One of the benchmarks of a successful season on the LPGA Tour is getting into the final event of the year - the CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, Florida. The top 72 players on the year long Race to the CME Globe get into the field.
This year, the preliminary field includes 14 Symetra Tour graduates and 35 former Symetra Tour members.
Four of the top ten on the Race to the CME Globe are linked to the Symetra Tour. They will each have a shot at the coveted $1 million prize that comes with winning the season long points race.
The 14 Symetra Tour graduates are listed below.
- Marina Alex (2013)
- Mi Jung Hur (2008)
- Tiffany Joh (2010)
- Christina Kim (2002)
- Mi Hyang Lee (2012)
- Mo Martin (2011)
- Sydnee Michaels (2011)
- Inbee Park (2006)
- Pornanong Phatlum (2010)
- Gerina Pillar (2010)
- Dewi Claire Schreefel (2009)
- Jenny Shin (2010)
- Sarah Jane Smith (2008)
- Sun Young Yoo (2005)
There are 21 other players in the CME Group Tour Championship that were once Symetra Tour members.
- Dori Carter (2010-2014)
- Chella Choi (2008)
- Laura Diaz (1997-1998)
- Jodi Ewart Shadoff (2010/2011)
- Julieta Granada (2005)
- Jennifer Johnson (2010-2011)
- Haeji Kang (2008-2009)
- Kim Kaufman (2013-2014)
- Cristie Kerr (1995)
- Candie Kung (2000-2001)
- Meena Lee (2004)
- Amelia Lewis (2010-2011, 2013)
- Stacy Lewis (2008)
- Pernilla Lindberg (2009)
- Haru Nomura (2011)
- Lee-Anne Pace (2006)
- Lizette Salas (2011)
- Angela Stanford (2000)
- Thidapa Suwannapura (2012)
- Mariajo Uribe (2009)
- Karrie Webb (1995)
- Sun Young Yoo (2005)
One of the 14 graduates looking to close strong is Gerina Piller (Mendoza), who played on the Symetra Tour from 2008-2010.
“I remember (the Symetra Tour) as a big growth period for me, not only as a person, but my golf game as well,” said Piller while preparing for the Lorena Ochoa Invitational. “You’re very independent out there and you have to figure out what works best for you.”
“It (Symetra Tour) was a big stepping stone not just in golf, but in life.”
Piller had six second place finishes and 13 top-10 finishes over three seasons on the Symetra Tour. Although the numbers make it seem like the transition to professional golf was smooth, Piller admits that at first professional golf was a challenge.
“It was definitely a big change going from college golf to the Symetra Tour. You played a longer course obviously and the competition was a lot harder than it was in college. In college you had a few teams you watched out for, but on the Symetra Tour the majority of players could put up a good number and chase the leaderboard.”
In 2010, Piller posted six top-10 results and finished fifth on the money list to earn her LPGA Tour card.
A lot has changed since her Symetra Tour days including her last name. For starters, she married current PGA TOUR player Martin Piller in 2011. On the course, she has posted 16 top-10 finishes since 2011 and currently ranks 31st on the Race to the CME Globe.
“I am married now, which is awesome. As a player, I feel like my game has matured a lot. The more I play out here (LPGA) and the longer I have been out here, the more comfortable I feel and I feel like I belong on the LPGA Tour.”
This year, Piller has five top-10 finishes including a tie for third at the ShopRite LPGA Classic presented by Acer. She currently ranks third on Tour in driving distance (269.083).
The only thing she is missing on her resume now is a win.
“I am happy with my 2014 season, I’ve played really solid golf this year. I’ve done all you can do but win, so that definitely is one of my big goals. Being around the top 30 in the world, I definitely feel like I have come a long way from when I first started. As long as I am getting better, I am happy.”
As she gets ready to wrap up 2014, Piller offered some interesting advice for Symetra Tour players.
“You have to be assertive. Being assertive helps me now on the LPGA Tour because you don’t really get anything done unless you do it yourself. It helps with sponsorship and it helps with everyday life. Being able to talk to CEO’s of companies and being able to communicate and get along with your pro-am groups is very important.”