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Taking notes: Pros and cons of Q-School

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Arizona State head coach Melissa Luellen supports star player’s Anna Nordqvist attempt to qualify for the LPGA.

However, that doesn’t mean Luellen is completely onboard with the decision.

Nordqvist (pictured, left), a junior, breezed through LPGA Q-School sectional qualifying Sept. 19, finishing second. Should she earn one of 20 cards up for grabs at the final qualifying stage Dec. 3-7, she plans to turn professional and end her college career before the top-ranked Sun Devils have a chance to make a run for the NCAA championship in the spring.

“The timing completely stinks,” Luellen said. “I would be more of a fan if she would wait. I’m not a huge fan of this, but I am a fan of Anna Nordqvist. I fully expect her to get her card, and we’re preparing not to have Anna in the spring. If we have her in the spring, it will be a bonus for us.”

Nordqvist, No. 3 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, isn’t the only high-profile player recently to have signed up for LPGA Q-School. Oklahoma State sophomore Jaclyn Sweeney (pictured, right), who last year won the Big 12 Championship and was named a Golfweek All-American, is registered for a sectional qualifying event Sept. 30-Oct. 3 in Venice, Fla. She says she will turn professional should she advance through final stage.

Florida State senior Caroline Westrup (pictured, center) also was signed up to play in the same sectional as Sweeney but was not aware that players must turn professional immediately following final stage should they earn their card. FSU coach Debbie Dillman also was not aware of the rule.

According to the LPGA, the application that players must complete when registering for Q-School states, “An individual can retain her amateur status throughout the entire qualifying process. In the event the individual obtains membership status on the LPGA Tour for 2009, the amateur status is forfeited and the individual becomes an LPGA Tour member, subject to the provisions of Article IX, Section 2 of the LPGA Constitution and By-Laws.”

When Westrup and Dillman became aware of the rule Sept. 22, Westrup decided to withdraw from the event and wrote a letter to the LPGA asking for a refund of her $4,000 application fee. An LPGA spokesperson said that if the tour receives the letter by Sept. 28, a full refund will be given.

“My philosophy the whole time has been to finish school and get a degree,” said Westrup, the top-ranked player in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings who won the Cougar Classic Sept. 16 at Yeaman’s Hall Golf Club. “I have so much love and loyalty to this university. I feel like I would let the university down by quitting in the middle of the season.”

Sweeney, who failed to get her tour card last year, decided to enter Q-School again during the summer and called Oklahoma State coach Laura Matthews soon after asking for support. Matthews said she and the rest of the team wish Sweeney the best, but the decision for players to potentially leave their teams in the middle of the season places coaches in tough positions.

“I just don’t think that 18-, 19-, 20-year-old girls or guys really, truly understand what they’re doing by going to Q-School,” Matthews said. “It seems like a good situation for them if they make it through, but they leave their team. We’ve given them a scholarship or a place on the team, and they leave (us) high and dry.

“I don’t want to keep people from pursuing their dreams. I just hope their dreams come after college.”

Sweeney said she doesn’t completely feel ready for life as a professional golfer, but she wants to test her skills at Q-School. (Luellen would not make Nordqvist available for comment.)

“I told the program that if there are any problems with this, they need to be up front with me,” Sweeney said. “They’ve been fully supportive.’

Last year, Florida senior Sandra Gal closed with a final-round 69 to earn her LPGA card by a shot at final stage. She left the Gators to turn pro, has played 18 LPGA events this year and is No. 71 on the money list, with nearly $150,000. A similar situation arose in men’s golf last year when UNLV’s Seung-su Han became the first amateur to advance to the PGA Tour’s Q-School finals, where he earned conditional status on the Nationwide Tour. However, unlike the LPGA’s policy, the PGA Tour allows players 10 days to decide whether to turn pro or remain an amateur and return to school. Han chose to stay at UNLV.

The Duramed Futures Tour, the LPGA’s developmental circuit, hosts its Q-School Nov. 4-7 and allows amateurs to earn their Futures card without turning professional.

Luellen said that should Nordqvist fail to earn her card in December, she expects her to try again next year, which puts the Sun Devils back in the same bind. That’s why she has proposed a “One-time Q-School Rule” to her university, which allows players only one chance to enter Q-School. No new policy has been made yet.

“I can deal with it one time,” Luellen said. “But it’s that second time that I would question loyalty.”

Commitment to her team is exactly why Westrup says Q-School can wait. The three-time all-American has her sights set on winning Player of the Year honors, and plans to turn professional immediately following the NCAA Championship in May.

“I’ve know Anna for a long time,” Westrup said. “I talked to her the other day and she feels she’s ready to turn professional. But I just want to take it a little slower. It’s live-changing if I were to turn professional right away. As my dad said, ‘The LPGA is always going to be there.’ I can finish up school and go there next year.”

Five questions with . . .

Mina Harigae

Duke freshman Mina Harigae, No. 33 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings.

1) You played a lot of golf this summer, but what was your best non-golf highlight?

“I took a road trip to San Francisco with some friends. I drove up, and it was just the three of us. It was basically an eating trip. We did a lot of shopping for school, but we basically just ate a lot that week.”

2) What’s it like being a freshman at Duke?

“I was nervous at first. But everyone else is lost, too, I guess. During orientation I had the stomach flu. I didn’t know how my new roommate would be, but I ended up loving her.”

3) What’s the toughest class you’re taking this semester?

“Art history. I thought it was just naming paintings and just saying a little bit about it, but, no, you actually have to apply history.”

4) You hear a lot about Duke and its reputation for outstanding academics and athletics. Has anything surprised you in the few weeks you’ve been there?

“The people are a lot smarter than I thought. I feel kind of out of place in some of my classes. They’re all, like, valedictorians of their schools. It’s a little intimidating.”

5) How has the transition to college golf affected your game?

“Because we play so much here, I’m starting to find my game again. The whole team works really hard. Back home, I was always practicing by myself, so I never had that drive to practice. But here, everyone works really hard. It makes me not want to leave early. Having Amanda (Blumenherst) on the team, I have a goal of something to live up to.”

(Note: Harigae recently injured her wrist and is not in the field at the Mason Rudolph.)

A look ahead

What: Mason Rudolph Women’s Championship, Sept. 26-28, Vanderbilt Legends Club, Franklin, Tenn.

Why it’s important: Perennial powerhouses Duke, USC, UCLA and Arizona State headline a strong field. The Bruins won last year’s event by 14 shots in setting a 54-hole scoring record, and Duke’s Amanda Blumenherst won the individual title by four shots over Anna Nordqvist of Arizona State. Upon completion of this event, we’ll get a good idea of which teams came out of the summer in top form.

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