The fourth round of the LPGA Qualifying Tournament’s Final Stage at LPGA International was all about the survive and advance mentality, as a total of 71 players made the cut with an overall score of 4-over or better.
Heading into the final round with 20 LPGA Tour cards up for grabs, nine players sit tied at 1-under par and 26 are at that mark or better. In addition, spots 21-45 and ties will earn conditional LPGA status for 2018. Currently, there are 48 individuals at 1-over or better.
With plenty still to decide, everyone is still chasing Nasa Hataoka (Ibaraki, Japan) at 11-under par overall. The 18-year-old went 3-under today on the Hills Course and enters the final day with a three-shot lead.
“I played really well and I feel really good,” said Hataoka, also the 54-hole solo leader. “Just keep focusing on every shot. It’s not just get a card, I try to win a tournament. I just need to focus to reach the goal.”
Along with Hataoka, Rebecca Artis (Coonabarabran, Australia) and Paula Reto (Bloemfontein, South Africa) comprised the rest of today’s final pairing on the Hills Course. Just like Hataoka, Reto fired a 3-under (69). On the other hand, Artis carded a 1-under (71) to stay in close pursuit of medalist honors.
“I think when girls in your group are making birdies, the whole group gets a little momentum,” said Artis, who enters the final round in fourth at 7-under overall. “I’m just looking forward to tomorrow. I’ll go out there and pick my targets, and put confident, aggressive swings at the target. Just play golf.”
At 8-under par for the qualifying tournament, Reto is tied for second with Tiffany Chan (Gong Kong, Hong Kong). They will join Hataoka in the last pairing tomorrow with final round play taking place on the Hills Course.
“When we go back to the Hills (Course) tomorrow, I think I can be more confident and have another decent round,” said Chan, who shot 1-under today on the Jones Course. “I told myself, the Symetra Tour was a really good example for me to learn. I tried to focus on every shot instead of the result that came out, so that’s what I improved on today.”
The best rounds on the afternoon belonged to amateur Robynn Ree (Redondo Beach, California) and Lauren Coughlin (Charlottesville, Virginia). Each shot 6-under (66), only Ree did it on the Jones Course and Coughlin on the Hills Course.
For Ree, she catapulted from tied for 35th place to eighth and is the top amateur performer at 5-under par overall.
“The first two days it was super windy, so it was hard to keep balls on the greens,” Ree said. “The last two days it hasn’t been as windy and I’ve been able to get more control of my balls and make some putts.”
Sitting inside the coveted top 20, Ree said she will continue her education at the University of Southern California if the leaderboard stays pat.
“I only have a year left of school because I’ve been taking summer school, so if I continue to take all of my classes then I’ll finish by next winter,” said Ree.
Meanwhile, Coughlin started Stage III with a 6-over par (78) on the Jones Course, but has come full circle in vying for a LPGA card.
“I told myself there’s a lot of golf left to play. It’s more of a marathon, not a sprint,” said Coughlin, who vaulted from tied for 56th after the third round to tied for 13th heading into Sunday. “I’m not really sure exactly how it happened, but it was a great day. I have my college coach on my bag and my fiancé is here. It’s really cool I get to experience it all with them and then my dad will come over tomorrow too.”
It was another great day for the top ranked player in the field, Georgia Hall (Wimborne, England). At No. 41 in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings, she went 3-under on the Hills Course today and is 11-under par over the last three rounds.
All play will be on the Hills Course for tomorrow’s final round.
Several players jumped up the leaderboard in calm conditions on Saturday at LPGA International to put themselves in prime position for a chance to earn a 2018 LPGA Tour card.
Amateur Robynn Ree (Redondo Beach, California) was chief among the big movers in the fourth round. A junior at the University of Southern California, Ree could be poised to turn professional a little earlier than anticipated after shooting a field-best 6-under (66) on Saturday, rising 27 spots from tied for 35th place to eighth before the final round of Stage III.
The 20-year-old Ree has put together back-to-back rounds in the 60s after beginning the week with two over-par rounds.
