When the dust settled on the Hills Course at LPGA International in the final round of the final stage of LPGA Qualifying School, 20 women earned their 2018 LPGA card and 29 more were awarded conditional status.
At 12-under par overall, it was Nasa Hataoka (Ibaraki, Japan) who captured medalist honors.
“I’m really happy to be at the top of the leaderboard and winning the tournament,” said Hataoka. “It’s really hard to be a professional golfer. LPGA is one of the best leagues, so I’m going to try to prepare as soon as possible.”
Just behind Hataoka was Tiffany Chan (Gong Kong, Hong Kong) at 11-under par overall. She becomes the first player from Hong Kong to qualify for the LPGA.
“I played on Symetra for three months, so that kind of built up the momentum for me coming here,” said Chan, who went 3-under today. “I came in with a really positive mindset, and I have all my friends here since I used to live here, and everything ended up good.”
Continuing down the leaderboard, Paula Reto (Bloemfontein, South Africa) and Rebecca Artis (Coonabarabran, Australia) each carded a 1-under (71) today to finish the tournament 9-under and 8-under par overall, respectively.
“I’ve always believed I was good enough to play on the LPGA,” said Artis, who captured a LPGA card at her fifth qualifying tournament. “Its taken me longer than I probably would’ve wished, but it doesn’t matter now. I grew up in a small country town in Australia, about six hours west of Sydney, so to achieve what I have coming from a place like that is pretty good effort.”
Meanwhile, to determine the last card it took a three-hole aggregate stroke-play playoff. Daniela Darquea (Quito, Ecuador), Mind Muangkhumsakul (Khonkean, Thailand) and amateur Maria Torres (San Juan, Puerto Rico) headed to No. 9 with one goal in mind. The deciding factor was a birdie by Torres on No. 10, the second playoff hole, to become the first Puerto Rican to make it to the LPGA.
“It’s just a dream come true. I am in shock, that’s all I can say,” said Torres, who called her mom on the 18th green after securing her card. “I started like, ‘Hey, mom,’ really like down, trying to do it movie style. Then I told her I won the playoff. She started laughing, crying, just all those emotions.”
The other amateur turning professional is University of Southern California junior Robynn Ree (Redondo Beach, California). She fired a 2-under in the final round to finish in a tie for fifth with Luna Sobron Galmes (Palma De Mallorca, Spain) at 7-under par overall.
“Everything just came together these last few days,” said Ree. “I’m feeling good, but exhausted. I’m really glad it’s over because it’s been a long week, but I’m happy with my results.”
The biggest move on the afternoon came from Kassidy Teare (San Diego, California). The Symetra Tour alumna went crazy on her second nine, draining five straight birdies to end her round at 6-under (66). She catapulted from tied for 34th at 1-over after the third round to tied for 10th at 5-under par overall, earning her LPGA card in dramatic fashion.
“This year has been a lot of learning experience. I owe a lot to the Symetra Tour,” Teare said. “It’s what you dream of. It’s what you visualize when you go to bed. I don’t have any words for it. It’s just a dream come true and as cheesy as that sounds, that’s just exactly how it feels.”
Caroline Inglis (Eugene, Oregon) and Marissa Steen (West Chester, Ohio) joined Teare at 5-under par for the tournament.
Just ahead of them was a group of three at 6-under par overall including Georgia Hall (Wimborne, England), Amelia Lewis (Jacksonville, Florida) and Lauren Coughlin (Charlottesville, Virginia). Hall shot even par in the final round, while Lewis finished 4-under and Coughlin went 3-under.
“I think playing Solheim and doing well at the British Open prepared me mentally for this week,” said Hall, the highest ranked player in the field at No. 41 in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings. “I wouldn’t like to do Tour school more than once. I think once was enough.”
As 20 players earned their card, 29 more captured conditional status. Of the 49 individuals comprising the 2017 Q-School class, 23 will be considered rookies on the LPGA in 2018.
In total, 31 countries were represented at the Final Stage and 12 different nations comprised the top 20.