Final Stage of LPGA Qualifying Tournament
LPGA International - Jones and Hills Courses
Daytona Beach, Florida
December 3, 2015
Second Round News & Notes
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., December 3, 2015 - Simin Feng (Beijing, China) and Julie Yang (Seoul, South Korea) share the lead at Final Stage of the LPGA Qualifying Tournament at 9-under, 135, after two days. Feng carded a 3-under, 69, on the Hills Course while Yang posted a 2-under, 70, on the Jones Course. Christine Song (Fullerton, Calif.), who shared the lead after day one, posted a 1-under, 71, and is one shot back.
Cydney Clanton (Concord, N.C.) is in solo fourth at 7-under, 137, after a 2-under, 70, on Thursday. Two of the best rounds belong to the players tied for fifth, Maude-Aimee Leblanc (Sherbrooke, Canada) and Sherman Santiwiwatthanaphong (Buengkan, Thailand). Leblanc had the low round of 5-under, 67, on the Hills Course while Santiwiwatthanaphong posted a 4-under, 68, on the Jones Course.
“It’s a marathon, not a sprint but I’m happy with how I’ve played so far,” said Yang, who finished T21 at Qualifying Tournament last year. “My only bogey of the day came on the last hole so it was a good day.”
Yang has only made two bogeys through 36 holes. She is the only player in the field with consecutive scores in the 60’s.
“I have the experience from last year and I know what to expect,” said Yang. “Last year was a tough year with conditional status and I feel like my game is ready to go back to the LPGA.”
Feng also has experience at Q-School. The 20-year-old, who played just one year at Vanderbilt, finished in a tie for sixth at Final Stage of Qualifying Tournament in 2014.
Of the current top 11, six are 22-years-old or younger and two are 18.
The top 20 players come Sunday will earn LPGA membership in category 12. Currently, there are 16 players tied for 18th at 2-under 142.
WOODS MOVES UP INTO TOP 10: Cheyenne Woods (Phoenix, Ariz.) shot a second round 69 on the Hills Course to move into the top-10 at T9.
“I’ve been giving myself a lot of opportunities for birdies and I’ve converted a lot of them,” Woods said. “I had six today which was nice. Overall, it comes down to ball striking and I’ve been keeping it in play and giving myself a lot of chances on the greens.”
Woods will be looking to repeat her strong performance from last year where she finished T11 and earned her LPGA Tour Card for 2015.
“It’s nice to know that I’ve played well here before,” Woods explained. “I’ve played this course a lot whether it was on Symetra Tour or Q-School. It’s nice to know that I have that history here and also mentally to know that I’ve done it before it’s nice to be able to fall back on that and take that confidence into this year.”
While Woods didn’t have the rookie season that she would have envisioned on the LPGA she still took several positives from the year which was highlighted by a top-25 finish at the JTBC Founders Cup and a course-record 63 and first round lead at the Manulife LPGA Classic.
“I think the biggest thing is that I am good enough,” Woods said. “Knowing that your game is good enough helps a lot. I think throughout the rookie year it’s a huge adjustment with the courses and playing with the different girls to get comfortable and just go out and play your game I think is the biggest thing.”
The 25-year-old is looking to put together three more solid days to earn another shot at the LPGA.
“The key for the last three rounds is to continue to stay patient and stick to my game plan,” Woods said. “You can’t get too greedy out here or put too much pressure on yourself so I just need to keep it in the fairway and hit some greens.”
CANADA’S LEBLANC HAS ROUND OF DAY: Maude-Aimee LeBlanc (Sherbrooke, Canada) tallied the low round of the day, a 5-under 67 on the Jones Course, to move from T35 into the top-5 at the Final Stage of LPGA Qualifying School.
“Everything seemed to be working today,” LeBlanc said. “I didn’t make any putts on the front nine but I made five birdies on the back and no bogeys so it was just a solid round.”
What made the round especially gratifying for LeBlanc is that it came on a course where she has had some issues in the past.
“I’m not comfortable at all on this course,” LeBlanc admitted. “All of my demons are on this course so today I was glad that I was able to chase them away.”
