Daytona Beach, Florida
December 10, 2010
Korda Goes Low, Smith Clings To Slim Lead At LPGA Final Qualifying
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., Dec. 10, 2010 – Florida teen Jessica Korda made a big-league jump up the leaderboard in today’s third round of the LPGA Final Qualifying Tournament. Playing as an amateur, Korda moved from a tie for 13th into a tie for second at 6-under 210 to trim frontrunner Libby Smith’s lead to one shot at 7-under 209.
The 17-year-old high school player from Bradenton, Fla., carded a 6-under 66 on the Legends Course at LPGA International on a day that featured a bogey-free, six-birdie performance with a five birdies on her back nine.
“That girl is impressive,” said one player after the round.
“It helps when you hit it long and high,” added a professional caddie in the group.
Korda capitalized on her length and solid iron play, missing only three greens in regulation, but the difference in today’s third round from her first two days of even-par golf was her flat stick.
“I’ve been waiting for the birdies to start dropping,” said Korda, runner-up at this year’s U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship and a member of the winning 2010 U.S. Curtis Cup team. “I knew if a couple of putts dropped, it was going to be good.”
Smith, who has held or shared the lead for the last three rounds of Q-school, spent the day wrestling with her tee shots on the Champions Course. She hit only six fairways in regulation today and got a taste of the round she would face when she was forced to save par on her first two holes from eight feet and 12 feet respectively.
The Vermont player carded three birdies, two bogeys and recorded a double-bogey on No. 16, resulting from a tee shot that sailed into the left water hazard. It was a costly swing, but the seventh-year pro knew she had to buckle down and finish out the round without any mistakes.
“It was one hole, and one shot, and I told myself it’s not the end of the world,” said Smith, 30, of Essex Junction, Vt., who is a member of both the LPGA and LPGA Futures Tours. “The biggest thing this week is to stay in it mentally and not worry about what’s ahead or what’s behind. This week is a ton of golf in five days.”
Also making a move today was Aree Song of Seoul, South Korea, who carded a one-under 71 on the Legends Course to improve from fourth into a tie for second with Korda at 6-under 210. Song’s round was highlighted by an eagle-2 on the par-four 10th hole. She hit a 3-wood off the tee, and then laced a 7-iron 145 yards straight into the cup for an eagle.
“I still want to win the tournament and I think you have to approach it like any other tournament,” said Song, 24, who carded one birdie, one eagle and two bogeys in today’s round. “You just have to stay patient. Experience definitely helps when it comes to tournaments like this.”
Jimin Jeong (73) of Seoul, South Korea slipped into fourth place at 5-under 211, while Jin Young Pak (69) moved into a tie for fifth at 4-under 212 with Belen Mozo (72) of Cadiz, Spain.
Pernilla Lindberg (68) of Bollnas, Sweden, Nicole Hage (69) of Coral Springs, Fla., and Reilley Rankin (73) of Hilton Head Island, S.C., are tied for seventh at 3-under 213.
Thirteen players are under par after the third round, with a total of 18 players at even-par 216 or better.
A field of 120 players are in this week’s event, hoping to either earn membership or improve their current member status for the 2011 LPGA Tour. Sectional qualifiers, along with current LPGA Tour members attempting to improve their status for 2011, are in the field. In addition, players finishing Nos. 6-10, and the next top 10 players on the 2010 LPGA Futures Tour money list (who do not already have LPGA status), are also in the field.
The five-round qualifier will cut to the low 70 players and ties after 72 holes. Those players making the cut will compete in Sunday’s final round on the Champions Course.
To follow scores of these and other contestants throughout the week, visit LPGA.com. Daily wrap stories from the Florida sectional will be posted on both LPGA.com and lpgafuturestour.com.
