LPGA remodels qualifying school process

The LPGA has streamlined its qualifying process, eliminating a separate Futures Tour qualifier and hosting a total of three qualifying stages for both tours. Those who fail to earn LPGA status for 2012 automatically will receive status on the developmental circuit. All three stages will take place in Florida.

“The goal is to fully integrate with the Futures Tour,” said Jane Geddes, the LPGA’s senior vice president of tournament operations and player services.

Stage 1 qualifying will take place July 26-29 at LPGA International in Daytona Beach, Fla., on the Champions Course. Eligible players include those who are not a member of a recognized Rolex-ranked women’s golf tour, or are not ranked in the top 100 of the Rolex Rankings as of July 12. Rolex tours include: LPGA, Futures Tour, Ladies European Tour, Korean LPGA, Japan LPGA and Australian LPGA.

An undetermined number of qualifiers from Stage 1 will advance to Stage 2 after 72 holes. Stage 1 will include all amateurs looking for a place to play professionally in 2012. The event coincides with the Ricoh Women’s British Open and Canadian Women’s Amateur.

The pricetag for Stage 1 is $1,500. Those who advance out of Stage 1 will then pay another $1,500 to compete in the second stage. Those who signed up for Stage 2 only will pay $3,000.

Stage 2 will be held Sept. 27-Sept. 30 at Plantation Golf and Country Club in Venice, Fla. Eligible players include members of a Rolex women’s tour who are not LPGA members (with the exception of Class A members who haven’t played in one official LPGA tournament within the past two years); the top 100 of the Rolex Rankings as of July 12; and all players who qualified through stage 1.

A minimum of 50 players will advance to Stage 3. Those who don’t advance will receive Futures Tour status, based on their finish.

The final stage of Q-School will be held at its traditional time, Nov. 30-Dec. 4, and will be played over 90 holes on both courses at LPGA International. LPGA members will pay $2,500; exempt Futures Tour players from 2011 will pay $4,500; and qualifiers from Stage 2 will pay $2,500. The total cost to play all three stages: $5,500. The field will consist of all eligible LPGA members, 15 exempt players from the Futures Tour and those who advanced out of Stage 2.

“Overall expenses (for the player) should be either comparable or less,” Geddes said. For those who only went to Futures Q-School last year ($1,200), however, the cost will be considerably more in 2011 because players must play in at least two stages ($3,000) to have decent status on the developmental tour.

The LPGA has yet to determine how many players will receive membership at final stage, but those who fall short will receive Futures Tour status.

The new format eliminates the “mulligan” sectional qualifier that traditionally was held in October, putting more pressure on those competing in Stage 2.

Geddes said the tour has so many TBDs when it comes to status because changes might come to the tour’s priority categories before the summer. The details will be finalized by June 1, when the applications are open.

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