Maria Torres becomes 1st Puerto Rican player to earn LPGA Tour card

LPGA Tour

Maria Torres becomes 1st Puerto Rican player to earn LPGA Tour card

LPGA Tour

Maria Torres becomes 1st Puerto Rican player to earn LPGA Tour card

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Maria Torres became the first Puerto Rican player to earn full-time status on the LPGA Tour when she captured the final 2018 qualifying card at LPGA International Sunday.

Torres, 22, secured the 20th card for 2018 by winning a three-hole aggregate playoff on the Hills Course at Q-School.

Her triumphant moment comes in the wake of Hurricane Maria wreaking havoc on her homeland, The storm left Torres stranded on the mainland, and forced her to hitch a ride to Florida last September, where she remained with former University of Florida teammates while prepping for the last two stages of Q-School.

“I know I say this word a lot,” said Torres, “but being grateful. I feel throughout this disaster that we’ve had in Puerto Rico … just being able to have laundry, being able to have an A/C.”

Still, it would’ve been tough to get past the five-putt Torres had on the par-3 third hole had this turned out differently. When it was over, Torres called her parents back in Puerto Rico, where power and reception can still be spotty. She told them she’d been in a playoff and mom sighed heavily.

Torres then paused for dramatic effect.

“I wanted it to be like a movie,” she said.

When she finally delivered the news, both parents screamed. It was the first time Torres had ever heard her mom cry over a golf tournament. Torres knows the feeling.

“One of the things I had in mind during the round, just thinking of so many things,” she said. “I want to give back … I’ll be the first (Puerto Rican) … you have all these emotions and sometimes you don’t know how to control them and stuff. Thankfully it went well – after the five-putt.”

England’s Georgia Hall certainly mounted an impressive comeback of her own. A breakout star at the 2017 Solheim Cup, Hall opened Q-School with a dismal 5-over 77.

“I kind of lost my swing,” Hall said of what she called an “horrendous” start. She self-corrected on the range late last Wednesday and never flinched, finishing in a tie for seventh to easily earn a full card in her first attempt.

“I don’t think I’ve had really a bad week all year,” said Hall, “which is very rare for any player.”

Nasa Hataoka won Q-School and a $5,000 paycheck with a 12-under 348 total. The 18-year-old was a rookie on the LPGA in 2017 and finished 140th on the money list. The top 20 players earned full cards for 2018, while those who finished 21st to 45th (and ties) earned partial status.

It was also learned that after 23 years of hosting the final stage of LPGA Q-School down the street from tour headquarters, the show will hit the road in 2018. Details have yet to be released, but two industry sources tell Golfweek that the Robert Trent Jones Trail in Alabama will host the new Q Series.

The sources spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publically on the shift.

Like many players, Robynn Ree heard that changes were coming to Q-School that would make it more difficult for amateurs and wanted to take advantage of the current system. The USC junior got off to a sluggish start but sailed though by playing the last three rounds in 11 under.

While Ree fielded a congratulatory call from grandma, Maddie McCrary agonized over the decision to turn professional with her parents. The Oklahoma State senior closed with a 76, giving her only partial status for the upcoming season. With NCAAs being held at Karsten Creek this year and a close group of teammates back home in Stillwater, Okla., this was an emotional call for McCrary.

“I just had to decide what I want to do with the rest of my life,” said McCrary, who waited as long as she could before informing officials of her decision. “I want to play golf, and I want to play golf professionally, and I want to start making money.”

McCrary’s mom, Angie, helped her daughter sort through the pros and cons and ultimately thought Maddie would be heading back to Stillwater. Instead, Maddie’s next event will likely be in Australia in what will be her first trip out of the country.

“I know she feels a fierce loyalty to her teammates,” Angie McCrary said. “But then is five more (college) tournaments going to prepare her for what she was born to do?”

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