Averyhardt Moves One Step Closer
There have only been three African-Americans to play as members in the 60 years of the LPGA Tour, but rookie professional Shasta Averyhardt of Flint, Mich., is hoping to move one step closer to becoming No. 4. Averyhardt struggled today, dropping from a tie for seventh after two rounds into a tie for 25th at 2-over 218 after the third round of the LPGA Final Qualifying Tournament.
The former nine-time collegiate winner from Jackson State University made her first appearance at LPGA Final Q-school last fall, but missed the 72-hole cut. She played in 10 events on the LPGA Futures Tour this year, posting a season-best tie for 23rd at the 2010 Historic Brownsville Open in Viejo, Texas.
And while Averyhardt’s inclusion on the LPGA Tour would make her the first African-American LPGA member since former UCLA player LaRee Sugg played here in 2001, Averyhardt says she remains committed to her own goals in her own time.
“Those are everyone else’s expectations,” she said. “I have my own expectations and I have my own pressure to play well.”
Former Teen Prodigy Regarding Today’s Teen Stars
Not so long ago, Aree Song and her twin sister Naree Song were the darlings of every LPGA tournament media center. In fact, Aree played in three Kraft Nabisco Championships as an amateur before she finished as runner-up in that LPGA major as a rookie professional in 2004. She also tied for fifth as an amateur in the 2003 U.S. Women’s Open Championship.
So when Song tied for fifth at the LPGA Final Qualifying Tournament in 2003, she received special permission from then-LPGA Commissioner Ty Votaw to play as a 17-year-old pro on the 2004 LPGA Tour.
Interestingly, Song, now 24, will be paired with current rising teen star, Jessica Korda of Florida, in Saturday’s fourth round of LPGA Final Q-school. And just as Song did seven years ago and Morgan Pressel did in 2005, if Korda qualifies for the 2011 LPGA Tour on Sunday, the Florida teen will seek special permission from current LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan to play as a pro next year.
“I was the only one out there that young when I did it,” said Song. “Now, I like seeing the young players. And that’s the way I used to play except that I’m more patient now than I used to be.”
One More Song
Twin sisters Aree and Naree Song have been each other’s greatest supporters for their entire 24 years of life. And today, while Aree was competing in the tournament field to improve her status for the 2011 LPGA Tour, sister Naree, who is now completing her college degree and working as an assistant women’s golf coach at Rollins College in Orlando, Fla., was walking in Aree’s gallery.
“She’s actually our food manager this week,” said Aree, of backpack-toting sister Naree, who was carrying snack foods for the round.
“I missed my sister’s eagle on No. 10 today because I was busy organizing our apples and nuts,” laughed Naree.
LPGA Priority Categories
One common goal shared among players competing in this week’s LPGA Qualifying Tournament is to play well enough to earn a 2011 LPGA Tour card. The top-20 finishers will earn Category 11 status on the priority list. Players finishing Nos. 21-30 will earn Category 16, and Nos. 31-40 will earn Category 19.
All players in LPGA Priority Categories 1-14 are eligible for entry into full-field events (144 players) based on player tournament commitments. Players in categories 15-20 have access to LPGA Monday qualifying tournaments and possible entry into full-field events.
To break that down, Category 15 is comprised of players at Nos. 101-125 on the LPGA’s year-end money list, and category 16 is comprised of players finishing Nos. 21-30 from LPGA Final Q-School. Category 19 is comprised of players finishing Nos. 31-40 from LPGA Final Q-School.
This Week’s Tournament Cut
Unlike a regular LPGA or LPGA Futures Tour event, this week’s tournament cut will be made after 72 holes of play to the top-70 and ties. Most LPGA events cut the field on Friday after 36 holes of play and the LPGA Futures Tour has a cut following 36 holes on Saturday.
Players in this week’s 90-hole event say they are attempting to treat this week’s event as “just another tournament,” however, distinctions like a 72-hole cut serve as a constant reminder that Q-school is unique and arguably one of the most difficult challenges they face as professional golfers.
Topics: Korda, Jessica