Final Stage of LPGA Qualifying Tournament
LPGA International - Jones and Hills Courses
Daytona Beach, Florida
December 2, 2015
First Round News & Notes
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., December 2, 2015 - In her fifth career LPGA Qualifying Tournament, Christine Song (Fullerton, Calif.) posted a 7-under 65, her career best round at Qualifying Tournament, to share the first-round lead with Simin Feng (Beijing, China). Both scores came from the Jones Course. The best score on the Hills Course was posted by Julie Yang (Seoul, South Korea), who is one shot back at 6-under 66.
“The putter was very hot all day,” said Song, who made four birdies on her front nine and three on her back nine. “I missed a couple, but that is just because I’m greedy.”
Song made seven starts on the LPGA Tour in 2015 while recovering from a back injury. She also made 11 starts on the Symetra Tour.
“I definitely want to be back out there (LPGA),” said Song, who has made 45 career starts on the LPGA dating back to 2010. “I can play out there and I can win out there and I really want to get back there ASAP.”
Song, who has finished in the top 10 on the Symetra Tour’s money list three separate times, said that getting off to a fast start is critical.
“It’s really important because it sets the pace and you don’t have to play catch up,” said Song. “You just try to keep going forward.”
Song said that she is feeling better and her ball striking continues to be a work in progress with her instructor Joe Hallett.
“Striking the ball wise, it is not as good as I want it to be,” admitted Song. “The key for my success now is I’m just hitting the ball with no regrets.”
It’s a long tournament, but it’s worth noting that in each of the last two years, 16 of the 20 players that finished in the top 20 carded a 71 or better on day one.
The Hills Course (73.54) scoring average was nearly two strokes high than the Jones Course (71.64) average on day one.
SIMIN LOOKING FOR REPEAT OF 2014 Q-SCHOOL: Simin Feng (Beijing, China) birdied four of her final five holes on the Jones Course to post a 7-under 65 and tie the lead after the first round.
“I hit all of the fairways and only missed two greens so that was the key,” the 20-year-old Feng explained.
Feng made it through Qualifying Tournament last season to earn her LPGA Tour Card with a T6 finish at LPGA International.
“For sure,” Feng said of having confidence from making it through Stage III last season. “Also, the experience on Tour this whole year gives me a lot of confidence coming back here and playing.”
During her rookie year, Feng competed in 19 events with her best finish coming at the JTBC Founders Cup (T59).
“Actually you learn more coming back here to play again,” Feng admitted. “You learn what you improved from last year and what you want to improve more going forward and for me that was putting. That obviously makes golf a lot easier when you putt well.”
Helping Feng try to make it back to the LPGA Tour this week will be her instructor of four years David Leadbetter, who walked 18 with Feng today.
“He’s a great influence to me and gives me a lot of confidence,” Feng said. “From his little tips to just him walking beside me makes me feel very confident.”
AMATEUR LOPEZ OFF TO STRONG START: Gaby Lopez (Mexico City, Mexico), one of two amateurs in the field this week, got off to a strong start with a 4-under, 68, on the Jones Course.
“I think it’s always important to start with a good round just because it gives you a little bit more confidence throughout the week but this is a marathon not a sprint,” Lopez said. “There is a lot of golf ahead and staying in the moment and staying patient is going to be the key for this week.”
While Lopez, a senior at the University of Arkansas, is still an amateur she has quite a bit of experience competing against the best golfers in the world on the LPGA.
“I’ve played nine LPGA events and that’s just shown me that I have the talent and potential to be there so I’m pretty confident that if I ever get there that I’d perform well,” 22-year-old Lopez explained. “The only thing I can control is my preparation and I feel very prepared for this week.”
Helping Lopez with her preparation have been a pair of former No. 1 players in the world – Lorena Ochoa and Stacy Lewis.