“The first two days it was super windy, so it was hard to keep our balls on the greens,” Ree said. “The last two days it hasn’t been as windy, and I’ve been able to get more control of my balls and make some putts.”
Ree is studying real estate development at USC and is determined to continue taking classes and earn her degree by next winter, even if she gets her LPGA card and turns professional.
Other notable movers up the leaderboard on Saturday:
- Lauren Coughlin (66): moved up 43 spots from T56 to T13
- Brittany Marchand (67): moved up 54 spots from T88 to T34
- Ilhee Lee (67): moved up 50 spots from T113 to T63
- Pannarat Thanapoolboonyaras (67): moved up 44 spots from T62 to T18
- Sophia Popov and Madeleine Sheils (68): moved up 39 spots from T73 to T34
- Katherine Perry (68): moved up 39 spots from T88 to T49
- Alison Walshe (68): moved up 17 spots from T26 to T9
- Nasa Hataoka (69): extended her lead to three shots over Paula Reto and Tiffany Chan
WAHOOWA! COUGHLIN MATCHES ROUND OF THE DAY
On moving day of LPGA Qualifying School Stage III, Lauren Coughlin (Charlottesville, Virginia) fired the round of the day, a 6-under par (66) on the Hills Course, to jump from 56th to 13th with one day of play left.
After starting the week on Wednesday with a 6-over par (78), it’s difficult for her to fathom that she is one day away from earning her LPGA card.
“I can’t even really imagine it,” said Coughlin.
The University of Virginia graduate, who was the 2016-17 ACC Player of the Year and the 2016-2017 ACC Individual Champion, missed the cut at the Final Stage of 2016 LPGA Qualifying School and then played a full season on the Symetra Tour.
During the 2017 Symetra Tour season, Coughlin made the cut in seven of her 13 starts and collected a season-best tied for 16th finish at the Danielle Downey Credit Union Classic.
With UVA Head Coach Kim Lewellen on her bag, as well as her fiancé and dad in the gallery this week, Coughlin isn’t feeling too nervous heading into the final round.
“I think I feel really confident with my game plan on the Hills golf course,” Coughlin said after Saturday’s round. “I think I was way more nervous the first day, and now I’m feeling really good with my game and where it’s at. If I can stick with how I’ve been playing I should be good to go tomorrow.”
A trio of amateurs — Robynn Ree (USC), Maria Torres (University of Florida) and Maddie McCrary (Oklahoma State University) — are inside the top 20 with one round to go. Ree is tied for eighth at 5-under par, while Torres and McCrary are tied for ninth at 4-under par.
Linnea Ström (Gothenburg, Sweden), the LPGA Qualifying School Stage I medalist and top ranked amateur in the field, missed the cut in Stage III. The No. 9 ranked player in the Women’s World Amateur Golf Rankings shot 2-under in the fourth round to finish at 5-over par for the tournament.
Three times in the past four years, the fourth round leader has gone on to win the title at the Final Stage: Jaye Marie Green (2013, 2016) and Simin Feng (2015).
For the third straight day, the top seven players on the leaderboard hail from seven different countries: Japan, South Africa, Hong Kong, Australia, England, Israel and the United States.
LPGA Qualifying School Stage II medalist, Georgia Hall, is tied for fifth heading into the final round, five shots off the lead.
13 different countries are resented in the top 20, including 12 Americans.
On Saturday, there were 16 rounds in the 60s, compared to 22 rounds on Friday and just a combined 16 over the first two rounds.
Of the 26 players currently in the top 20, there would be 12 considered LPGA rookies: Tiffany Chan, Rebecca Artis, Georgia Hall, Robynn Ree (a), Maria Torres (a), Luna Sobron Galmes, Maddie McCrary (a), Lauren Coughlin, Nicole Sakamoto, Mind Muangkhumsakul, Leticia Ras-Anderica and Camilla Lennarth.
American players have won medalist honors in three of the last four Qualifying School Final Stage tournaments: Jaye Marie Green in 2013 and 2016, and Alison Lee in 2014.