RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. August 28, 2016 - Daniela Darquea (Quito, Ecuador) carded a 2-under, 70 on Sunday to earn medalist honors at Stage I of LPGA Qualifying Tournament with a four-day total of 10-under, 278. She was the only player, in a field that started at 347, to post four straight under-par rounds. Princess Superal (Dasmarinas City, Philippines), the 2014 U.S. Junior Girls’ Amateur champion and Sarah Schmelzel (Phoenix, Ariz.), a Golfweek Honorable Mention All-American at South Carolina, finished in a tie for second at 9-under, 279. The youngest player in the field, 17-year-old Nasa Hataoka (Japan) finished fourth at 8-under, 280.
A total of 92 players advanced out of Stage I and the cut was made at 6-over, 278.
Darquea, a senior at the University of Miami, tallied three birdies against just one bogey in the final-round. She made just five bogeys over the four rounds.
“I was really focused on getting to the second stage and I had a really good week here,” said Darquea. “I always thought my game was on point and it is probably the best golf I’ve played in my life.”
Darquea, a Golfweek Third Team All-American in 2016, intends to try and reach the LPGA Tour for the start of the 2017 season. She would forego the second half of her senior season if she makes it through Stage II and III and decides to turn professional.
“I had a really good year at Miami and this summer I went home to Ecuador and I started practicing a lot,” said Darquea. “I had surgery in January (to clear wrist inflammation) and I am just getting more and more comfortable.”
Darquea will now gear up for Stage II.
“I feel I am one step closer to my dream,” said Darquea. “I think I now need to focus on Stage II because that is a very important step.”
There are currently no players from Ecuador on the LPGA Tour.
NOW 33, KIM WELCH ADVANCES AND STILL BELIEVESIt seems like forever ago that Kim Welch (Sacramento, Calif.) got her first ‘big break’ when she won Golf Channel’s Big Break Ka’anapali. Eight years later, Welch was back at Stage I of LPGA Qualifying Tournament and easily advanced with a 1-over, 73 to finish at even-par for the four days. It was her eighth Stage I with her first coming ten years ago in 2006.
Welch, now 33, is trying to keep her dream of LPGA success alive. She has played in 24 career LPGA events and has competed on the Symetra Tour on and off since 2011.
“If I didn’t think that I could still play on the LPGA, I wouldn’t be spending that type of money on Q-School,” said a candid Welch. “I absolutely believe that I should be out there, can be out there and will be.”
Welch opened Stage I with a 67 and closed with rounds of 72-76-73. She was in a fairly comfortable spot (T29) heading into the final round, but was 3-over through 14 holes and hit the ball in the water on hole six.
“I was thinking this could get pretty ugly fast,” said Welch, who was able to make par. “That was the turning point and I closed with two birdies on the final three holes so I made it interesting, but I’m excited to move on.”
Welch has played in just one Symetra Tour event this year. She has been home the last two months just practicing and preparing. She plans to do the same in preparation for Stage II.
“I came in this week thinking it was a formality to advance to Stage II and posting a low score on day one helped me relax,” said Welch. “My game is feeling good and I’m looking forward to Stage II.”
LAURA DIAZ HELPS SIERRA SIMS ADVANCESierra Sims (Austin, Texas) grew up like many young golfers, idolizing Tiger Woods. When she got to Wake Forest three years ago, she found another role model - former LPGA Tour player Laura Diaz, who serves as a volunteer assistant coach.
“Laura has really become my role model and someone I look to for advice,” said Sims. “She played on Tour and won on Tour so she is a great person to have around our team.”
Sims, a senior at Wake Forest, closed with an even-par 72 to finish T17 at 2-under, 286. She rebounded very nicely from an opening round 79.
“It was definitely a great experience and I came out a week early to play the NWGA event on the Dinah Shore course and that helped,” said Sims. “I’m very excited to move on and I’m happy with how I didn’t give in after a 79 on day one.”
Sims plans on graduating from Wake Forest and not turning professional until June of 2017.
OREGON’S INGLIS CARDS 68 TO ADVANCECaroline Inglis (Eugene, Oregon) was just hoping for an even-par round on Sunday, but posted a 4-under, 68 to easily advance out of Stage I. The 68 was the low round of the day.
Inglis, 22, who grew up minutes from the Oregon campus and just graduated from Oregon in May, made five birdies on the day including back-to-back on 11 and 12 to rebound from her lone bogey of the day on ten.
“I knew Dinah Shore never plays easy and I thought even-par or 1-over would be fine and I really put together a solid round,” said Inglis. “It was actually a very interesting round as my group was on the clock and I’ve never really had that experience, but I hit a lot of fairways and hit the ball well.”
Inglis played the Dinah Shore course on Saturday and shot even-par and was in a tie for 80th coming into the day.
“It is one step at a time and I’m happy to advance,” said Inglis. “It was definitely a good experience and to know I can perform well in crunch time is important. Hopefully I can take the momentum to stage II and I never have to come back to Stage I.”
Inglis was a three-time Oregon state high school champion and won the Pac-12 Championship in 2015. She finished the 2015-16 season with the fourth lowest scoring average in school history (72.89).
“It was awesome,” said Inglis of her experience at Oregon. “It was definitely the right decision to stay home and go to Oregon. We got to finish out my career at nationals on our home course. I love the University of Oregon.”
Inglis said the LPGA wasn’t really on her radar until her junior and senior seasons at Oregon when she really started to perform at a high level.
Her father, William, introduced her to the game of golf. Unfortunately, he passed away during her freshman year of college. Inglis credits both her parents for their unwavering support.
“They have just been so supportive of me and I’m excited to see the work pay off.”
- Mariah Stackhouse posted a 6-over, 78 on Sunday, but still easily advanced out of Stage I at 2-under, 286 for the four days. She finished in a tie for 17th.
- Three of the four Olympians in the field (Aditi Ashok, India, Tiffany Chan, Hong Kong and Michelle Koh,
- Malaysia) advanced to Stage II of LPGA Qualifying Tournament.
- A total of 32 amateurs advanced out of Stage I and will compete in Stage II.