Trio hoping to stick at LPGA Q-School

Nicole Jeray during Round 1 of LPGA Q-School finals.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Pernilla Lindberg was $8,300 away from capping what most would consider a successful rookie season. Lindberg, a former Oklahoma State standout, finished No. 107 on the money list during her LPGA rookie campaign, but was seven spots away from receiving enough status to skip qualifying this year.

Lindberg has played the Q-School game before, finishing T-16 at LPGA International last year to secure priority I status for this year. Lindberg spent the year traveling with fellow rookie Azahara Munoz, awarded the Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year award at last week’s LPGA Tour Championship, where Lindberg also ended her season when she missed the 54-hole cut.

With 72 holes left this week, there is plenty of golf to play. And for Lindberg, full status on the Ladies European Tour, and some status on the LPGA, are good mental fall-backs. Ideally, Lindberg wouldn’t have ended up at Q-School again so soon – if at all. The course is familiar, however, and a few days of light practice gave the Swede a chance to settle in for another long week of golf.

“I had to reload on Sunday after I missed the cut on Saturday and just tell myself that I have to come in here excited about this week, see it as another opportunity and not as a disappointment that I have to be here,” Lindberg said.

Lindberg certainly looked recharged during Wednesday’s first round as she shot a 4-under 68 to move into second place right out of the gate. Without sand trouble at Nos. 16 and 17, Lindberg would be in even better shape. Decked out in a lavender argyle sweater and hot-pink wind pants to battle the weather, Lindberg was all fist-bumps and smiles Wednesday. This cleary is a player who relishes the competition, wherever she may find it.

Among most players, Q-School gets a bad rap. It’s long and grueling, and with only 20 tour cards available at the end of the week, often unrewarding. Of the 20 players who advanced out of Q-School last year with full status, Lindberg, Nicole Jeray and Katie Kempter are right back where it all began this week. It’s Jeray’s 10th trip to Q-School finals.

Kempter, a 2009 graduate of Denver, is just as new to this whole professional thing as Lindberg, however. Kempter finished runner-up here last year, which is just about as good a confidence boost as anything. Despite the memories, Kempter has wiped the slate clean this week.

“I actually talked about this with my coach on Sunday,” Kempter said. “He goes, ‘It’s a different year, it’s different weather, it’s a different field. There’s nothing the same about last year and this year.’ ”

But then again, there was just a bit of deja vu as Kempter stepped up to the 17th tee Wednesday afternoon. She remembered the hole location from last year, and this year was able to make birdie there. She added another birdie at 18 to finish at even-par 72 and land in a tie for 31st after the opening round.

With a year of LPGA experience under her belt, Kempter has learned how to deal with what can be an exhausting way to make a living. She spent the first half of the season without a travel companion, teaming up with Libby Smith midway through the summer – a move she calls her “saving grace.”

Kempter also found out first-hand why the LPGA’s thin schedule can amount to such a bummer. She earned 12 starts in full-field events, which is roughly one-third of the tournament experience a rookie might have expected to receive seven or eight years ago.

“At least I’m playing,” Kempter said.

To keep her rhythm during what could at times become a monthlong dormant stretch, Kempter found state opens to play in, and even spent six weeks in Asia with Smith, where the two played three events.

“My mindset is different; I’m not just a fresh, wide-eyed rookie,” Kempter said of her return to Q-School. “I have no number in my head. I’m just going to go play golf, and if it’s good enough, it’s good enough.”

This year, at least, Kempter knows she’s got the game to do it.

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