RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. August 26, 2016 - Sarah Schmelzel (Phoenix, Ariz.) posted another 5-under, 67 on the Gary Player Course on Friday to grab the 36-hole lead at Stage I of LPGA Qualifying Tournament at 10-under, 134. She is three shots clear of Savannah Vilaubi (Downey, Calif.) and Daniela Darquea (Quito, Ecuador).
The low 90 and ties, currently at 2-over, 146, advance to Stage II after final-round play on Sunday.
Schmelzel, 22, also carded a 67 on day one on the Arnold Palmer Course. Through two days, she has 11 birdies, an eagle and three bogeys, which all came on day one.
“I was hitting it close early, but wasn’t making the putts so I stayed patient,” said Schmelzel. “Then I made birdie on three and six and made an eagle on seven. I really believe in the preparation I put in for this week and I knew this was possible.”
Schmelzel’s eagle putt on hole seven came from almost 50-feet. She wasn’t expecting to be on the green in two, but ripped a 3-wood to put herself in position to roll in a long putt.
In her first LPGA Qualifying Tournament, Schmelzel said that not shying away from the pressure has been key.
“I’m embracing the pressure and the stress that everyone talks about,” said Schmelzel. “I’m so grateful to be out here playing and I’m just trying to stay patient.”
Schmelzel was a Golfweek Honorable Mention All-American as a senior at South Carolina. She posted three top 10 finishes in her final year and closed her career with a scoring average of 74.25, fourth all-time at South Carolina.
“Every year brought a new challenge, I went through injuries and I went through highs of winning regionals and lows,” said Schmelzel. “Now that I’ve turned pro, I can see how dealing with adversity in college has helped me. I was forced to mature so quickly in order to be successful.”
The adversity in college came right away when she dealt with being on the other side of the country from family and then during her junior year she missed the first half with an overuse shoulder injury.
Schmelzel won the 2011 Arizona State High School Championship at Xavier Prep, the same school that LPGA player Cheyenne Woods attended. Xavier Prep has also produced professional golfers Kimberly Kim and Katerina Bruner along with former LPGA player Amanda Blumenherst.
Schmelzel was a competitive gymnast growing up and to the surprise of her parents; she decided to quit in seventh grade to focus on golf. With her dad, Dennis, on the bag this week, she is in position to move a stage closer to her dream.
“The LPGA is a big goal of mine, but I know there is a lot of golf left,” said Schmelzel. “I’d loved to win a major championship some day.”
RISING MIAMI SENIOR HOPING FOR SPOT ON LPGADaniela Darquea (Quito, Ecuador) had a strong finish to her junior year at the University of Miami and decided early in the summer to give LPGA Qualifying Tournament a chance.
“I’ve always wanted to play Q-School and my game is at a high level right now,” explained Darquea, who carded a 2-under, 70 on the Dinah Shore course to move to 7-under through two rounds. “I have the support of my mom so the plan is to play all three stages and try to get on the LPGA Tour.”
Darquea, 21, was a Golfweek Third-Team All-American in 2016. She earned a spot on the All-ACC team for a third consecutive year by posting seven top 10 finishes including at the ACC and NCAA Regional championships.
There are currently no players on the LPGA Tour from Ecuador and Darquea hopes to be the first.
“I love to represent my country and I’ve been able to do so in amateur competitions,” said Darquea. “I feel like I have the support of the entire country right now.”
Darquea picked up the game of golf when her parents became members of Arrayanes Country Club. She first started playing tennis and soccer and then found a passion for golf.
“My parents never played golf, but I really liked it as a kid,” said Darquea. “They gave me the chance and supported me and even though golf is not a popular sport, I was able to continue to get better.”
Darquea estimated that there are only seven golf courses in the entire country.
Darquea is also a very good student at Miami. The exercise physiology major was named the ACC Scholar-Athlete of the Year. She was named to the Dean’s List at the end of five semesters and has earned Provost Honor Roll status (3.75 GPA or higher) three times.
Darquea has made nine birdies against just two bogeys through 36 holes.
FIRST-TEAM ALL-AMERICAN LAUREN KIM IN GOOD POSITIONLauren Kim (Los Altos, Calif.) posted a 2-under, 70 on the Gary Player Course on Friday to move to 3-under through two rounds. Kim was a 2016 WGCA First-Team All-American in her final year at Stanford.
“It’s been pretty good so far, I’ve been enjoying my first Q-School,” said Kim, who helped Stanford win a title in 2015. “I had my mom with me the first two days and my dad is coming out for the weekend.”
Over the last month, Kim has had the chance to get to know Los Altos native and LPGA legend Juli Inkster through her connection with Stanford and the head coach Anne Walker.
“Juli is such an inspiration,” said Kim, who texted Inkster yesterday to congratulate her on the eagle in the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open. “She lives this ideal life where she has been able to raise a family while traveling on Tour and still be so successful.”
Kim said that Inkster’s advice was to be patient and just worry about yourself.
“Sometimes for me, it takes me awhile to get used to new situations and there are just so many girls at this event,” said Kim. “Juli told me that you have to just focus on your game and not worry about everyone else.”
Kim, who grew up five miles south of the Stanford campus, loved every moment of her four years at the school.
“The ending was a little bittersweet because I loved my time there and we almost made history again,” said Kim, referring to coming close to claiming back-to-back titles. “I remember when Mariah (Stackhouse) and I were little freshman and were a bit lost, but we found our way and helped to the lead the team for four years. I didn’t want my career to end.”
Kim and Stackhouse are good friends and they reconnected recently when Stackhouse was on campus preparing for Qualifying Tournament and her events on the Symetra Tour.
TAYLOR TOTLAND GETS ADVICE FROM BETSY KINGTaylor Totland (Tinton Falls, N.J.) is a rising senior at Furman and was urged by LPGA Hall of Famer Betsy King to go through Qualifying Tournament now to try and earn status.
“Betsy told me that it is better to go through it now so I can play as a pro right after I graduate,” said Totland. “I really want to finish my career at Furman so I intend on trying to get through Stages I and II.”
Totland actually recently played a practice round at her home course (Hollywood Golf Club) two weeks ago with Betsy King.
Totland finished 20th at the NCAA championships in 2016.
- BIG EAST Golfer of the Year Anna Kim (St. John’s) posted a 4-under, 68 on the Dinah Shore Course to move up to T4.
- First-round leader August Kim shot an even-par 72 on the Gary Player Course and is in a tie for sixth.
- Wake Forest senior Sierra Sims (a) carded a 5-under, 67 to move from T279 to T83.
- Arizona senior Wanasa Zhou posted a 4-under, 68 on the Gary Player Course to move up to T6.