VENICE, FLORIDA, October 20, 2016 - The day belonged to one teenager - Hannah Green (Perth, Australia) making her LPGA Qualifying Tournament debut and two veterans - Kathleen Ekey (Sharon Township, Ohio) and Beth Allen (San Diego, California) - as the trio each shot 5-under, 67 to share the first-round lead at Plantation Golf & Country Club. Green had the low round of the day on the Panther course, while Ekey and Allen both played the Bobcat course.
Four players share third place at 4-under, 68 including Camilla Lenarth (Stockholm, Sweden), who has a win on the Ladies European Tour. A total of 16 players shot 3-under or better including Olympian Aditi Ashok (Bangalore, India) and ANNIKA Award winner Bronte Law (Manchester, England), who both are tied for eighth at 3-under.
The low 80 and ties following final-round play on Sunday will advance to Final Stage of LPGA Qualifying Tournament in Daytona Beach, which is December 1-4.
EKEY KNOWS EMOTIONS OF Q-SCHOOL; GETS GOOSEBUMPSKathleen Ekey (Sharon Township, Ohio) carded a 5-under, 67 despite one bad swing on the 16th hole that resulted in a double-bogey. Ekey understands the emotions and importance of LPGA Qualifiying School better than most. She started to tear up when describing what it was like to miss retaining LPGA status by one shot at Final Stage two years ago. She also missed advancing out of Stage II by one shot last year.
“It (missing last year) was one of the lowest points of my golf career,” said Ekey, as she began to get water in the eyes. “This week just means so much to all of us and even a year later that is really raw to me. I remember last year just never wanting to feel like that again.”
Ekey, 29, caught fire towards the end of her front nine and continued the hot stretch on the back. She poured in five straight birdies from the seventh through the 11th hole.
“It was one bad swing today, kind of a bummer, but overall I played well today and it was really fun,” said Ekey, who played college golf at Alabama. “I hit a lot of really good shots. I’m just really happy that I had a good day today and I want to keep playing solid.”
Ekey played full-time on the LPGA Tour from 2012-14. She has spent the majority of each of the last two seasons on the Symetra Tour.
34-YEAR-OLD BETH ALLEN HAS EYES ON SOLHEIM CUPBeth Allen last played LPGA Qualifying Tournament in 2007 and last played Stage II in 2004. You might be wondering why she is here this year. Two reasons.
“I’ve always sort of wanted to pick my own schedule and play all over the world,” said Allen, who carded a 5-under, 67 on the Bobcat course. “Hopefully, if I play like I am now, I will be in a couple majors next year and that counts twice in the money list (LPGA and LET).”
“I would love to get a shot at Solheim Cup and the only way I can do that is to get back here,” continued Allen. “I’m going to do my best to do that.”
Allen made six birdies on the day including a 21-footer on the 18th hole.
“I’ve been playing well in Europe and I came over with confidence and I have a game plan to get the job done,” said Allen, who ranks second on the Ladies European Tour money list. “I hit a lot of greens and holed a couple putts.”
Allen finished fifth on the Order of Merit in 2014 and eighth in 2015.
“This has been my best year,” said Allen. “I think it is just experience. It helped to win last year and then I won two weeks ago. It also helps to have Sophie Gustafson who is my caddy. I’ve been doing the same thing, just making less mistakes and my putting has been really good.”
Allen says she has no plans of slowing down any time soon.
“I’m 34, I’m definitely not trying to beat the world, but I definitely want to get back out on the LPGA,” said Allen. “I just have fun all the time. I went to Europe because I’ve just enjoyed it and I’m not going to change if I get back out here. I’m still going to enjoy myself.”
Allen has made 59 career starts on the LPGA Tour and has one top 10 finish.
NEW PRO HANNAH GREEN MOTIVATED MY MINJEE LEE
Hannah Green (Perth, Australia) turned professional two weeks ago on October 5, but she’s known that professional golf was in her future for the last three or four years. She was either going to turn professional at the end of 2016 or the beginning of 2017.
