by Dave Andrews
Many LPGA veterans have called it the most nerve-wracking tournament they have ever played. Even though the purse is tiny (only $5,000 to the winner), the stakes are huge. The pressure is intense. Futures are on the line. It is truly a life-changing event for many.
The final stage of the 2015 LPGA Q-School is approaching (December 2nd to 6th) at LPGA International Golf Club in Daytona Beach, Florida. Teenage amateur sensations and veteran professionals from around the world will be battling it out for one of the coveted 20 full-status playing cards on the LPGA for the 2016 season. The next 25 finishers in the grueling five-day tournament earn limited playing status on the LPGA, but that does not guarantee them of many playing opportunities when the season begins. Finishing in the top 20 is the big goal for everyone.
Many of the roughly 160 players in the field (the final list will be posted later this month) have already begun arriving in Daytona Beach to put in weeks of practice on the two courses at LPGA International. They will spend so much time preparing because it could come down to just one shot that will determine whether they will be playing in 2016 on the biggest stage in the world in women’s golf. It is what they have all been working so hard for over much of their lives.
85 of the players in the field will be comprised of those that made it through the second stage of Q-School, held last month in Venice, Florida. Another 60 or so players in the field will be current LPGA players who did not play well enough this year to finish the season in the top 100 on the LPGA money list. A smaller number of competitors in the field (likely 10 to 20) will be made up of highly-ranked international players that are given automatic entry into the final stage. They will come primarily from the professional tours in Europe, South Korea, and Japan.
How important is Q School? Just ask Alison Lee. The young amateur player from California, a member of the UCLA women’s golf team, tied for first place in the final stage of the 2014 Q-School. She immediately turned professional and had an outstanding rookie season on the LPGA this year. Through her performance, she earned her way onto the American team in the Solheim Cup and will finish the 2015 season in the top 20 on the tour’s money list with well over $600,000 in earnings. Lee’s career in professional golf was made possible by her having a successful week at Q-School. If she had not earned her LPGA card it is likely that she would have remained an amateur and would still be playing college golf.
Or you can ask veteran LPGA player Christina Kim. In 2012, with a full 10 years on the tour and two career victories, the colorful player from California lost her full playing status for 2013 when she struggled during the season and made less than $40,000. She, like many players on the LPGA over the years, was forced to return to Q-School in order to keep her full status. She was successful that week in Daytona Beach, finishing in the top 20, and has handily maintained her playing status on the tour for the last three years, capturing her 3rd tour victory in 2014. But if she had failed at Q-School in 2012 her future on the LPGA and in golf might have been very different.
Those are just two of the many examples of what is riding on Q-School for so many players. It’s about making a dream come true for some and keeping a dream alive for others. The tears of joy and the tears of heartbreak will be very evident after the fifth and final round has been played on Sunday, December 6th.
Dave Andrews is a retired television news reporter. He is also an avid golfer who has become a big fan and frequently caddies for the rising US and International golf stars of the LPGA and the Symetra Tour.
He is the author of Pops and Sunshine, a novel and screenplay about a young woman pro’s dream and struggle to make it to the LPGA.
The screenplay has been optioned by a production company in Hollywood. The novel is available at Kindle Ebooks.
Follow Dave online on Twitter @PopsandSunshine.