Connelly earns medalist honors at LPGA Sectional Qualifying Tournament
VENICE, Fla., Oct. 2, 2009 – Rookie professional Stephanie Connelly, of Maryland, entered this week's LPGA Sectional Qualifying Tournament in Florida seeking redemption from her poor showing in California last month. By the conclusion of today's second sectional tournament, she had earned medalist honors.
Connelly carded rounds of 76-68-70-71 to finish at 3-under-par 285, one stoke better than runner-up Gwladys Nocera, of France, (72-70-68-76) at 2-under-par 286. Today's final round was played on the Bobcat Course at Plantation Golf and Country Club.
“I'm going to Daytona!” said the happy medalist, who graduated from the University of Central Florida in May and played nine tournaments as a professional this summer on the Duramed FUTURES Tour. “I played really consistently once I got through the first day. It was a matter of time for me to make the transition and step up and shoot good numbers.”
Connelly got off to a rocky start when the tournament began on Tuesday. She played her front nine holes of the first round at 5-over-par, but fought back on the back nine, and then played three more rounds for a total of 8-under-par since those nervous opening swings. Connelly made up her mind that her first nine holes would not dictate the outcome of her week. And with professional caddie Philip Crowl on her bag this week, he gave her the yardages and she executed the shots.
Connelly still hit only 13 greens in regulation during Friday's final round, but she scrambled with three birdies and two bogeys to come in at 1-under-par.
“This was a learning experience and a lot of us who just graduated are still learning,” said Connelly, 22, of her first attempt in the LPGA's sectional qualifiers.
Nocera, a more experienced pro with wins in Europe and a leadership role in points for this year's European Solheim Cup team, was not pleased with her final round today. It was a day in which she recorded two bogeys on the front nine, then a double-bogey, one birdie and three-putt bogey on her final hole on the back.
“I have to get it done this year and I'm going to do everything I can to make it happen,” said Nocera, 34, who also advanced into the LPGA's Final Qualifying Tournament in 2006, but failed to get her card. “Today was not my best golf, but at least it was good enough for access into the final [Q-School].”
Nocera's patience was nearly shaken when she got an unlucky bounce on the par-five 13th hole. Her ball struck a cart path, bounced three times and careened into a water hazard. On a day when little was going right, the unlucky 13th hole added insult to injury.
“I've got about two months to play better and to get ready,” said Nocera, who will return to the Ladies European Tour, where she will play the Italian Open in two weeks, then travel to Asia for tournaments in Korea, China and Bali prior to the LPGA's Final Qualifying Tournament in Florida.
Briana Vega, of Massachusetts, finished third at 1-under-par 287 (73-71-72-71), while fellow Duramed FUTURES Tour players Lauren Doughtie, of Virginia, (73-71-73-71) and Tiffany Joh, of California, (69-71-75-73) tied for fourth at even-par 288.
A total of 34 players advanced into the LPGA Final Qualifying Tournament at 8-over-par 296. The 72-hole sectional follows the LPGA's first sectional tournament held earlier in September in Palm Springs, Calif., at Mission Hills Country Club. The top-30 players and ties from each of the sectionals will advance into the LPGA Final Qualifying Tournament, set for Dec. 2-6, 2009, at LPGA International in Daytona Beach, Fla.
Coming into this week, 112 players hoped to be among the top 30 and ties to advance into the LPGA's Final Qualifying Tournament. The tournament was staged on both the Bobcat and Panther courses at Plantation Golf & Country Club, with the final two rounds played only on the Bobcat Course.
Making up the rest of the field in Daytona Beach will be current LPGA Tour members attempting to improve their priority standing and eligible Duramed FUTURES Tour players, who automatically advanced based on their position on the 2009 season-ending money list.
All media interested in covering the upcoming LPGA Final Qualifying Tournament should apply for credentials at www.lpgamediacredentials.com.