2016, four in 2015 and four in 2014. Times have certainly changed on the Tour. It has become incredibly global just like the LPGA. In 2010, eight of the top nine hailed from the USA.
Dambaugh Impresses w/ Midyear Push for Card
Katelyn Dambaugh didn’t join the Tour until June when she graduated from South Carolina and played in just 12 events, but still earned her LPGA card. She finished 10th on the money list with six top 10 finishes. It’s interesting that she missed the cut in her first and last starts. She was in the top 20 in nine of her 12 starts. The lefty is going to be a fun watch next year on Tour.
Talley Gets Chance at Top Level
Expectations have always been sky-high for Emma Talley. It comes with the territory when you have three state titles, the 2013 U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship and the 2015 NCAA national title. Then, she finishes second at her first Symetra Tour start in 2016, but didn’t earn her card last year. This year, Talley got the job done by finishing ninth on the money list and now she’ll get to play the LPGA.
Yu Liu is Second from China
Believe it or not, Yu Liu is just the second player from China to graduate from the Symetra Tour to the LPGA. The only other player was Yueer Cindy Feng, who finished seventh on the money list in 2014. She is now the 8th highest ranked player from China. With a population of 1.3 billion in China, there is just one player in the top 100 in the world (No. 6 Shanshan Feng). Maybe Liu is next in line.
Longer and longer off the tee
In 2014, the longest hitter on Tour (Kendra Little) averaged 266.564 yards off the tee. In 2017, she would have ranked 11th. For the first time ever, five players averaged 270 yards or more per hit and 20 players averaged 260 yards or more. In 2014, only six players averaged 260 yards or more. Laura Wearn became the first player in the Tour’s history to average over 280 yards (283.439) a drive. Seven of the top 10 longest hitters on Tour finished in the top 25 on the money list and two finished in the top 10.
Erynne Lee and Lindsey Weaver Played Every Event
Two players in the final top 10 – Erynne Lee and Lindsey Weaver – played in all 22 events. There is always this discussion on the LPGA and the Symetra Tour about how many is too many and when rest is better than battling for more money weekly. Lee and Weaver both ended the year by playing in six straight tournaments.
Four Straight Top 5 Finishes for Green
Hannah Green, who finished 2nd on the money list, poured it on at the end of the season. She finished in the top 5 in the last four events with two wins to earn the Gaelle Truet Rookie of the Year award. Many people around the Tour believe that Green might have the best chance for big time success on the LPGA. She’s really mature for her age (20) and has the right people in her corner including Karrie Webb.
Nanna’s 22-Under is Performance of Year
There was probably no better performance in 2017 than Nanna Koerstz Madsen’s record-setting 22-under at the Danielle Downey Credit Union Classic in Rochester. She became the first player in Tour history to crack 20-under. She posted rounds of 66-67-67-66 to stamp her third win. She also won by a ridiculous seven shots. She made 26 birdies and just four bogeys in 72 holes. Koerstz Madsen won three times in her first 11 starts and earned a “Battlefield Promotion” to the LPGA.