LPGA and PGA Qualifying: Putting the World Through the Ringer
Again this year, I was happy to see that great players on both men’s and women’s tours are qualifying from a lot of different places. If all your winners during the year are from one continent, something’s wrong with golf. It even applies to age groups. If all your victors are twenty-two, golf becomes “no country for older men.” Fortunately, there are enough enduring stars to disprove that from time to time.
The rise of Thailand as a source of fine golfers has been more than noticeable in recent years, especially in the LPGA. Others have come from Spain, and are doing well. New names hail from all over the globe, and new events are taking shape to visit enormous potential venues in China for the coming years. It’s all good for the worldwide game. I’m a little extra happy to see the Canadians participating significantly – and not without a healthy bit of success, I might add.
The United States may have its Lexi Thompson, but Canada has an answer in nineteen year-old Rebecca Lee-Bentham of Scarborough, Ontario, who surged from behind to tie for the lead in the last round. Her cohort at the top was Thailand’s Moriya Jutanugarn. Lee-Bentham closed with a five under 67, and Jutanugarn’s six-hole lead beginning the day evaporated. The top twenty qualifiers earned full status cards for the tour’s coming season.
Another Canadian, Stephanie Sherlock of Barrie, Ontario, closed with a 74 to secure the 10th spot, well within the safe zone at eight shots back. Japan’ leaders included Ayako Uehara in the third position and Chie Amura not far behind at minus 8. Former Furman and Alabama star Kathleen Ekey sits at minus 10, while Lisa McCloskey, USC’s three-time All-American settled at minus 8.
Two-time winner on the LPGA tour Laura Diaz took a comfortable place at 6th, but fellow two-time winner Christina Kim remained disappointed at 39th, a mystery considering her high profile appearances in past years.
In a similarly exhausting regimen of rounds that simulate two tournaments, the fellows over at the PGA were hard it as well over on PGA West’s Jack Nicklaus course. Aussie Steven Bowditch takes a one-stroke lead into the sixth round at twenty-three under. The top twenty five and ties will receive 2013 PGA cards. After that, the next fifty and ties receive Web.com Tour cards. Brad Fitch of Ottawa holds the 11th spot.
Always of interest, two-time heart transplant recipient Erik Compton appears headed for success at 15th at -17. He is tied with Tom Pernice, the tour’s oldest player at 53. Other players being watched by Canadians include Adam Hadwin of BC (55th), Matt Hill of Ontario at 98th, tied With Roger Slogan of BC. Ryan Yip of Calgary is running 116th with Mitch Evanecz, also of Alberta. at 140th.
Qualifying will probably never be quite the same. Changes are coming that will move aspiring players into a multiple tournament format, but there is no doubt that the same grueling competitiveness will persist as more areas of the world develop their young talent and more veterans retain theirs. The Lexi Thompsons, Rebecca Lee-Benthams and their ferocious counterparts whose names are not yet known are growing up, adding seasoning to their already scary talents. With such a standard coming out of this generation,there is no way that the LPGA will let that bar drop. Similarly, as the men’s field makes more and more noise, even the present greats in their twenty-somethings already have to look over their shoulders – and I don’t think that statement requires any qualification.