By Jay A. Coffin
The LPGA Qualifying School finals are Oct. 10-13 at LPGA International in Daytona Beach, Fla., but there is no pressure on Catherine Cartwright.
It’s not that she doesn’t want to succeed. Cartwright, 18, knows her time will come.
“It’s not a big deal,” said Cartwright, who earned an exemption into the finals of LPGA qualifying by finishing in the top 10 on the SBC/Futures Tour money list. “I’ve thought about it, and my dad (Paul Cartwright) and I have talked. If I’m on the Futures Tour next year it’s not going to kill me. It’s only going to make me a better player. It’s not life and death.”
Cartwright, the 2000 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links champion, graduated early from Estero High School in Bonita Springs, Fla., turned professional and jumped directly to the Futures Tour at the beginning of 2001.
After not playing as well as she would have liked in the first few events, she knew she needed to sit down and re-evaluate the status of her game.
“At the start of the season I wanted to get into the top 3,” said Cartwright, knowing that a top-3 finish on the Futures Tour money list would give her an LPGA Tour card for 2002. “Then after the first few tournaments I realized I just need to focus on where I need to be with my game. I knew that if my game fell into place then everything else would, too.”
From there Cartwright became more consistent, had more fun and started to see better results. The highlight of the season came June 17 when Cartwright and Angela Buzminski headed into the final hole of the JWA/Michelob Light Charity Classic in Forsyth, Ill., tied.
Buzminski made birdie and won by a shot, but Cartwright grew from the experience. “We were both playing awesome golf,” she said. “It’s like one of those things you see on TV but yet we were there doing it.”
After the near victory, Cartwright rattled off five consecutive top-8 finishes to steaily move up the money list. Then she once again began to think about her position and where she wanted to be at season’s end.
This time, she was focused on the top 10 and a free pass to the LPGA qualifying finals. She promptly missed her first, and only, cut of the year Aug. 4 at the York (Pa.) Newspapers Classic.
“That’s when I realized I was putting too much emphasis on other things and not having fun anymore,” she said. “I started to think about the money list and where I wanted to be, and I wasn’t having fun. That was the down part of the season, that whole week.”
She finished the year strongly, shooting 70-70-71-71–282 to tie for sixth at the Futures Tour Championship Sept. 30. From there, she headed back to Bonita Springs to prepare for perhaps the biggest event of her young professional career, although she doesn’t look at it that way.
“I’ve learned so much, and I feel like my game is progressing so fast that I wouldn’t change anything,” Cartwright said. “The competition is good no matter which tour you’re on. My goal is to make it out there, but either place I’m going to enhance my game and learn how to play it better.”
Paul Cartwright, whose duty as Catherine’s caddie is “to keep a smile on her face no matter what she shoots,” is in no hurry for his little girl to grow up.
“She’s still 18 and will be through March, so she has plenty of time,” he said. “Look what the Futures Tour did for Beth (Bauer) this year. I don’t know if she would change it if she could.”
Bauer, the leading money winner by a large margin on the Futures Tour this year, passed on her final two years at Duke University to turn professional with aspirations of qualifying for the LPGA Tour in 2001. She was unsuccessful in her attempt but found great success on the Futures circuit.
“Hey, she made $76,000 (actually $81,529) and learned how to win,” said Catherine. “It can’t be that bad.”