The road to the LPGA in 2017 officially comes to an end this week at Qualifying School Stage III, as 166 total players will compete for 20 LPGA cards on the Jones and Hills courses of LPGA International.
To determine status for the 2018 LPGA and Symetra Tour seasons, participants will face a grueling 90-hole stroke play format. Each player will be randomly assigned to either the first rotation (Hills-Jones-Hills-Jones) or second rotation (Jones-Hills-Jones-Hills) for rounds one through four.
Pairings will remain the same in rounds one and two, but for rounds three and four, players will be re-paired by score within their respective rotation group. After 72 holes, the field will be cut to the top 70 players and ties. Those making the 72-hole cut will be re-paired for the final round, which will be played on the Hills Course.
Only 20 full-time LPGA cards are up for grabs, so if there is a tie for the 20th position at the conclusion of the tournament, the players tied will compete in a three-hole aggregate stroke-play playoff. If players remain tied following that, they will move to a hole-by-hole playoff. Those who finish in places 21-45, and players tied for 45th, earn conditional LPGA status for 2018.
In total, 31 countries will be represented at the Final Stage. The field also features 73 individuals who held LPGA membership in 2017 including the oldest competitor in the field (Lorie Kane - 52), the No. 41 ranked player in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings in Georgia Hall, 33 players who started at Stage I and eight amateurs.
The qualifying tournament begins on Wednesday, November 29, and ends on Sunday, December 3.
HALL THE HEADLINER
She stole the show as a member of Team Europe at this year’s Solheim Cup in Des Moines, Iowa, and now Georgia Hall (Wimborne, England) looks to do the same at Stage III of LPGA Qualifying School.
At No. 41 in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings, Hall has emerged as one of the blossoming young stars in women’s golf. She was the only player for either side to play all five matches at the Solheim Cup, a feat that turned a lot of heads.
Even with the increased attention, she is staying calm and focused.
“Leading up to Solheim, and after that as well, has been a little bit of pressure. I haven’t really felt it,” said Hall. “Like I say, it’s just another tournament week and I’m not going to put any pressure on myself.”
Since capturing top honors at Stage II of Q-School, Hall spent some time at home and also competed in the Fatima Bint Mubarak Ladies Open on the Ladies European Tour in Abu Dhabi, where she finished second. Following that event, Hall enjoyed a trip to Pebble Beach before making her way to Florida.
With all the travel, it has taken time to acclimate to changing sleep patterns, as well as different climates.
“California was so much colder than here,” Hall said. “I’m adjusted. It took me a while in California, like five to six days. Now I think I’m fine.”
The No. 1 player on the 2017 Order of Merit for the LET, Hall has experience when it comes to an extended competitive tournament. Having that background is certain to help throughout the Final Stage.
“I’ve played tour school for the European Tour and that was five rounds,” said Hall. “Since then I haven’t really done it. I’m just going to take it slowly and be very patient. That’s the key for the week.”
While Hall has the formula and mindset to work her way through five rounds, she isn’t too familiar with the Bermuda grass at LPGA International. For the accomplished 21-year-old, that might be the only learning curve that stands in her way from earning a LPGA card with a top 20 finish.
“I think it’s quite tricky to read, if it’s going to come out fast or not,” Hall said. “If I hit the greens and keep my long game good then it shouldn’t be a problem. I’m just looking to have a consistent week since it’s a long five rounds.”
STRÖM READY TO TURN PRO
Arizona State junior Linnea Ström (Gothenburg, Sweden) is No. 9 in the Women’s World Amateur Golf Rankings and ready to flip her status from amateur to professional.
In an interview on Monday, Ström said she will turn pro following Stage III if she finishes in the top 45.
“That was one of my goals before coming here, that I need to know exactly what I’m going to do if I end up top 20, or top 45,” said Ström. “I didn’t want to feel that I had to think about it when I’m playing. I talked to my coaches in school, but also coaches back home that always support me. We all got together and we know that this is the best option for me.”
