Daytona Beach, Fla.
As is often the case, the LPGA Final Qualifying Tournament was as much about those who didn’t earn exempt status for 2003 as it was those who did.
This time, the hard-luck headliner at LPGA International’s Legends Course was Paula Marti, Spain’s 22-year-old breath of fresh air who planned to add a little spice to the LPGA next year with her aggressive go-for-broke attitude.
Marti, a member of Europe’s Solheim Cup team that lost to the United States last month in Minnesota, shot a 6-over-par 78 in the final round Oct. 11 when a 76 would have easily done the job.
“Sorry, I’m leaving,” a tearful Marti said as she shunned the media while walking toward her car.
Marti entered the final round tied for fifth, in prime position to earn one of 23 exempt cards. But the nervous Marti – whose cigarette smoking increased throughout the round – shot a front-nine 40 that included three consecutive bogeys on Nos. 7-9. The back nine was not any easier. Marti went to the par-4, 369-yard 18th hole needing birdie to earn exempt status, but instead she made bogey.
Four of Marti’s Solheim Cup teammates joined her at Q-School, but only Suzann Pettersen and Raquel Carriedo, who both tied for 10th, secured exempt cards. Iben Tinning missed by one and Karine Icher missed by three, but both earned conditional status along with Marti.
Marilyn Lovander, a 47-year-old from St. Petersburg, Fla., won the event by one over Smriti Mehra.
Lovander, who earned $6,000 for the victory, shot a competitive course record 64 in the first round to quickly give herself some breathing room. She finished 69-70-70 to shoot 15-under-par 273, an LPGA Q-School record.
“Q-School is never easy,” said Lovander, who first qualified for the LPGA 10 years ago. “It was a little easier because I was 113 on the money list (to earn nonexempt conditional status), so it wasn’t do or die for me.”
Mehra, who earned exempt status at last year’s Q-School, played with both wrists heavily wrapped because of lingering pain caused by hairline fractures earlier in the year. She injured both wrists in Phoenix, her first event of 2002, and played for three months until the pain became unbearable.
In Daytona, Mehra bogeyed No. 18 to shoot 67 in the final round. A par would have put her level with Lovander. Instead she finished one back at 274 and earned $5,000.
“I don’t come to Q-School thinking that it’s Q-School,” Mehra said. “I come here and play it like a regular event. But I’m proud of myself, and next year looks great.”
Guilia Sergas, an Italian who earned $35,000 in 10 LPGA events this year, finished third at 10-under 278. Also in the top 10 was former University of Georgia standout Angela Jerman, who received a reprieve from LPGA commissioner Ty Votaw after her Q-School entry was lost in the mail.
For the first time since 1994, a playoff was not needed to determine who would receive cards. Mitzi Edge, Young-A Yang and Carrie Summer-hays tied for 21st at 1-under 287.
Angela Buzminski, Kelly Cap, Diane Irvin, Nicole Jeray, Jimin Kang, Jenny Park-Choi, Stacy Prammanasudh and Tinning all missed exempt status by one shot.