Green, who ranks No. 358 in the world, was exempt out of Stage I and in her first ever LPGA Qualifying Tournament, she posted a 5-under, 67 on the Panther Course, which is considered the more challenging course.
“This is probably the most excited I have ever been for a tournament,” said Green, who is just 19 years old. “I’ve played some ALPG so I’ve had experience playing pro tournaments and I was in really good form coming into this week. When I was playing the practice rounds, I could see that my game fit this course.”
Green made six birdies against just one bogey. She finished with birdies on 16, 17 and 18.
“I played some professional tournaments at the start of the year and proved to myself that I do want to be out here and I can be out here,” said Green, who finished T20 at the ISPS Handa Australian Open in February. “I just need to make sure I get my card (LPGA) so that I will be out here is the most important thing.”
Green was the recipient of the Karrie Webb Scholarship and got the chance to attend the 2015 and 2016 U.S. Women’s Open as a guest of Webb.
“She has definitely taught me a lot and helped me almost just by seeing what she does,” said Green. “She’s been a big help and so has my team back home.”
Green also grew up playing amateur golf with Minjee Lee.
“Seeing her have two wins already (on the LPGA) motivates me to want to be out there playing against her,” said Green. “I’ve always wanted to play professional golf, but I wasn’t really sure if it was LPGA or Japanese Tour, but the LPGA is where I want to be.”
MEL REID DESPERATE TO PLAY ON THE LPGAFive-time LET winner and two-time Solheim Cup participant Mel Reid (Loughborough, England) carded a 2-under, 70 on Thursday.
“Things are quite tricky to read, we are not used to Floridian grass,” said Reid. “I struggled a little on the greens today, but all in all, you just have to finish top 80, although I am trying to win the thing. Two-under is a pretty solid start.”
Reid, who last played Q-school in the United States in 2013, arrived in Venice on Tuesday and just played two nine-hole practice rounds.
At this point in her career, she is desperate to get on the LPGA.
“I feel that my game is LPGA to be honest,” said Reid. “I feel in Europe I am kind of restricted. I’ve been out there a long time and obviously I have had some ups and downs personally and that has probably held me back four years, but it’s all a process and I want to do it my own.”
I’m desperate to get out there, it is where I want to be and need to be,” continued Reid. “Weeks like these are not great, but you just got to do them and focus.”
CHARLOTTE THOMAS: ENGLAND-SINGAPORE-AUSTRALIA-SEATTLE-LPGA Q-SCHOOL
Recent University of Washington graduate Charlotte Thomas (Guildford, England) posted a 3-under, 69 on the Bobcat course on Thursday.
“I think I was a lot more relaxed today (compared to Stage I),” explained Thomas. “I got used to the pressure of it at first stage so I just played solid all day and made some good putts.”
If you ask Thomas where she is from, be ready for a long and curvy road.
“I’m from all over the place,” said Thomas with a laugh. “I was born in England and my mom is from New Zealand so I’m half English and half Kiwi. When I was 13, I moved to Singapore and finished high school there and then all my brothers ended up going to University in Australia so we have a house in Australia now. I’m based now in Seattle. That’s the story.”
Thomas, who was a major part of the 2016 NCAA national championship team at Washington, made a gut decision to go to Washington after visiting the area.
“I made the decision that I wanted to play professionally when I was 16,” said Thomas, who played field hockey, softball and tennis growing up. “I met my coach (Craig McLean), who is on my bag this week, in Singapore and I’ve worked with him ever since and he kind of inspired me.”
MADELEINE SHEILS ‘BEST I’VE FELT IN AWHILE’Madeleine Sheils (Boise, Idaho) missed the cut at five of the final six Symetra Tour events to close the season. She found her grove on day one in Venice with a 3-under, 69 on the Panther course.
“This is the best I have felt in a long time and my game feels great,” said Sheils. “This is a typical Florida golf course and a really good golf course, but what makes this week interesting is that it is Q-school and that is what puts the pressure on all of us.”
Sheils is no stranger to success. She won on the Symetra Tour in 2015 and finished 17th on the Volvik Race for the Card money list.