2005: Pressel latest to petition LPGA

Morgan Pressel couldn’t keep the secret any longer. The 17-year-old had kept her future plans quiet for nearly three weeks, and she finally was ready to talk. Once she did, Pressel said what many had suspected – that she has petitioned LPGA commissioner Ty Votaw for entrance into the tour’s fall Q-School.

Pressel told Golfweek July 7 that she made her decision in mid-June at the AJGA Rolex Girls Junior Championship in Daytona Beach, Fla. It was there where Pressel spoke to Votaw and told him she wished to go to Q-School and earn status for the 2006 LPGA season although she won’t turn 18 until May 23. The two huddled again after the U.S. Women’s Open, where Pressel tied for second, and Pressel told Votaw that she had not changed her mind.

Tour rules stipulate that an LPGA member must be at least 18 years old, although there is a clause where anyone who is at least 16 can petition the commissioner for a special exemption. Votaw says he will make a decision on Pressel’s case within the next week.

“I had been thinking about it for quite a long time,” Pressel said. “I always had something in the back of my mind. Then, I started to tremendously improve and things started to fall into place. I know I’m ready. I know I can compete out here.”

The media pressed Pressel for her plans following the Women’s Open but the spunky, blonde American kept quiet until she could contact Duke University coach Dan Brooks. Pressel had made a nonbinding verbal commitment to Duke a year ago, and she wanted to make sure Brooks heard the news from her instead of reading about it in the press.

It shouldn’t have surprised Brooks. (NCAA rules prohibit a coach from talking about a recruit.) The teenager made the cut in all five LPGA events she has played this season. Pressel tied for 19th at the Kraft Nabisco and the Michelob Ultra Open, tied for 23rd at the Chick-fil-A Charity Championship, tied for second at the U.S. Women’s Open and tied for 23rd last week at the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic. (If Pressel were a professional she would have earned more than $330,000, which would put her in the top 20 in earnings.)

No matter what Votaw decides, Pressel will play the U.S. Girls’ Junior, the AJGA Betsy Rawls, the U.S. Women’s Amateur, the Women’s North & South, the LPGA Wendy’s Championship, the LPGA State Farm Classic and the Junior Solheim Cup. The first stage of Q-School is in late September and the final stage is at LPGA International in Daytona Beach in December. If Pressel were to finish among the low 30 scores and ties, she could declare herself a professional and claim an exempt tour card for 2006.

“We’re gathering information that we think is necessary,” said Votaw, who added that he has been in contact with incoming commissioner Carolyn Bivens regarding the developments. “The decision is closer to resolution than it is to not being resolved.”

Pressel’s is the third petition on Votaw’s plate. Last month, Carmen Bandea, a 15-year-old from suburban Atlanta, petitioned to enter qualifying school, and 17-year-old In-Bee Park alerted the commissioner of her request two weeks ago, and was scheduled to meet again with Votaw July 12. Pressel is Golfweek’s top-ranked junior and amateur, Park is the No. 3 junior and Bandea is unranked.

Bandea has little experience in high-level tournament golf. The other two, however, have vast experience, and Votaw’s decision could open the door for others seeking exemptions. Pressel is hot off her Open performance and it is not known how much weight that finish will hold. Park hasn’t had the same opportunities as Pressel but she has shined in the ones presented to her – the former U.S. Girls’ Junior champion tied for eighth at the 2004 LPGA Takefuji Classic and finished fifth at this year’s Takefuji event.

“I think I have a pretty good chance,” Park said.

Two years ago, Aree Song successfully petitioned the LPGA at age 17. One of the factors Votaw cited in granting Song’s petition was her fifth-place finish in the Open as an amateur that year. Song, however, was a high school graduate, turned professional in August, then finished fifth in the qualifying tournament to earn exempt LPGA status. None of the three who have petitioned will be high school graduates by the time Q-School rolls around. Pressel is entering her senior year at St. Andrew’s School in Boca Raton, Fla., where she is an honor roll student. Park is a senior at Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas and Bandea is home-schooled by her mother.

“We have some decisions to make,” Votaw said.

“They will be crafted for the individual circumstances of each person.”



























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