DIFFERENT COURSE, SAME LEADER
Heading into the second week of the inaugural LPGA Q-Series presented by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina, Czech Republic player Klara Spilková led the 101-player field by four strokes. On Wednesday, as the event moved to Pinehurst No. 7 for the final four rounds of play, Spilková shot an even-par 72 to remain at 13-under par and now leads the field by two shots with 54 holes remaining.
“I think this course is a little more tight and the greens are a little harder,” said the 23-year-old LET winner. “There are more slopes which makes it more challenging, but it’s a beautiful golf course. Even though it’s getting pretty dark, it’s so nice. It was really nice.”
Spilková, who has held the lead since the completion of the second round, is relishing the position of being chased by the field.
“It’s pretty good,” she said. “I like it and I’m having so much fun on the golf course. I’m pretty happy to play like this, just trying to hit as much fairways and greens as I can.”
Two shots back of Spilková is Alabama senior Lauren Stephenson, who moved up into solo second by shooting a 3-under 69 on Wednesday. Furthermore, one shot behind Stephenson is University of South Carolina alumna Sarah Schmelzel, who carded a 2-under 70 to get to 10-under par overall.
STEPHENSON CLOSING IN
Twenty-one-year-old Lauren Stephenson has her mind set on winning. The 2018 Golfweek Player of the Year set foot on Pinehurst No. 7 on Wednesday with her sights set on closing the gap between her and leader Spilková, who now sits only two strokes ahead.
“Coming into a new course and a new week, you have to have the mindset of starting over,” said Stephenson who carded five birdies against two bogeys on Wednesday afternoon. “That’s what I did today. I didn’t really focus on where I was after last week and trying to put out a good round today. I really like this course and felt really comfortable out there so overall, it was a good day.”
Stephenson knows what is at stake this week with the top-45 finishers earning LPGA status for the 2019 season, but she is trying to keep her focus elsewhere.
“It’s definitely in the back of my mind but here, I’m most focused on winning,” Stephenson said. “That’s all you can do is to focus on and not think about the future, but I have my family here and it would be such a special week.”
New this year for the LPGA Q-Series, an amateur competitor earning LPGA status may defer her acceptance of LPGA membership until July 1 the following year allowing her to finish the college golf season if she wishes.
A PAIR OF ACES ON NO. 16
The afternoon wave on Wednesday at Pinehurst No. 7 produced two hole-in-ones. University of South Carolina alumna Katie Burnett and 2018 LPGA rookie Maddie McCrary both aced hole No. 16 from 153 yards—Burnett with a 7-iron and McCrary an 8-iron.
“Yeah, we saw it go in,” said Burnett, who had three birdies and four bogeys on her card along with the ace for a 1-under-par round. “The wind was coming into it on the right a little bit and I just hit a little knock down 7-iron. I hit it really square, I liked it. I didn’t think it was going to go in. It landed just left of the hole and rolled into the right and then went in.”
Burnett’s fifth round 71 puts her T21 with six other players, including McCrary who tied for the low round of the day with a 4-under 68 to move her up the leaderboard.
“It was pretty cool. I didn’t expect it,” said McCrary who shot a 4-under 68. “I hit it and walked away and didn’t even see it go in and Cheyenne [Knight] was like ‘it went in!’ It gave me a bit of a momentum boost and I just stayed cool the rest of the round to finish it off.“
Klara Spilková (1, -13)
- Spilková, 23, is from Prague, Czech Republic and has played on the LET since 2011
- In 2017, Spilková became the first Czech winner on the LET with a win at the Lalla Meryem Cup
- Spilková represented the Czech Republic at the 2016 Rio Olympics, finishing T48
- She has made 16 career starts on the LPGA Tour with a career-best T50 finish at the 2018 Ricoh Women’s British Open
Lauren Stephenson (2, -11)
- Stephenson, 21, is from Lexington, S.C. and is a senior at Alabama
- Has made two starts on the LPGA, at the 2016 and 2017 U.S. Women’s Open, with a career-best T41 finish in 2017
- Played on the 2018 U.S. Curtis Cup and Palmer Cup Teams
- Named the Golfweek Player of the Year in 2018
- Held the No. 1 ranking in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings at the end of the 2017-18
- Won the Golfstat Cup in 2018 as the nation’s leading scorer with a school-record 69.76 average
Sarah Schmelzel (3, -10)
- Schmelzel, 24, is from Phoenix, Ariz.