“Lorena has always been my role model,” Lopez said. “She’s shown me that the impossible can be possible with her becoming number one in the world. That’s what every athlete dreams of and she did it for a long period of time. Stacy is still up there and fighting every week so it’s something special having those two amazing players. Knowing them pretty close and coming from the same place, Arkansas for Stacy and
Mexico for Lorena, it’s just something special for me.”
NEW PRO MEGAN KHANG CARDS 3-UNDER: Even with a double-bogey on a short tap-in that she scuffed, newly minted professional Megan Khang (Rockland, Mass.) posted a strong 3-under 69 on day one.
“I started out strong, I was 2-under through five holes and then hit a bump in the road, but I recovered,” said 18-year-old Khang, who was in a kidding mood after her round. “I played a perfect round on the back nine.”
Khang made birdies on the fifth and eighth holes heading into the clubhouse on a bogey-free inward nine.
The Rockland, Massachusetts native just turned professional a week ago and admitted to being a little nervous heading to the tee.
“I was definitely nervous since this is final stage and only 20 people get their full LPGA cards,” said Khang. “On the first tee, I was pumped up and had a lot of adrenaline going so I definitely hit some shots farther than I thought I would.”
Khang knows the importance of earning a full card, but says she’s in a ‘win-win’ situation.
“This week is so important because this is what I want to do for a living,” said Khang. “It is a win-win because I could leave as a 2016 LPGA rookie or have conditional status, but no matter what I’ll have status on the Symetra Tour. If I end up on the Symetra Tour, it is a year of experience.”
AFTER NARROW MISS LAST YEAR, YANG DETERMINED: After missing out on category 12 full status last year in a playoff at Qualifying Tournament, Julie Yang (Seoul, South Korea) is more determined than ever to earn her full card this year. She posted a 6-under 66 with just one bogey on the Hills Course, which is considered be the more difficult course.
“This gives me a leg up on the field,” said Yang. “Last year, I started on Hills and shot 1-under so 6-under is big and every little stroke counts at Q-School. When I got on a roll, I made sure to keep going and be aggressive.”
Yang caught momentum after chipping in for birdie left of the green in the rough on the 13th hole, her fourth hole of the day. She reeled off birdies on holes 14, 15 and 16 to get to 5-under after seven holes.
Yang finished T21 at Qualifying Tournament last year and now feels better prepared to tackle this tournament.
“I know what to expect now, it is not my first rodeo anymore,” said Yang, who made 12 starts on the LPGA in 2015. “I think I’ve prepared for this week a little better and I’m not as anxious as I was last year.
The sting of missing full status also has her hungrier.
“Looking back, I know one more shot would have made such a huge difference,” said Yang. “I have to keep my shoulders back and head high and not quit even if I make a few mistakes here and there.”
FORMER JUNIOR SOLHEIM CUP PLAYER RAMSEY IN TOP 20: Ashlan Ramsey (Milledgeville, Ga.) finds herself in the mix after an opening round 70 on the Jones Course.
“I felt like I played pretty well,” Ramsey said. “With a tournament that’s five days it’s all about being consistent, staying focused and not getting too discouraged. There’s a lot of golf left if you play a bad few holes so it’s just about trying to stay positive and I felt like I played solid today so I’ll try to keep that going through the week.”
Ramsey is competing in the Final Stage of Qualifying School for the first time after she failed to advance past Stage I last season.
“It’s definitely been a dream of mine since I started playing golf when I was nine,” Ramsey said of playing on the LPGA. “It’s all part of the process. I’ve learned the past year to stay patient and just give myself opportunities. I know I’m improving constantly and it’ll happen in a matter of time. I just need to stay focused on this week and give myself the best opportunity possible.”
In order to prep for the five day event, Ramsey decided to leave nothing to chance working on her game almost every day since the end of Stage II in October.
“I probably took three days off,” Ramsey said with a smile. “I worked really hard. I figured I’m not going to not make it for lack of preparation so I really prepared hard for this week. I did the work then so I can just relax this week and focus on what I need to do and not stress.”
Ramsey played on the Curtis Cup and the Junior Solheim Cup team before turning professional after one season at Clemson.