RANCHO MIRAGE, California, August 25, 2017 - Janie Jackson (Huntsville, Alabama) carded the lowest round in over a decade at LPGA Qualifying School Stage I on Friday to vault into a share of the 36-hole lead at 9-under, 135. She turned in a bogey-free 8-under, 64 on the Palmer Course. It’s the lowest round at Stage I since 2004 when Wendy Martin fired a 64 in the second round. Jackson shares the lead with Rino Kotake (Nishibaru Higashi Ku, Japan), who posted a 69 on Friday. Elise Bradley (Mandeville, Louisiana), a 2016 LSU graduate, and Morgane Metraux (Lausanne, Switzerland), a rising senior at Florida State, share third at 8-under, 136
Through 36 holes thus far, Jackson has made nine birdies and no bogeys. She will play the Dinah Shore Course on Saturday.
There will be a cut to the low 125 and ties after the third round on Saturday. The low 90 and ties after the final-round on Sunday will advance to Stage II, which will be Oct. 18-22 in Venice, Florida.
“I just gave myself a lot of chances and I didn’t miss any greens and my ball striking was great,” said Jackson, who is a rookie on the Symetra Tour. “I didn’t get myself in trouble. I had a shot into every green and I didn’t think the putts were breaking much. This is crazy to say, but I left some out there.”
Jackson, 23, has had an admittedly tough first year on the Symetra Tour. She ranks No. 157 on the money list with just three cuts made in 13 starts. She narrowly missed avoiding Stage I, but fell below the cut by a shot at the PHC Classic in Milwaukee and was forced to come back to Mission Hills for a second year.
“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t bummed out when I had to come back out here,” said an always honest Jackson. “I know I was right on the line going into Milwaukee, but the cut moved down. I took a couple days off after Milwaukee. I told my mom ‘it is what it is and there are worst places I have to go than California’.”
Jackson also consulted her roommate Emma Talley, who won the 2015 NCAA national championship at Alabama. Jackson recently moved in with Talley in Birmingham.
“Emma told me that I’ve got this and that I’m a great player,” explained Jackson. “She told me to have a peaceful mindset and to believe in myself.”
In addition to the encouragement from Talley, Jackson hit the range between the last Symetra Tour event and Qualifying School to work on her game, especially her driver. She spent time with her longtime coach of nearly 10 years, Mark Blackburn, who also coaches Kevin Chappell of the PGA TOUR.
“I told my caddy before this week that if I hit the fairways, I’m going to be good,” said Jackson, who is working with Landon Burks this week, who played college golf at Oregon and caddied for Jackson in Stage I and II last year. “We clicked well last year and we are working well again this year.”
Jackson played at Alabama from 2013-2016. She began her college career at Arizona. She was a three-time Alabama high school state champion at Huntsville High School.
LOUISE OLSSON PICKED UP FULL-TIME JOB TO FUND Q-SCHOOLLouise Olsson (Uddeholm, Sweden) has never been one to rely on others. The Swede went to college in the United States at the College of Charleston and after she graduated in 2016, she was at a roadblock. She didn’t have enough money to afford Qualifying School last year and didn’t believe that her college career warranted people sponsoring her.
So, she got a full-time job at Kiawah Island Golf Resort as an Assistant Professional. While she is not a certified PGA professional and therefore doesn’t give lessons, she does everything else on the operations front. She started as a part-time employee in 2016 and began her full-time gig in February of this year.
“I didn’t really have the funding to play,” admitted Olsson, who carded a 6-under, 66 on the Gary Player Course on Friday. “I have a lot of people that are very supportive of me. But, I felt I hadn’t really proved myself. I felt better to sponsor myself for now.”
Working at Kiawah Island has its perks. She is surrounded by golf daily and is encouraged to work on her game.
“Working as an assistant pro has been so valuable to me,” said Olsson, who is one of six or seven assistant pros at Kiawah. “They want you to play and practice as long as the operation is covered.”
Olsson fired a 72 on the Dinah Shore Course on Thursday and now is in a tie for seventh after 36 holes.
“I felt really confident, which is something I’ve been struggling with,” admitted Olsson. “I have found peace of mind.”
It helps to have her college teammate, Mary Chandler Bryan on the bag. The last name might sound familiar. She is the sister of the trick-shot specialists the Bryan Brothers - Wesley and George. They don’t do many videos anymore because Wesley is now playing full-time on the PGA TOUR.
You might see Mary Chandler at Qualifying School as a participant next year.
“She was actually supposed to go to Q-School, but decided not to. She is also preparing for next year while caddying for me. She is definitely good enough to do it.”
ANDREA WONG LEARNED FROM FAILED EXPERIENCE IN 2016Andrea Wong (San Francisco, Calif.), who carded a 4-under, 68 on Friday to move into the top 30, failed to advance out of Stage I last year. After the disappointment, she headed to Morocco to compete in Ladies European Tour Q-School and earned her full LET card. She has played in three LET events this year.
“Honestly, it was actually a really good thing (to fail to advance in 2016),” said the 22-year-old Wong. “I used the experience for a lot of good. It made me realize that I had a lot to work on. I couldn’t just coast along. Playing in Europe also made me learn to adapt. It’s so great to travel and play golf.”
The refreshingly optimistic mindset has landed Wong back at Stage I in great position to advance. She also has consulted former Symetra Tour player and current LPGA player Demi Runas. They both went to UC-Davis. Runas was a senior when Wong arrived as a freshman.
“She has been a big sister to me,” said Wong. “I’ve talked to her a lot about everything from golf to sponsorship to being a professional.”
Wong said her ball striking was the big difference between rounds one and two.
“Yesterday, my ball striking wasn’t great so I really saved myself,” said Wong, who was 1-over after day one. “I made some clutch putts. I had to grind for a 1-over. Today, it was bogey-free, I played simple golf. I gave myself a lot of good looks. I made a couple 25-footers for birdie. Overall, I was striking the ball well.”
Wong is a big sports fan. She went to a San Francisco Giants game last Saturday and goes to about ten a year at AT&T Park. Her favorite player is Buster Posey. Not surprisingly, she is also a big Warriors fan although she has never been a game. Her favorite player is Stephen Curry.
UCF STAR NEAR TOPAshley Holder (Orlando, Florida) carded a 5-under, 67 on the Palmer Course to move up to a tie for seventh through 36. Holder capped her senior year at the University of Central Florida by winning the American Athletic Conference individual championship. She also picked up her third AAC Women’s Golfer of the Year award in four years.
Holder made six birdies on Friday to position herself perfectly to advance over the weekend.
“I definitely played a lot better today,” said Holder, who posted a 1-under, 71 on the Dinah Shore Course Thursday. “I made more putts. I made a few 15-20 footers today. This week so far, my putting has been the difference. I had it going from the beginning.”
Since graduating from UCF, Holder has played in a few Suncoast events and recently played in the Florida Women’s Open to prepare for her first Qualifying School.
“It has always been my goal to play on Tour,” said Holder, who thought about playing Q-School last year. “I always wanted to graduate college before turning pro. Now since I’m done with school, I need to work harder at what I am doing. I need to put in 1000 percent more to get good enough to get onto the LPGA.”
This week, she has her mom, Renee, with her California as her caddy.
“I like having someone that I can talk about other stuff with,” said Holder, who was a communications major at UCF. “It helps to get the stress off of me. My mom is really good at that. We can have fun, but at the same time focus on the task at hand.”
Holder got a taste of professional golf while in college. She was a sponsor’s exemption into the 2015 IOA Golf Classic on the Symetra Tour and finished T20.