Although it’s not been written in stone, Nelly Korda, the younger sister of four-time LPGA Tour winner, Jessica, seems destined to make her professional debut on the Symetra Tour at some point this season. She won medalist honors at Stage II of LPGA Qualifying Tournament with a final-round 69 to sure up category E status on the Symetra Tour for 2016. The 17-year-old petitioned the LPGA to go to Q-School in 2015 in order to play the Symetra Tour. Of course, she is old enough to the play the LPGA at this point. After earning medalist honors in late October, she explained her situation.
“I’m only allowed to do two stages so this is my final stage and I’m able to get my full card for Symetra Tour,” Korda explained. “It’s more options. It’s a pretty good option. The girls out there play so well. I have good options, I’m either going to go to college or try the Symetra Tour.”
So, she still definitely left the option open of going to college.
Just like big sis, Nelly had a really strong 2015. In addition to earning medalist honors at Stage II, she won the AJGA PING Invitational in early October by a ridiculous 11 shots. She was also selected to play on the PING Junior Solheim Cup team over the summer. She is currently No. 1 in the Girl’s Junior Rankings put out by Golfweek and No. 6 in the Women’s World Amateur Golf Rankings (WAGR).
Jessica went a slightly different route. She played in one Symetra Tour event in 2010 (Daytona Beach Invitational) as a tune up for Final Stage of Qualifying Tournament and of course finished second.
Nelly status should get her into most full field events. In short time, we’ll find out when and if she makes her debut in 2016.
2. Who will qualify for the Olympics from the Symetra Tour?
One of the biggest storylines in golf, male or female, will be who qualifies for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Stephanie Meadow of Northern Ireland is currently No. 42 on the Olympic rankings and would therefore qualify if play started today. Meadow did not make the 72-hole cut at Stage III of LPGA Qualifying Tournament and therefore will likely play the Symetra Tour in 2016. Meadow burst onto the professional scene in 2014 when she finished 3rd at the U.S. Women’s Open.
Players outside the top 60, but in contention for the Olympics, that could play the Symetra Tour include Celine Herbin of France, Sue Kim of Canada, Augusta James of Canada and Candy Hannemann of Brazil.
Don’t forget to pay attention to recent Symetra Tour graduates that have a strong chance to make their respective Olympic teams. Alejandra Llaneza (Mexico), who graduated to the LPGA in 2015, currently ranks No. 51 while 2010 graduate Pornanong Phatlum (Thailand) ranks No. 21.
3. Will NCAA/U.S. Amateur Champ Emma Talley play the Symetra Tour in 2016?
Just like Nelly Korda, 2015 NCAA individual national champion Emma Talley comfortably advanced past the first two stages of LPGA Qualifying Tournament to earn Symetra Tour status for the 2016 season.
Talley has “Category E” No. 165 status and could get into most full field events. The Alabama senior was the 2015 Honda Sports Award winner, presented annually to the top women’s golfer in the country. Talley was also named First-Team All-American.
In 2013, Talley won the U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship in a 2 and 1 victory over current LPGA Tour player Cindy Feng. She is just the fifth person to ever win an NCAA individual title and the U.S. Amateur Championship.
Talley could be the 2016 version of Annie Park. Since she didn’t even go to Final Stage of LPGA Qualifying Tournament, it’s safe to assume she will finish her final semester of school and compete with Alabama during the Spring season and then join the Symetra Tour in the summer. Remember that Park needed just 11 starts to earn her LPGA card in 2015.
The 2016 NCAA national championship, presumably Talley’s final amateur event, is May 20-25 in Eugene, Oregon. If she started playing the Symetra Tour in June, she would have 13 events to try and earn LPGA membership. The Symetra Tour is off the first two weeks of June so her debut could come June 17-19 at the Four Winds Invitational in South Bend, Indiana.
4. Is Kristy McPherson the 2016 version of Vicky Hurst?
Yes, the Symetra Tour is often billed as the “future stars of the LPGA” but it is also a place where former LPGA players can return to regain what was lost. We all saw what Vicky Hurst did in 2015 on the Symetra Tour. Injuries derailed her success on the LPGA and so she used 2015 to regain her health and confidence.
McPherson won twice on the Symetra Tour in 2006 and finished fourth on the money list to earn LPGA Tour membership. She has 16 career top 10 finishes and over $2 million in earnings on the LPGA since her days on the Symetra Tour. Her best season on the LPGA was 2009 when she made the U.S. Solheim Cup team and finished 16th on the official money list.
The last several years have been tough for McPherson. She finished 96th on the money list in 2014 and No. 146 in 2015. Right before playing LPGA Qualifying Tournament, McPherson gave a candid interview to Myrtlebeachonline.com, her hometown newspaper in Conway, South Carolina.
“I’m not ready to be done yet,” said McPherson, who has been impacted by injuries each year since 2010. “If you go out you kind of want to go out on your own terms and I’m definitely not ready to be done and not ready to basically have injuries cause me to be done.
“I think I’m getting healthier than I was last year and I’ve got to mentally get back there.”
After missing the 72-hole cut at Final Stage of LPGA Qualifying Tournament, McPherson said she is committed to the Symetra Tour.
“I can’t say it’s the worst thing in the world for me since I’ve struggled for a few years on the LPGA,” the Conway native said. “A good year on the Symetra Tour will be better than a bad year on the LPGA. I have to get out there and feel I can compete again.”
Vicky did it in 2015 and now it’s Kristy’s turn in 2016.
5. How will three-time All-American Hayley Davis fare as rookie?
In mid-October, Hayley Davis announced she was turning professional after three strong seasons at Baylor. Davis first found her way onto headlines when she battled Mariah Stackhouse of Stanford in the final match of the 2015 NCAA championships. She hit one of the shots of the year from the mud on the 16th hole of the championship match and made birdie. Davis won three times in 2015 and posted 27 career top 10 finishes in just three seasons.
She also enjoyed a storied international amateur career. She represented England on the England Golf USA Squad, as Captain of the Nations Cup Team, at the World Amateur Team Championship, and at both the European Ladies Team & Individual Championships. She also won the 2014 England Open Stroke Play Championship, the Astor Salver, the England Stroke Play Ladies Championship, the Abu Dhabi Junior Championship, and the English Ladies Amateur, among others.
Davis finished 4th at Stage I of Qualifying Tournament, 12th in Stage II, but finished near the bottom of Final Stage and now will focus on earning her LPGA card through the Symetra Tour.
6. Hello Kansas City.
In 2015, the Tour added a litany of new events in an effort to bolster the schedule. Now that the schedule is near capacity, Tour executives focused more on adding purse money in 2016.
The one new event is the Kansas City Championship, which will be contested July 29-31 at Staley Farms Golf Club in Kansas City, Missouri.
Staley Farms has been host to several qualifying USGA events including the 2003 U.S. Senior Open, the 2003 U.S. Women's Amateur, the 2004 U.S. Junior Amateur Championship, the 2005 U.S. Open Championship, the 2009 U.S. Ladies Open and the 2014 U.S. Women's Amateur.
Eric Iverson is the man behind the golf course. The back tees play just over 7,000 yards.
The Tour will be coming to Kansas City from Battle Creek, Michigan after the FireKeepers Casino Hotel Championship.