- Made cut in 18-of-21 starts on the Epson Tour in 2018; her second season on the Tour
- Had seven top-10 finishes on the Epson Tour in 2018; in her last five events, she had four top-five finishes to finish 13th on the Official Money List
- In 2018, she missed out on finishing inside the top-10 on the Epson Tour’s Money List and earning her LPGA card by just $2,584, but earned a spot in the inaugural LPGA Q-Series
- Schmelzel earned All-America Honorable Mention while at University of South Carolina and was a 2016 Golfweek All-American
- When Schmelzel was in fourth grade she watched Annika Sorenstam’s historic 59 at the 2001 Standard Register PING at her home course, Moon Valley Country Club
Spilková (1, -13) on maintaining her game strategy through week two:
“I think my mental strategy is still the same. I don’t want to put too much pressure on myself, just hit fairways, green and two-putt. That’s all I need actually. That’s it.”
Spilková on Pinehurst No. 7:
“I think this course is a little more tight and the greens are a little harder and slopey. It’s more challenging but it’s a beautiful golf course. Even though it’s getting pretty dark, it’s so nice. It was really nice.”
Lauren Stephenson (2, -11) on pacing herself over eight rounds:
“I think the most important thing here is figuring out how to rest, balancing your rest with your practice. I’ve really been focused on resting and just playing well when I can.”
Sarah Schmelzel (3, -10), on watching the leaderboard:
“I am a leaderboard watcher and that’s the mindset that I’m in—looking at the top rather than looking down. I’m trying to look at that leaderboard every time I see it out on the course and trying to get to that top number.”
Schmelzel on Pinehurst No. 7:
“It was a little bit of a rough start today. Had some trouble on the front nine with the speed of the greens changing. These greens are only a year old compared to the last week being a little more settled in. It was just a little bit of an adjustment on the front nine and then took it into the back nine and found my stride and made a few birdies on the back. Looking forward to taking that momentum into tomorrow.”
Katie Burnett (T21, +3) on her hole-in-one:
“Yeah we saw it go in. The wind was coming into it on the right a little bit and I just hit a little knock down 7-iron. I hit it really square, I liked it. I didn’t think it was going to go in. It landed just left of the hole and rolled into the right and then went in.”
Burnett on Pinehurst No. 7:
“I think the greens are a little bit firmer. Luckily, I don’t think they’re as fast because they’re a little bit undulated—not in the sense of tiers, but if you’re pin high you’ve got to have a decently breaking putt. You’re going to want to stay below the holes here. Then there’s obviously a lot of elevated greens but other than that, it’s in good shape. It’s a great course.”
- Six of the 11 amateurs—Maria Fassi (Arkansas), Kristen Gillman (Alabama), Jennifer Kupcho (Wake Forest), Jaclyn Lee (Ohio State), Lauren Stephenson (Alabama), Suzuka Yamaguchi (Japan)—are inside the top-45 and ties mark of 7-over par following the fifth round.
- Of the players inside the top-45 and ties, 21 would be 2019 LPGA Tour rookies.
- 13 different countries are represented by players inside the top-20.
- Three players recorded a 4-under par 68 in the fifth round including Becca Huffer, (T14 at 1-over par), Maddie McCrary (T21 at 3-over par) and Alana Uriell (T33 at 5-over par).
- Katie Burnett and Maddie McCrary both aced hole No. 16 from 153 yards with a 7-iron and 8-iron, respectively.