DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — On the eve of the start to the final tournament on the road to the LPGA Tour in 2018, the main focus surrounding the Symetra Tour Championship at LPGA International is the Volvik Race for the Card top-10, as it should be.
However, the battle to finish inside the top-30 on the money list is just as fierce. Players that conclude the year from Nos. 11-30 are exempt into Q-Series in Pinehurst, N.C. from Oct. 22 through Nov. 3 at Pinehurst Resort.
“You always prefer the better option, but in a perfect world you play the same way regardless of the standings,” said August Kim (St. Augustine, Florida), currently No. 30 in the Volvik Race for the Card with $31,359 accumulated over 18 starts. “I have played my best golf this year when I had an offensive mindset, so I definitely want to keep that in my target.”
With $56,914 at No. 11, Jenny Haglund (Karlstad, Sweden) has distanced herself from the rest of the pack, as well as Isi Gabsa (Munich, Germany) at No. 12 and Stephanie Kono (Honolulu, Hawaii) at No. 13. The trio is separated by a total of $1,820. From Kono to Eun Jeong Seong (Yongin, Republic of Korea) in the No. 14 position, a gap of $8,173 exists. Then from Seong to Kim is a $15,562 difference.
Meanwhile, for those outside the top-30, this is the last chance to avoid Stage II of the LPGA Qualifying Tournament from Oct. 13-18 in Venice, Fla. at Plantation Golf and Country Club.
“I am going to give it my all, that’s for sure,” said Linnea Johansson (Bastad, Sweden), who sits in 40th place on the Volvik Race for the Card money list with $25,009 earned. “Obviously, I am going to play smart, but will chase it a little bit and go for more pins. Going low is all that matters because a good finish can help me move into the top-30, otherwise it doesn’t matter if I’m No. 32 or No. 45.”
Instead of 90 holes like the old LPGA Qualifying Tournament Final Stage, the new Q-Series will be 144 holes over two, four-day tournaments with cumulative scoring across the eight rounds to decide a $150,000 purse distributed at the event’s completion.
“My goal is to get into the top-30 and this week I really have nothing to lose since I have already secured top-80 and Symetra Tour status for next year,” said Cheyenne Knight (Aledo, Texas), who checks in at No. 41 in the Volvik Race for the Card. “I’m going to go for it and if the wind blows, that will be good because I’m from Texas so I kind of want the conditions to be hard.”
Presented by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina, Q-Series is set to be contested 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.
There will be no cut for the 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.
To round out the competitors, a select number of players will advance from Stage II to Q-Series, to be determined prior to the start of Stage II.
“How different Stage II is this year, it’s not as automatic to get to Q-Series as it was to get to the Final Stage last year,” Knight said. “If I did have to go back to Stage II, I feel like I’m in a great position like I am this week with nothing to lose. It has been a long journey this summer, but it’s taught me a lot and I have learned a lot from it.”
YEAR-END AWARDS PRESENTED AT ROAD TO LPGA FINAL LAP VIP EVENT
Professionals, sponsors and amateurs came together on Tuesday night for the Road to the LPGA Final Lap VIP event at Daytona International Speedway in celebration of the season-ending Symetra Tour Championship at LPGA International from Oct. 4-7.
Several annual year-end awards were presented, while the Player of the Year and Gaëlle Truet Rookie of the Year honors remain to be decided with one tournament still to play. Below is a list of each award and its 2018 recipient.
Symetra Rising Star: Sarah Schmelzel (Phoenix, Arizona)
This award is presented to the player who made the largest improvement on the Symetra Tour official money list from 2017 to 2018. A past recipient of the honor is Brittany Benvenuto (Langhorne, Pennsylvania) in 2015, who is also in the field this week.
Schmelzel on receiving the Symetra Rising Star award: “Winning the Rising Star award was definitely unexpected. It is great to see how far I have come as a player since last year on Tour. I don’t usually pay attention to the stats, so it was nice to take a step back and see how much I’ve improved as a player.”
Penske Total Driving Experience: Youngin Chun (Gainesville, Florida)
This award is presented to the player who leads the Symetra Tour in total driving, which is a culmination of accuracy and distance. Chun averaged 270 yards off the tee (16th on Tour) and hit 86.4 percent of fairways (6th on Tour).
Chun on receiving the Penske Total Driving Experience award: “I am beyond thrilled to get the amazing award for total driving experience. I know this season was not my best, but this award makes me ready to set higher goals for next season.”
Penske Driving Accuracy Advantage: Natalie Sheary (New Britain, Connecticut)
This award is presented to the player who leads the Symetra Tour in driving accuracy. Sheary is No. 1 in that category at 89.7 percent, making it her second consecutive year taking home the hardware for this honor.
Sheary on receiving the Penske Driving Accuracy Advantage award: “Thank you to Penske for once again presenting me with the Driving Accuracy Advantage award. I am very proud and grateful for my team. A big thank you to my swing coach Andy O’Brien, my club fitter Todd Daigneault and Callaway Golf for their continued support. Being able to trust both my swing and equipment is a major reason why my ball striking continues to improve.”
Eloise Trainor Award: Jim and Denise Medford, Links at Stoney Point owners
The Eloise Trainor Award is presented annually to an individual or organization who has made a significant contribution to women’s golf.
Last night, Symetra Tour Chief Business Officer Mike Nichols presented the award to Denise and Jim Medford, owners of the Links at Stoney Point in Greenwood, S.C., and organizers of the Self Regional Foundation Women’s Health Classic for the last five years.
“Before Jim and Denise arrived, the biggest purse in the 32-year history of the Symetra Tour was $150,000,” said Nichols. “In 2014, they hosted the first $200,000 event in Tour history, including one year at $250,000. Since then, the Tour has hosted a total of 15 events with a purse of at least $200,000 – including at least five in 2019 alone. The impact they have on the growth of Symetra Tour purses over the last five years is immeasurable.”
Heather Wilbur Spirit Award: Portland Rosen (Sugar Land, Texas)
The Heather Wilbur Spirit Award was established in 2003 to honor former Symetra Tour player Heather Wilbur, who lost her battle with leukemia that same year. Wilbur was also the first recipient of the award, which honors the player that best exemplifies dedication, courage, perseverance, love of the game and a spirit toward achieving goals as a professional golfer. Individuals are nominated and voted on by Symetra Tour membership. Last night, Portland Rosen was presented with the award by friend and fellow Tour member Madison Pressel (Boca Raton, Florida).
Rosen on receiving the Heather Wilbur Spirit Award: “I feel so honored and humbled to receive the Heather Wilbur Spirit Award because what is exemplifies is how I have always strived to be. Whether I shoot 68 or 78, win a tournament or not, I am so thankful to my fellow competitors who notice these qualities about me. I have always hoped to be a good example of the game of golf, whether it be to young girls or people I play with in Pro-Am events because golf means a lot to me and it is a very big part of my life. Receiving it from Madison made it that much better because she is one of my best friends on Tour and we are together every second of everyday, going through the ups and downs of golf life. No matter what, we always try and make it fun.”
Pressel on presenting the Heather Wilbur Spirit Award: “It was such an honor to present Portland with the Heather Wilbur Spirit Award. She is so kind, generous and selfless, and represents everything that the award stands for. No matter what obstacles are placed in her way, she always has a smile on her face and encourages everyone around her to be their best. The Symetra Tour is lucky to have her as a competitor!”