Obviously, a top 20 finish gets Ström full LPGA status for 2018, while anywhere in the 21-45 range earns her conditional status. If Ström finishes outside the top 45, however, she said two options remain. The first is to finish her junior year at ASU and join the Symetra Tour following the Sun Devils spring season. The second is to turn pro and play the entirety of the 2018 Symetra Tour schedule.
“It’s really the beginning of the next stage for me,” Ström said. "I’m just excited about being here, having the opportunity and being able to learn from everybody. Honestly, I can’t wait for the next couple of years. No matter what happens it is going to be good.”
Ström has already had an illustrations collegiate career. As a sophomore, she helped guide Arizona State to the program’s eighth Division I women’s golf team title. During that season, Ström had eight top 10 finishes and held a stroke average of 71.79.
Meanwhile, the journey to the Final Stage started at Stage I, when the 21-year-old finished first, six shots ahead of the field at 17-under par. At Stage II, Ström turned in another masterful performance, going 8-under to tie for fifth.
Named a Women’s Golf Coaches Association (WGCA) First-Team All-American her freshman and sophomore year, Stage III will be the toughest test yet for Ström. It will also be the first time she plays LPGA International in a competitive golf setting.
“It’s going to be important to just concentrate on yourself,” said Ström. “What I heard from other people’s experience, they always say to just try to have as much energy everyday and play smart, but also practice smart. Stage II was a long week, but this is one more day of a tournament. In general, I need to be smart and try to save energy for the last day.”
Following Q2, Ström spent a few days in Phoenix with her long-time mentor and coach from Sweden, Ola Lindgren. The two outlined a gameplan for Q3 before Ström made the trip to Daytona Beach.
In addition to the work with Lindgren, she’ll have a friendly face providing further insight this week. Ström’s mother, Helena, will be on the bag for Stage III.
“It’s nice to have someone that I trust,” Ström said. “She knows my game. My dad caddied first stage, and then my mom caddied the second so I want to keep it in the family for this.”
ROHANNA BACK AT SITE OF LAST VICTORY
The last time Rachel Rohanna (Waynesburg, Pennsylvania) played LPGA International, she won the Symetra Tour Championship and took home $30,000.
It was her first win in 2017 on the Symetra Tour and helped her finish No. 11 on the Volvik Race for the Card money list with $60,514, ensuring her spot at Stage III of LPGA Qualifying School.
“I played this course like you should play it all the time. I was very care-free about it, was hitting drivers and going for every pin,” said Rohanna. “I know I’ve played well here. Just having that confidence helps a lot.”
After playing on the LPGA Tour in 2016, Rohanna ended the year at No. 131 on the official money list to regain partial status for 2017. She finished right around the same spot this season (No. 139 officially) to once again secure partial status for 2018.
This time around at the Final Stage, however, she’s hoping for another performance like that at the Symetra Tour Championship in October to leave no doubt.
“I’m here trying to get that full status back,” Rohanna said. “If you’re a good ball striker and you’re hitting it somewhat close to the pin—and I really like these greens—you get a couple putts to drop, the scores can go pretty low. That’s going to be my gameplan this week because I have some status, but I’m going to play for a top five finish.”
As a veteran professional golfer who has competed extensively at LPGA International, Rohanna is also experienced when it comes to how best to approach Stage III of Q-School.
“Being here multiple times in my career, one of the biggest things I’ve learned is just taking the breaks and the rests when I get the chance to,” said Rohanna. “The first year I came here and just tried to grind it out everyday, hitting lots of balls and playing the course as much as possible. With it being a five-day event, rest is going to be something very important for everyone. ”
Format: 90-hole stroke play; cut after 72 holes to low 70 players and ties
Hills Course Yardage: 6566
Jones Course Yardage: 6449
What’s at Stake: Top 20 earn full LPGA status; 21-45 and ties earn conditional LPGA status