LPGA Qualifying Tournament-Stage II Final-round news and notes

LPGA Qualifying Tournament, Stage II
Plantation Golf and Country Club
Panther and Bobcat courses
Venice, Fla.
Final Round News & Notes
Sept. 30, 2011

Ginger Howard Wins LPGA Stage II Qualifying Tournament

VENICE, Fla., Sept. 30, 2011 – Florida teen Ginger Howard made it look easy this week, cruising past a field of 234 players to win Stage II of the LPGA Qualifying Tournament at Plantation Golf and Country Club.

Howard, 17, of Bradenton, Fla., carded a 7-under 65 in today’s final round on the Bobcat course and even punctuated the week with birdies on her last two holes from 12 feet and 15 feet. She finished the week at 16-under 272 to edge amateur Julia Boland (66) of Tamworth, Australia, at 15-under 273.

“It feels great,” said Howard, who carded seven birdies in today’s bogey-free round. “My putting was on and I stuck a lot of shots today.”

Howard and Boland played in the final group together and had their own little head-to-head match in today’s final round. Both players made the nine-hole turn at four under and were steaming ahead of the field.

Boland, who played collegiately at Texas A&M University and recently served as a volunteer assistant women’s golf coach for the team while she worked on her master’s degree in exercise physiology, began to sputter a bit on the back. She bogeyed the 10th hole, saved par from a bunker on No. 11, birdied No. 13 and then drained an eagle-3 on the par-five 16th hole when she striped a 3-wood 222 yards to 10 feet and converted the putt.

But Howard kept her foot on the gas and tacked on three more birdies on the 14th, and then the culminating birdies on the 17th and 18th holes en route to medalist honors.

“She’s as cool as a cucumber and those birdies on the last two holes were impressive,” said Boland, 25, who recorded seven birdies one eagle and three bogeys in today’s final round. “I was slightly embarrassed when she said she was 17.”

Today’s win was Howard’s biggest victory against the strongest field. She won five of seven tournaments this summer on the Orlando-based Sun Coast Series mini-tour, but Howard admitted that stepping up against a field of top college and experienced professionals this week was a “confidence booster” heading into the LPGA’s Final Qualifying Tournament in early December.

“I worked really hard to get to this place and I’m excited to play in the final stage,” said Howard, a home-schooled high school senior who plays out of the IMG Leadbetter Golf Academy in Bradenton, Fla.

Stephanie Na (72) of Adelaide, Australia finished third at 8-under 280. Tied for fourth at 7-under 281 was amateur Nicole Vandermade (66) of Brantford, Canada, Jacqui Concolino (68) of Orlando, Fla., Lizette Salas (71) of Azusa, Calif., and Thidapa (“Jasmine”) Suwannapura (74) of Bangkok, Thailand.

Five players tied for eighth at 5-under 283.

Thirty-two players finished under par and 37 players finished at even-par 288 or better after four rounds in the LPGA’s second stage of qualifying.

This week’s tournament was the second of the three-part annual qualifying tournament held to determine 2012 membership on both the LPGA and LPGA Futures Tour. This year marks the first time the two tours will run joint Q-schools and the first time all of the qualifying events will be staged in the state of Florida.

Plantation Golf and Country Club has hosted a stage of LPGA Qualifying for the last 23 years. After 72 holes, the top 70 and ties from Stage II will advance into the LPGA Final Qualifying Tournament (Stage III). All other players will receive 2012 LPGA Futures Tour status.

The LPGA Final Qualifying Tournament (Stage III) will be contested over 90 holes and will be held Nov. 30 through Dec. 4, on both the Champions and Legends courses at LPGA International in Daytona Beach, Fla. Top finishers in the final stage will earn 2012 LPGA membership (total number of cards TBD) and all others who make the cut will receive membership on the LPGA Futures Tour.

