Cydney Clanton is making her final start of the 2019 season this week at the Taiwan Swinging Skirts LPGA presented by CTBC. Maybe. Her appearance in Chinese Taipei is powered by her life-changing maiden victory on the LPGA Tour at the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational in July. She hopes to be propelled this week into one more start at the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, Fla.
But just short of a year ago, Clanton couldn’t picture returning to the LPGA Tour, let alone returning to the Asia swing or qualifying for the year-end event with its $1.5 million winner’s check. That week, she walked off the green after her final round at the 2018 Blue Bay LPGA and opened her phone to a painful message.
Eight dollars, the message from a friend read. That’s how much more she needed to earn last year to retain her LPGA Tour status. Eight dollars. The cost of a Vente latte at Starbucks. Pocket change.
In the moments after, Clanton turned to a treadmill to burn off her frustration, running for 10 miles. It seemed much longer. Once she stepped off, Clanton landed in a new reality, a limbo. She didn‘t know her future on the LPGA Tour.
“It was a tough offseason. I was trying to figure out, if this is where I’m supposed to be, if I’m supposed to be playing,” Clanton shared with LPGA.com.
Clanton threw out her usual offseason regimen and adopted a new approach. She put the clubs down for five weeks, her longest stretch away from the game since she was 10 years old. She got more involved with her church and read more books. She gravitated toward works on entrepreneurs and the mindsets that made them successful. Clanton’s sports psychologist explained that the thinking it took to create a successful business was similar to a golfer’s approach to the game.
“We talked a lot about how entrepreneurs fail a lot more than they succeed, just like in golf. They have to take all their failures and put them behind them. They don’t talk about the failures, only the successes,” Clanton explained.
She brought that approach to the Symetra Tour where she won her first event at the Murphy USA El Dorado Shootout at the end of April after a much-needed five-month break from competition. Seven starts on the Symetra Tour gave Clanton an opportunity to find a groove. “There’s not a lot of money, but there’s a lot of reward to see yourself in the top five,” she said.
Clanton didn’t make her first LPGA Tour start until the ShopRite LPGA Classic presented by Acer in early June. But she knew that an event that she had been looking forward to since it was announced in 2018, the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational, was coming up in July. The opportunity to be on a team brought her back to her youth when Clanton played on sports teams varying from basketball to swimming. She partnered with Jasmine Suwannapura. They named their duo “Team All In,” which perfectly described Clanton’s mindset for the year. The confidence she gained from the Symetra Tour helped propel her to the winner’s circle for the first time in her LPGA Tour career.
That victory in Midland, Michigan shifted her into yet another reality. Clanton went from limited tour status to eligibility to participate in the two remaining majors of the year. But those majors were the next two weeks. It would have been her eighth and ninth consecutive weeks playing. Having to make a near immediate decision, she chose to pass on the Evian Championship but to play in the AIG Women’s British Open.
“I probably should have taken off the British too,” she said. “I was so tired and so drained. After the win and seventh week in a row, it was difficult to refocus and say there’s a new plan.”
That awareness has Clanton pushing for her next goal of getting into the CME Group Tour Championship. She’s currently in 61st place in the Race to CME Globe, one spot out of the field for Naples. Her lessons from a stressful season have taught her exactly what she needs to focus on to get into that final event. “I’m only focusing on what’s in front of me,” she said. “On Wednesday, I’ll focus on Wednesday.”
Clanton is exactly where she needs to be to accomplish just that.