LPGA Q-School: Blumenherst, U.S. surge

Amanda Blumenherst won LPGA Q-School on Dec. 7 at LPGA International.

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Beth Ann Baldry with the tears and cheers from the final round of LPGA Q-School from Daytona Beach, Fla.

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Many expected Amanda Blumenherst to win this week. She’s used to that kind of pressure, however, after collecting college trophies like normal people collect stamps. Blumenherst’s idol, Nancy Lopez, sent her a good luck text early in the week. She didn’t need luck.

The three-time College Player of the Year closed with a 4-under 68 Monday over LPGA International’s Champions Course to win Q-School by two strokes over Katie Kempter and Marianne Skarpnord.

“I did feel pressure from myself and media and even my peers and sponsors, but that’s just a part of it,” said Blumenherst. “It’s part of playing a professional sport and having to deal with it and the energy. That is what makes a great athlete.”

Blumenherst, one of six Americans who earned full status for next season, closed with rounds of 67-68 to qualify for the LPGA in her first attempt. It’s not lost on fellow players and LPGA insiders that Blumenherst’s presence could potentially make a big impact on the LPGA down the road. When it comes to dealing with those outside the ropes, Blumenherst gets it. Now she just needs to win on the next level.

What does Blumenherst hope to bring to the LPGA?

“The All-American girl feeling,” she said. “Definitely want to relate to fans. Nancy Lopez is my idol when it comes to golf.”

Kempter received a champagne bath from supporters after becoming the first player from Denver’s program to earn an LPGA card.

“I honestly came here to win,” said Kempter, whose dad, Chris, had to fill in as her caddie after her coach/caddie flew to Mexico to play in a pro-am.

Three former European Solheim Cup players earned their cards this week: Iben Tinning, Gwladys Nocera and Tania Elosegui. Nocera recovered from terrible third-round 79 with back-to-back 69s.

More Spaniards earned their cards this year than Koreans (2) and Swedes (1) combined. Former NCAA champions Azahara Munoz and Maria Hernandez will join Elosegui, along with newcomer Beatriz Recari.

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Mariajo Uribe bent down to mark her ball on the fifth green Monday and her magnetic marker stuck to the putterhead. Because Uribe had already picked up her ball, she received a one-stroke penalty for not having a marker on the green.

“That’s what made me play harder,” said Uribe, who chipped in for birdie on the following hole. “I’m not going to miss this opportunity because of a freakin’ ball marker.”

Uribe, 2007 U.S. Women’s Amateur champ, went on to shoot 69 and tie for 12th. She still considers the pink ballmarker “lucky”.

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Liz Janangelo

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For the second time in three years, Liz Janangelo birdied the 90th hole to earn her LPGA card. The Duke All-American left an eagle putt on the par-5 18th 1 foot short in the heart of the cup. It was her only birdie on the day.

“How cool is it to give yourself a chance to do something excellent on the last hole?” said Janangelo, who tied for 16th.

• • •

Nicole Hage burst into tears walking off the 18th green. These were happy tears, however, a switch for the Auburn grad who seemed plagued by a terrible case of close calls.

Hage didn’t win Q-School, but her closing 4-under 68 captured what she wanted most this year: An LPGA card.

Hage called her mom shortly after the round and with mascara running down her face simply said: “I did it.”

“We have the whole house lit with candles,” Hage’s mother, Sybelis, replied.

Lots of prayers.

• • •

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Lucy Kim during the final round of LPGA Q-School.

If the name Lucy Kim doesn’t ring a bell, it’s because she recently made it up. Born Yoo-Kyeong Kim in South Korea, Kim gave herself a Buddhist name when she came to the U.S. and played on the Duramed Futures Tour as Moon Su. She changed her name for Q-School, where she tied for 12th to her card.

“My teacher likes Lucy,” said Kim, who accidentally signed up as Rucy for LPGA sectional qualifying. “It’s a beautiful name, Lucy.”

• • •

Il Hee Lee let loose with a big fist pump on the third playoff hole after draining a 9-foot birdie putt to earn the last LPGA card. Lee finished five rounds tied with Christi Cano at even-par 360. The pair played three extra holes, with Lee posting the lowest aggregate total.

“Like we didn’t play enough holes,” said Cano. “I did what I could.”

Lee, one of two Koreans to earn a card this year, has played the last three years on the KLPGA. She’s the only Korean-born player in the field who is trying to play in the U.S. for the first time.

“December 13, my 21st birthday,” said Lee with her hands held high in the air, as if to say “How ’bout that?”

Lee’s longtime goal has been to play in America by age 21. Mission accomplished.

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