DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – LPGA commissioner Mike Whan wandered into the media room Wednesday afternoon and gazed up at the giant leaderboard projected on the wall. He casually mentioned to a volunteer that Belen Mozo would be a nice addition to the tour.
The man can spot talent.
It’s hard to imagine a more marketable person in this Q-School field than Mozo (OK, other than Jessica Korda). The 22-year-old Spaniard is as personable as they come, attractive, bubbly and talented. After turning pro this summer, Mozo became the first female golfer to sign with CAA, the agency that represents Greg Norman and Jack Nicklaus. She stands tied for fourth at LPGA Q-School after an opening 4-under 68 Dec. 8 on the more difficult Legends Course. She trails Reilley Rankin, Libby Smith and Aree Song by one stroke.
“I’ve come a long way since the surgery, and I’ve been sitting too long,” said Mozo, who had shoulder surgery in June 2009. The USC senior sat out until February, and finished the spring season with the Trojans. Last night, she sent in a 15-page paper for her International Relations class. She has one more lengthy paper to write before her academic career comes to a close next week.
Mozo, a first-team All-American at USC who won the British Amateur and British Girls’, came to Daytona straight from the first round of Ladies European Tour qualifying.
“It was hell,” said Mozo, speaking of the cold, rainy conditions in Spain. “I was like, ‘Oh, my God, this is nothing for me.’ ”
Mozo flies back to Spain on Sunday night for the final stage. Her parents will make the six-hour drive from their hometown to watch her compete.
Last week Mozo watched her best friend’s Rookie of the Year acceptance speech on Friday and felt warm tears running down her cheeks. Azahara Munoz, a childhood friend and fellow Spaniard who traded titles with Munoz throughout their amateur careers, won the title handily. It was an inner battle for Mozo to watch Munoz not only play on the next level but find incredible success while Mozo recovered from injury. She was awed.
“First year and she’s top 30 in the world,” Mozo said, referring to the LPGA money list. “Are you kidding me?”
Now it’s Mozo’s turn to try and steal the rookie thunder, should she get her card. She was born for the spotlight.
Rankin’s lower ranking: Reilley Rankin’s motto this week: Under-do it. The Georgia grad, who is prone to thinking outside the box, hasn’t been to Q-School since 2002. When she drove into LPGA International and spotted the “Welcome to Q-School” sign, she read it to herself in a mocking tone. For those fresh out of college, this place represents childhood dreams and endless opportunity. For those who, like Rankin, are coming down from the Big Leagues, there is no greeting pleasant enough upon return. No one wants to come back.
Rankin got a little advice this week from someone whom she called the “Q-School Queen,” Meredith Duncan. The former SEC rival and LSU grad can’t even remember how many times she has made the trip to Daytona, “maybe seven times and made it four times?”
Regardless, her winning percentage is high enough for Rankin to listen.
No working out.
“Well, she said you can do a little practice,” Rankin said. “Thirty minutes before your tee time and when you’re done maybe a dozen balls, and a maybe a little Around the World (putting drill).”
Rankin said Duncan’s philosophy makes sense because in the Q-School atmosphere, everyone is grinding.
Sometimes it’s best to “under-do it.”
Cold reality: Becky Brewerton refuses to panic. She shot 4-over 76 on the Legends Course but has been here before. The two-time European Solheim Cup player came to Q-School in 2004 and had a “hideous” experience. Overwhelmed with shattered nerves, Brewerton left Florida thinking she needed to work harder on every aspect of the game.
“It was probably one of the worst experiences I’ve had in terms of how badly I played,” Brewerton said. “But in the long run, it was probably one of the best things that’s ever happened to me.”
For years Helen Alfredsson has encouraged Brewerton to come to the LPGA. Last year she regrettably skipped Q-School, thinking she needed to stay in Europe to try and win the money title. Brewerton, desperate to make the Solheim Cup team, finally has decided her game is good enough to make it even playing a regular schedule against the world’s best.
This week she’s fighting a few swing changes that need to be implemented, but said that’s no excuse.
“You don’t have to be at the top of your game to get the ball around the golf course,” she said.
One area for which Brewerton, a native of Wales, wasn’t prepared: wardrobe. She actually had to buy a beanie and fleece because she didn’t pack enough clothes for Florida’s unexpected cold snap.
“These are British conditions,” she said, smiling.