Final Stage of LPGA Qualifying Tournament
LPGA International - Jones and Hills Courses
Daytona Beach, Florida
December 6, 2015
Final Round News & Notes
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., December 6, 2015 - Simin Feng (Beijing, China) went wire-to-wire at LPGA Qualifying School to claim medalist honors by an impressive seven shots at 18-under par. Her score is tied for the third lowest since the LPGA went to five rounds for its Final Qualifying Tournament in 2004.
“I’m very excited,” Feng said with a smile. “Last year I had a really bad final day to finish sixth in Q-School but this year I got it done with a win. I’m looking for better things to happen for me.”
Feng wrapped up her stellar tournament with a final round 69 to end her week in Daytona Beach. She has lived in Florida for ten years and said this is where she is most comfortable.
“I won junior golf tournaments and I won in college so winning here is my first professional event win since turning pro,” Feng explained. “It can definitely help me get some momentum going for next year.”
Grace Na (Alameda, Calif.) and Budsabakorn Sukapan (Bangkok, Thailand) finished in a tie for second at 11-under while Cyna Rodriguez (Manila, Philippines) and Maude-Aimee LeBlanc (Sherbrooke, Canada) rounded out the top-5.
Feng has worked with David Leadbetter for last four years and called him a ‘game changer’ post-round.
“I had a tough two years during my junior career where I wasn’t hitting my drive close to the fairway,” said Feng. “He definitely turned it around and he is a great mentor to me.”
20 players earned LPGA Tour membership through Category 12 on the priority list while a total of 29 players earned membership through Category 17.
The final three spots in category 12 were decided in a three-hole aggregate playoff. Jing Yan (+3 on day) and Christine Song (+4 on day) slipped into the playoff while Benyapa Niphatsophon posted a 3-under 69 to get to 4-under, 356 to get into the playoff. The aggregate playoff started on the ninth hole. Song went in a hazard and made a bogey, Niphatsophon missed a par putt after a chip from right of the green and Yan took advantage with a par. On the second hole, Yan drained a 35-footer to grab the upperhand. Both Niphatsophon and Song made par. On the final hole, Song missed right of the green and ran her chip past the hole. Yan drained another long birdie to seal her spot while Niphatsophon lagged her birdie close and tapped in for par. Song missed her par putt right of the hole and Niphatsophon earned the final spot. Song will have category 17 status while Yan and Niphatsophon will have category 12 status.
“It feels good because this is my first year and it just feels so good,” said Niphatsophon, who was doused with water by Budsabakorn Sukapan, who finished T2. “I’m ready to come to the United States and be an LPGA player.”
Niphatsophon was one of four players from Thailand that earned a full card for 2016.
“We stay together whenever we go places, we go together,” said Niphatsophon. “All Thai players really practice a lot. We’ve been working four years for these five days.”
Of the 20 players that earned full cards, five are teenagers including Pannarat Thanapolbooyaras, the youngest player in the field at 17. She will turn 18 on December 29. The other four teenagers that earned cards are Budsabakorn Sukapan (T2, 18), Megan Khang (T6, 18), Jing Yan (T19, 19) and Benyapa Niphatsophon (T19, 18).
WOODS EARNS LPGA CARD AGAIN: Cheyenne Woods (Phoenix, Ariz.) earned her LPGA Tour Card for the second consecutive season thanks to a final round 69.
“It’s such a grind out here every single shot every day,” Woods admitted. “To be done with the week feels great. My season is officially over now and it feels great to have a round like this to finish off the year. I feel great with how I played today and I feel like I gave it my all.”
Woods, who finished T13 for the week, now has another shot at competing on the LPGA Tour after an up-and-down rookie season.
“I wasn’t happy with how I played this year so I love to have the opportunity this next year to improve and get better with every tournament,” Woods said. “I didn’t want to give my card away. I wanted to get that thing back this year so it feels good to have played well this week.”
The Wake Forest grad will begin her offseason with a special trip.
“Tomorrow I leave for my Golf Fore Africa trip with Betsy King,” Woods said. “We’re going to Zambia and she works with World Vision in giving clean water to the villages and the local people there. This past year I raised over $15,000 to fund a well so we’ll go on the trip and help out, go on a safari and hopefully sightsee a little bit. It will be a great experience.”
Following the round, Woods received a congratulatory tweet from her uncle Tiger Woods who tweeted “Congrats to @Cheyenne_Woods for getting her LPGA tour card today.”
18-YEAR-OLD KHANG EARNS CARD: Megan Khang (Rockland, Mass.) turned professional last week in advance of the final stage of LPGA Qualifying School and was able to earn her 2016 LPGA Tour card by finishing T6 at 9-under.
“Great decision on that,” Khang said with a smile following her round. “I’m still letting it sink in. I haven’t really thought about it. I’m still thinking about my back nine but it doesn’t matter I made the top-20 and that was my goal heading into this week so while I’m disappointed I’m excited for next year to start.”
Khang, who was the low amateur at this year’s U.S. Women’s Open, wrapped up her spot in the top-20 with a final round 72.
“Surprisingly I felt pretty at ease with myself,” Khang said. “I knew my game was in a good place. This is what I want to do. I knew every shot mattered out there and I just wanted to make sure everything counted.”
LOPEZ EARNS CARD AND TURNS PRO: Gaby Lopez (Mexico City, Mexico) finished in a tie for 10th to earn her 2016 LPGA Tour Card and chose to turn professional following her final round.
“Right now I have a million emotions in my mind and in my heart,” Lopez said. “This round was a tough one. I didn’t expect it to be that hard but I proved to myself that I was prepared for that moment.”
In turning professional, Lopez will forgo the second half of her senior season at Arkansas.
“Arkansas has been a huge part of my career,” Lopez explained. “I improved so much on the golf course and matured so much on and off the golf course. I’m so blessed to be part of such a great program. I’m just really grateful because they helped me get to this point. Without them I don’t know if I would be here.”
Now that she has her LPGA Tour Card locked up, Lopez can set her sights even higher for 2016.
“I came to Q-School to open myself up to get a chance for Rio (2016 Olympic Games). That’s my ultimate goal,” Lopez said. “The first step was getting the card and then the next one is getting to Rio but it’s so far ahead right now. I just need to take one tournament at a time and do my best every single shot I hit and if it turns out that I go to Rio that’s great.”
RAMSEY EARNS CARD AND IS SURPRISED BY FAMILY: Ashlan Ramsey (Milledgeville, Ga.) had the low round of the day, a 5-under 67, to climb into the top-10 and earn her LPGA Tour card for 2016.
“It’s a whole crazy range of emotions right now,” Ramsey said. “I played really well this week. I worked really hard coming into this week and it was such a grind mentally and physically. I’m exhausted right now but I’m so happy to have come here and accomplished my goal.”
Following her last putt on the 18th, Ramsey was greeted by her parents, boyfriend and the family dog who drove down to surprise her.
“It’s crazy. I don’t even have words for it. I had no idea that they were coming. I’m just thankful that they’re here to share this experience with me.”
Credit also goes to Ramsey’s caddie, Mark, who worked LPGA Qualifying Tournament for Alison Lee in 2014.