When The Going Gets Tough: Sometimes just fighting for your spot on a top NCAA Division I team makes you tougher. That has been the case with UCLA senior Brianna Do of Lakewood, Calif. Playing in this week’s LPGA Stage II Qualifying Tournament as an amateur, Do (pronounced Doe) said that trying to make the weekly travel team at UCLA against such top Bruin teammates as Tiffany Joh, Ryann O’Toole, Sydnee Michaels, Stephanie Kono and Maria Jose Uribe forced her to raise the level of her game on a regular basis.

“It’s always a mini-tournament before the tournament, but the competition with each other on the team really prepares you,” said Do, 21, who plans to turn pro after graduation next June, or possibly after the U.S. Curtis Cup competition, if she makes the team.

But while Do was disappointed not to make the travel team that won the 2010 NCAA Division I Women’s Golf Championship, she had put in the time and traded the punches with her teammates that made her tough enough to close out her first U.S. Golf Association title at the 2010 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship.

“I guess you could say I was on a mission when I went to the Pub Links last year,” said Do. “After not being able to play on that NCAA Championship team, it felt like I wasn’t good enough. I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to play golf in the future, but when I won one of our national championships on my own, something just clicked.”

Do finished this week tied for 65th and will advance into the LPGA Final Qualifying Tournament. And she admits it will be an interesting dilemma if she were to earn LPGA status for 2012.

“I’m so close to being done with college, but there are so many things that can happen and a lot of things to consider,” added Do. “It will be a difficult decision to turn pro if I have to make it.”

A Taste Of Home Away From Home: Members at Plantation Golf and Country Club have had a close kinship with the LPGA’s Qualifying Tournament for 23 years. And golf fans in the Plantation community are legendary for their hospitality to players passing through their club in Venice, Fla., for years.

So it probably should not have been a surprise that one Norwegian man and his wife looked up two Norwegian players in the field and took special efforts to invite them to dinner on Friday night. The couple contacted the home golf club of player Lene Krog of Lier, Norway, and someone from her home club contacted Krog and asked her contact the local couple. Krog then contacted fellow Norwegian professional Benedikte (“Boo”) Grotvedt of Nesbru, Norway.

And just to confirm the dinner date, the Norwegian resident at Plantation Golf and Country Club met the two Norwegian pros at the course on Thursday afternoon following the third round.

“When I was on the 18th hole, I saw a man riding his bike and then I thought it was odd when that biker came up to me after my round,” said Krog, with a laugh. “But it was Jon, who wanted to meet me and Boo.”

Like other players who have connected with Plantation residents through home countries, home states and even college connections, the two Norwegians said they have enjoyed the new friendships they have made during the stress-filled week of Q-school.

“That Norwegian couple actually moved here to live at this country club because they found out the LPGA qualifier was held here,” said Grotvedt. “They figured it had to be a couple of good golf courses if it hosts this event every year.”

And for the players, a home-cooked dinner and conversation in their native language is a nice way to end a long week.

“It’s so nice when people are interested,” added Krog. “To have dinner with him and his wife will be a little home away from home.”

They Can Swing, Build, Litigate And Fly: Several players in this week’s LPGA Stage II Qualifying Tournament have had careers or could suit up easily in places other than a golf course. Ashley Walton of Menifee, Calif., has a college degree in civil engineering while amateur Christina Proteau of Port Alberni, Canada has served as a criminal prosecutor/Crown Counsel north of the border.

Lisa LaFollette of Mililani, Hawaii, is arguably the highest flier of them all. She flies Boeing 757/767s as a commercial airline captain for Continental Airlines. And while La Follette has played golf since she was age 10, she also began flying glider planes at the same age and eventually had to choose between the two. She went on to fly her first solo flight at age 14, survived a mid-air collision at age 16, and became a commercial airline pilot by age 22.

Weather: Sunny with temperatures in the high-80s with wind between 5-10 mph and moving to 15 mph in the afternoon.

For scores and more information, visit LPGA.com.

Contact: Lisa D. Mickey, (386) 214-9726 and at lisa.mickey@lpga.com .

Topics: News and Notes

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