LPGA Tour hopefuls have journeyed to Q-School at Plantation Golf and Country Club for the last 23 years. And waiting for them to arrive for those two-plus decades has been PGA professional Keith Struble, who along with his staff, has welcomed some of the game's top women pros making their early swings en route to the LPGA.
"We have worked with the LPGA for so long that this tournament has the feel of a family reunion every year," said Struble, director of golf operation at the club in Venice, Fla. "We can't wait for it to get here."
But while stressed-out pros hoping to advance into the LPGA's Final Qualifying Tournament from the Florida sectional might not feel as eager as Struble for the start of each year's event, Struble, his staff, and crew of 136 volunteers - led by two former Catholic nuns nicknamed "Bunker" and "Divot" - attempt to make players comfortable for the 72-hole grind."When we arrive on site, Keith and his staff run a professional event and they are second to none," said Kathy Lawrence, tournament director of the LPGA qualifying tournaments. "That's so important because it allows me to concentrate on the players and their needs.
" Struble, who will be honored in early December as the PGA Professional of the Year for the North Florida Section of the PGA, has shared his enthusiasm for the annual Q-School not only with those individuals who help run the tournament each year, but also with the club's membership. Even when players are long gone from the fairways of Plantation, members have a lasting memory of those who played their links.
That's because the club's "Members' Lounge" is adorned with poster-size photos of pros who played at Plantation and then went on to attain LPGA success. Photos of such players as Annika Sorenstam, Se Ri Pak, Michelle McGann, Pat Hurst, Kelly Robbins and Karrie Webb are among the 13 players and one LPGA rules official who passed through Plantation over the last 23 years. [Retired LPGA rules official Robert O. Smith is the only non-player whose photo shares a place in the club's Wall of Fame.]
And after 23 years of top players passing through Plantation, Struble also has his share of stories to tell. His favorite dates back to the 1993 Q-school when Annika Sorenstam flew in for the Florida sectional from the Women's British Open. With no practice rounds, the future LPGA Hall of Famer teed it up and carded a 63 on the Panther course in the first round to tie the course record.
"Not only do we love this tournament, but it has been very beneficial for the club," said Struble. "It's a revenue generator at a very slow time of the year for us, but it also adds credibility to the facility. You can't be a bad track if you host Q-School, and this is an opportunity for us to show off our two courses."
Struble also has an annual tradition with players who are among the top 30 and ties to advance into the final stage of LPGA Q-School. Following each Florida sectional Q-school, he holds a reception, gives each player a small gift, and then allows each to place a free long-distance phone call to anywhere in the world.
"They seem to get a kick out of that," said Struble, who has been Plantation's director of golf since 1996.
Nicknamed "Sunshine" by LPGA staff member Lawrence, not only for his sunny disposition, but also because the club professional likes to "guarantee" good weather each tournament week, Struble will begin greeting players at the club again this week for the annual Florida sectional event.
"We're completely ready and the courses are in great shape," he said. "I'm looking forward to the members enjoying themselves, the players having a great time, and the LPGA wanting to come back."
- Article by LPGA Staff Writer Lisa D. Mickey
Topics: Press Release