FORMER ALABAMA STANDOUT KNIGHT SET FOR PRO DEBUT
Making her professional debut and first-ever start on the Symetra Tour at the Four Winds Invitational from June 8-10, Cheyenne Knight (Aledo, Texas) has a pretty simple mentality when it comes to her transition from the amateur ranks.
“Your clubs don’t know you’re a professional,” she said with a soft smile.
If they treat her like they did during her amateur career at the University of Alabama, Knight is in for a quick rise in not only the Volvik Race for the Card on the road to the LPGA Tour, but the women’s professional golf world, in general.
“I’ve been waiting for this a little bit,” said Knight, a three-time Women’s Golf Coaches Association (WGCA) First Team All-American. “After going to Q-School [last November], I finished up my junior year, but I’ve always been excited to finally get out here and test my game against some of the best.”
Even though she forfeits her final year of collegiate eligibility, Knight leaves with the blessings of Alabama women’s golf head coach Mic Potter and assistant coach Susan Rosenstiel.
“They were like you’re ready to go, you’ve done all that we’ve asked you to do,” said Knight, also a three-time First Team All-SEC performer. “It was a tough decision because I went to Q-School and wanted to keep going, but I wasn’t going to put myself in that position to leave the team mid-year. This time, it didn’t make sense for me to possibly stay just one more semester.”
However, she also departs with a bittersweet taste to conclude her time with the Crimson Tide.
Knight was a driving force this year in leading the program to its 14th overall NCAA National Championships appearance, also the 13th time in 13 years that Alabama has reached the pinnacle of women’s college golf under the leadership of Potter.
To do her part, the 2017 SEC Player of the Year finished fourth in the stroke play portion at Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla., last month, going 5-under par, then went 3-0 in match play. Even so, the University of Arizona came out the victor.
It was the first top-two finish for Alabama at the NCAA tournament since the program’s 2012 national title.
“I really thought we were going to win,” Knight said. “We achieved our goal of being there on Wednesday in that final match and it didn’t go our way, but we were so close. Stings a little bit that I didn’t cap my career with a national championship. That would’ve been perfect, but everything happens for a reason.”
With credentials that include four career tournament victories and a 71.54 scoring average, which ranks No. 3 in school history, Knight’s game speaks for itself. Even so, she is still expecting a learning curve as she joins the official qualifying tour of the LPGA Tour.
That’s where the likes of Alabama alumnae Janie Jackson (Huntsville, Alabama) and Emma Talley (Princeton, Kentucky), also a 2017 Symetra Tour graduate, have taken Knight under their wing.
“How to manage my time and not practice a ton, just what works for me,” said Knight. “I’m not trying to change a lot, not trying to do anything different. I’ve received a lot of advice from people about the transition to professional golf. They’re like, ‘It’s your job now and you have a lot more time to practice, but you shouldn’t change who you are as a player.’”
Having left Alabama with no regrets, it’s now about the present and working toward earning full LPGA membership for 2019. Compared to the rest of the field, Knight may be six tournaments behind the eight ball, but don’t think it will phase her one bit.
“Katelyn Dambaugh did it, so it’s not impossible,” Knight said. “I know what I need to do. Not putting too much pressure because I think the first few events I’ll have to get adjusted to it. I’m not really having any expectations, but just each event try to play the best I can.”
1ST ANNUAL FOUR WINDS INVITATIONAL LEGACY AWARD
After Hyemin Kim (Seoul, Republic of Korea) captured her first Symetra Tour win at the POC MED Golf Classic on April 9, 2017, in Windsor, Calif., she donated the entirety of her $15,000 winner’s check to LPGA-USGA Girls Golf.
That generosity helped land Kim the 1st annual Four Winds Invitational Legacy Award.
“It was a great opportunity to give back because I really always try to be helpful to the girls,” said Kim. “Sometimes my English is not good enough to make good communication, or I’m pretty much shy, so it’s hard to approach the people. That was my idea, but my parents really agreed with me to giving back. I really appreciate them and that means a lot to them, too.”
Awarded to the Symetra Tour professional who made an exceptional contribution to a charity organization or community program throughout the 2017 season, Kim’s act showcased the spirit of what this award means.
Her donation was used to provide quality instruction, equipment and scholarship money to several LPGA-USGA Girls Golf programs across the United States. For Kim, she has had several role models to learn from over the years.
“My parents love to help other people. I’ve been watching them when I was growing up, so they inspired me a lot,” Kim said. “Also, Inbee Park and In-Kyung Kim, I saw them giving back to charity and community. That inspires me a lot to make me do that some day same as them.”
