Samantha Richdale: Canadian Finishes 4th On Duramed FUTURES Tour's Money List
Article courtesy of Duramed FUTURES Tour
It took a while - three and a half seasons, in fact - but Canada's Samantha Richdale finished in the top five of the Duramed FUTURES Tour's 2009 season money list to earn full membership on the 2010 LPGA Tour.
Richdale, 25, who won 10 collegiate tournaments while at Illinois State University as a chemistry major, turned pro following graduation in 2006. She struggled that first pro season, making only four cuts in the eight tournaments she played.
But the quietly determined player did what young pros are supposed to do on the LPGA's developmental tour: she got better every year. In 2006, she finished her rookie year ranked 127th in earnings with a 75.81 stroke average. In 2007, she improved to 54th with a stroke average of 74.31, and in 2008, she jumped up the money list to 18th with one tournament win and a season stroke average of 73.62.
This year, Richdale finished the 2009 season ranked fourth on the Duramed FUTURES Tour's money list with earnings of $59,292, and a stroke average of 71.56. She recorded two tournament wins in 2009, nine top-10 finishes in 17 starts, and finally earned the coveted full LPGA membership that she has dreamed about as a young girl.
Richdale discussed her nearly four years on the LPGA's developmental tour with Duramed FUTURES Tour senior writer Lisa D. Mickey. Here's what she had to say about her experience:
DFT: You really stepped up your game this season and things have fallen into place.
Richdale: It feels like it's taken forever. So many players jump into the top five [on the Duramed FUTURES Tour's season money list] and move on the next year. This was my fourth year. It gets hard to tell people that. And then sometimes they ask, 'Well, how long are you going to give it?' My answer has always been, 'As long as I'm improving, I'll keep going.' I'm finally on the right track.
DFT: So what was the key for making this year different?
Richdale: I put all the pieces in place and good things started happening. I got Craig Harmon as my swing coach in fall 2007, and he taught me how and what to practice. I got [professional caddie] Paul Maggiore on my bag in May 2008, and I picked up sponsorship with PRASCO [a pharmaceutical company in Ohio] in July 2008. The longer I've been out on the urame FUTURES Tour, I've learned a lot about practicing and I've gained valuable competitive experience.
DFT: You have even mentioned how Dr. Gio Valiante's book, "Fearless Golf," helped change your approach to the way you play.
Richdale: He became my sports psychologist this May. I've tried to focus more on my targets and where I want to hit the ball, rather than on where I don't want to go. Because of that, I've been able to hit a lot better shots in competition.
DFT: You didn't take the path that many other LPGA pros have taken by playing college golf at one of the NCAA powerhouse programs. And your chemistry degree at Illinois State University must have been pretty difficult to earn while traveling with the college golf team.
Richdale: I've always enjoyed golf since I was a little kid and in high school I liked the sciences. As a chemistry major in college who played on the women's golf team, I had to make up a lot of labs. Labs are three hours and sometimes the lab write-up can take four to eight hours. It wasn't easy, but I got pretty good at juggling my time.
DFT: Talk a little about your road to the LPGA, starting in 2006, when you played eight tournaments in the summer following your college graduation.
Richdale: I turned pro that year and it was a real eye-opener. Really young players who were 17 years old, like Song-Hee Kim, Inbee Park and Angela Park, were playing on the tour that year and they were already so good. I thought, 'Why am I not that good?' But you learn that everybody has their own time line. In 2006 and 2007, I was not ready for the LPGA. I look back at Kristy McPherson and remember how she played out here for almost four years, but look at how well she's doing now. As long as you get there, it really doesn't matter how long it takes.
DFT: So what was the difference in that first one and half seasons and your 2008 and 2009 seasons on the Duramed FUTURES Tour, in which you won three times?
Richdale: I met Craig, my swing coach, in the fall of 2007, when the Tour was in Syracuse, N.Y. Prior to that, I didn't quite know the right way to get better. He taught me what I should be working on and I worked really hard over the winter. I got an exemption into the 2008 CN Canadian Women's Open, which was my first LPGA tournament, and I made the cut. Then I won my first tournament late in the 2008 season in Gettysburg, Pa. When I won, I thought, 'I can do this. Maybe this will carry on.' I was really excited to call my parents [in British Columbia] and tell them I had won, but it was dark by the time I got to call them. My caddie and I had champagne with the chef.
DFT: You went to the LPGA's Final Qualifying Tournament that fall, but just missed getting your full card, which meant you came back to the Duramed FUTURES Tour in 2009.
Richdale: Yeah, I tied for 25th at Q-School and missed getting my full status. I missed the playoff for the last cards by one stroke and full status by two strokes. I came into the 2009 season with LPGA status and played in Monday qualifying tournaments three times, but it didn't work out. I was back and forth between the LPGA and Duramed FUTURES Tour at first and then I told myself that I had to commit to one or the other. When I won the third tournament this year, I made the decision to stay on the Duramed FUTURES Tour and try to get one of the top-five LPGA cards for full 2010 status.
DFT: And then you won again this year, late in the season, taking your third career title at the Duramed FUTURES Tour's second-to-last tournament in Harrisburg, Pa.
Richdale: Well, when I won the second time earlier this year, it showed me that the first win wasn't a fluke. I wanted one of those top cards. Last year, I stayed and watched the award ceremony for the 2009 LPGA card winners. I made up my mind that I definitely wanted to be on that stage in Albany this year as a top-five finisher. To get into the top five on this tour means you had to play well all year. The competition here is so good, it's hard to make a lot of mistakes if you want one of those top cards.
DFT: But you did it. You finished fourth and will be moving on to the LPGA Tour in 2010. You totally took advantage of this tour as the LPGA's developmental tour.
Richdale: I made a lot of progress, for sure. I'm happy to see that I've improved a decent amount each year. I finally feel like I'm at the point where I deserve to be on the LPGA Tour. So many girls try, but not everybody can make it.
DFT: One of the first LPGA exemptions you received this year was at the LPGA's Safeway Classic. How did that happen?
Richdale: I worked part-time at a Safeway grocery store as a cashier and in the produce department during summers throughout high school and college, and my mom [Kathy Richdale] has been a 25-year Safeway employee. Now, she works in the bakery department. I think the sponsors liked my personal connection with Safeway.
DFT: Your mom is Japanese, but you grew up in Canada, right?
Richdale: Yes, but both of my parents were born in Canada. My dad [Glen Richdale] was a city bus driver in Vancouver for a while and my mom used to take the bus, so that's where they met. My dad is now a retired Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officer. I think you call them "Mounties" here in the States, but he didn't really ride a horse. My brother Josh does. He's a RCMP now in Ottawa and he does what is called "the musical ride." They wear traditional outfits and perform equestrian routines at functions across Canada.
DFT: Moving on to the LPGA must feel really good. Looking back, what are your final thoughts about your last season on the developmental tour?
Richdale: I've learned so much. My caddie Paul helped me understand my tendencies when I'm under pressure or feel nervous, and he helped me learn what I can control on the golf course. Having a sponsor also takes a lot of pressure off. It's hard to ask your parents to pay for everything to make your dream come true. I never wanted them to feel like they had invested so much time and money for nothing. Really, so many good things have happened. It's almost like a storybook. I still feel like I have a long way to go and a lot of work to do. I can also improve a lot. I guess I'm slow, but sure.