Should LeBlanc maintain her solid pace she will play the Hills Course two more times this week, including Sunday with an LPGA Tour Card on the line.
“I played really good today and it definitely gives me confidence for the next two out here.”
THAI PLAYERS DOING WELL AT FINAL STAGE: Prima Thammaraks (Bangkok, Thailand) is only 23-years-old, but she joking feels old when stacked up against her fellow Thailand players at Qualifying Tournament. Five of the 10 total players from Thailand are 20 or younger including Pannarat Thanapolboonyaras, who is just 17.
Thammaraks, who played college golf at Iowa State, is one of four Thai players in the top 20 through two days.
“The golf association in Thailand is growing a lot,” said Thammaraks, who is in her second Qualifying Tournament and first Final Stage. “I think a lot of players are starting to graduate from the United States and then go back to play the Tour at home (Thai LPGA) and I think that has a lot to do with it. We also have players like Pannarat (Thanapolboonyaras) who have been competing in Asia and play on the national team so we have players going both routes and that really makes us better.”
Like many of the young Thai players, Thammaraks grew up watching Aree Song, who won the U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship in 1999 as a 13-year-old. Benyapa Niphatsophon, who is T7, is now working with Song.
“She opened an academy in Thailand called 54 degrees and she is teaching me now,” said the 18-year-old Niphatsophon. “She tells me to just play it shot by shot here.”
Song won Final LPGA Qualifying in 2010, beating Jessica Korda by two shots.
Thammaraks also remembers watching Virada Nirapathpongporn, the first Thai player on the LPGA.
“She played at Duke, went home, turned professional and played over here in the United States and that’s how I saw my career path,” said Thammaraks. “She is now a coach for the national team and those players are so young and exciting. Because of her, the golf environment is growing.”
Thammaraks graduated from Iowa State in 2014 and went back home to play on the Thai LPGA and in Taiwan for a year.
“I’m just trying to enjoy this whole experience,” said Thammaraks. “Last year, I missed at Stage II and that was a heartbreaker so being here is awesome. The LPGA has been my dream since I started playing when I was eight. I’ve also been coming to the states since I was young to play in AJGA events.”
SOLO 2ND AT STAGE II AND NOW T7 AT FINAL: Grace Na (Alameda, Calif.) finished solo second at the Second Stage of LPGA Qualifying in late October in Venice, Fla., and decided that it was best for her to stay with friends in the Sunshine State to help her prepare for the final stage of LPGA qualifying school.
“Coming from Cali, I stayed in Florida to stay with the Bermuda grass and time change and I just worked on every part of my game, especially putting,” Na explained. “It was tough to tell my parents that I wasn’t going home before third stage but sacrifices have to be made and I thought it’s what would be best for me.”
The plan seems to be working as Na has picked up right where she left off and currently sits in a tie for seventh at 5-under after the first two rounds.
“I’m just really focused on making some good swings out there and staying present,” Na said. “It’s a long week and just staying patience is the key for me.”
9 YEAR LET VETERAN WANTS CRACK AT LPGA: Anne-Lise Caudal (Saint Jean de Luz, France) is finishing up her ninth year on the Ladies European Tour and felt the time was right to come back for her second LPGA Qualifying Tournament. In windier conditions, Caudal posted a 4-under 68 on the Jones Course to move from T102 to a tie for 18th.
“I’m really happy with how I played, especially in this wind,” said Caudal, who ranks 27th on the LET Order of Merit. “I’m quite used to the wind and I like when you have to think a little more and create some different shots.”
In Caudal’s only crack at Qualifying Tournament in 2012, she made the 72-hole cut, but fell short of obtaining status and finished 65th. The only other time she’s played in the U.S. was when she tried to Monday Qualify for the LOTTE Championship this year.
“Next year will mark my 10th year as a professional and I’ve always wanted to play on the LPGA and I found a sponsor to pay for Q-School; it’s expensive with the flight to America.” said Caudal, who started playing golf when she was 10. “I love Europe, but I want to play against the best in the world and see what I can do.”