Prospective nominees for the 2019 Legacy Award must participate in a minimum of 10 official Symetra Tour events in 2018 and compete in the 7th annual Four Winds Invitational from June 8-10 to be eligible. Whether hospital visits, school programs, or simply serving the community, the nomination must be for contributions performed outside of endorsed deals, or Symetra Tour tournament-organized community events.
LPGA Q-SCHOOL ENTRIES NOW OPEN
On April 11, the LPGA Tour announced that the first edition of Q-Series would take place at Pinehurst Resort from Oct. 22 through Nov. 3 with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina the presenting sponsor after signing a three-year deal.
“Blue Cross NC is proud to have this chance to make a meaningful investment in female leadership and empowerment,” said Reagan Greene Pruitt, the Vice President of Integrated Marketing and Community Engagement for Blue Cross NC. “We encourage women to find their own ways to Live Fearless, whether that’s through adopting healthy diet and lifestyle choices, making informed health care choices for themselves and their families, or even attempting to qualify for the LPGA Tour. We hope these talented golfers inspire women and girls of all ages to test the limits of their comfort zones as they pursue their ‘Live Fearless’ dreams.”
Meanwhile, earlier this week, entries for the LPGA Qualifying Tournament opened as excitement for the inaugural event continues to build.
Players can still earn LPGA membership through Q-School, by starting at Stage I and advancing through Q-Series where, at minimum, the top-45 finishers and ties will receive LPGA membership in category 14 of the LPGA Priority List. The remaining competitors earn Symetra Tour membership. For comparison, 20 players earned their full LPGA card at the Final Stage in 2017.
“We’re very happy that Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina has decided to partner with the LPGA in the launch of the Q-Series,” said LPGA Commissioner Michael Whan. “Together, we will identify the next group of LPGA stars through this new and exciting format. Pinehurst Resort will provide a world-class platform for the competitors in their quest to qualify for the LPGA Tour, all in an enhanced format that we’re really excited to showcase in October.”
In addition, instead of 90 holes like the old Final Stage, the new Q-Series will be 144 holes. Players will compete in two, four-day tournaments with cumulative scores over the eight rounds for a $150,000 purse, to be distributed at the event’s completion.
The first week of Q-Series presented by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina will be played on the George and Tom Fazio-designed Pinehurst Course No. 6 from Oct. 24-27, and will conclude on the Rees Jones-designed Pinehurst Course No. 7 from Oct. 31-Nov. 3.
“Championship women’s golf has a long history at Pinehurst,” said Tom Pashley, Pinehurst Resort’s president. “Pinehurst has hosted the Women’s North & South Amateur since 1903, and past champions include legends such as Louise Suggs, Estelle Lawson Page and Peggy Kirk Bell, as well as more recent major champions Yani Tseng, Brittany Lang, Morgan Pressel and Danielle Kang. We’re pleased the LPGA has chosen Pinehurst for the inaugural Q-Series.”
There will be no cut for the LPGA Q-Series field, which will include players who finished from Nos. 101-150 and ties on the current-year LPGA official money list, as well as players from Nos. 11-30 and ties on the Symetra Tour official money list. Furthermore, a maximum of 10 spots will go to players in the top-75 of the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings, while the top-five collegiate players in the country according to Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings will also be exempt into Q-Series.
To round out the field, a select number of players will advance from Stage II to Q-Series, to be determined prior to the start of competition in Stage II.
“What I like most about the Q-Series is that it will be a true test for how players will qualify for the LPGA Tour,” Whan said. “The playing status earned by competitors at Q-Series will be a direct reflection of eight rounds of head-to-head competition on a demanding test of golf at Pinehurst Resort.”
As part of the updated Q-Series, the LPGA is also announcing relaxed rules for amateurs. They will be able to play all stages of the new LPGA Qualifying School, and those who earn LPGA status at Q-Series can defer acceptance of LPGA membership until July 1 of the following year, but can’t play as an amateur on the LPGA with Q-Series status. As in previous years, players can join and play on the Symetra Tour as an amateur, turning professional at any time or remaining as an amateur.
The revamped LPGA Qualifying School also has new age requirements. Players that are 16 years old can now compete for Symetra Tour membership in Stage I and Stage II, only if they turn 17 by the end of the year. For individuals that are already 17 years old, they can compete in Q-Series only if they turn 18 by the end of the year. If this is not the case, a petition process applies.
Stage I of Qualifying School will be held from Aug. 20-26 at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, Calif., while Stage II will be Oct. 13-18 in Venice, Fla. at Plantation Golf and Country Club.