On eve of LPGA Q-School, Coe ready to play

Joanna Coe during the first stage of LPGA Q-School in July.

Joanna Coe during the first stage of LPGA Q-School in July.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Joanna Coe’s first impressions of LPGA Qualifying School go against the norm. Coe is tired of the waiting game, she wants a place to play, and Q-School is just a step to getting there.

This impatience is unlike the resounding tagline for Q-School (on any tour): all-out fear. It was a sentiment proven again Tuesday by the long lines of players who pounded ball after ball around LPGA International’s practice facilities on the eve of the first round of the final stage. Five rounds await the 142 players in the field this week, and 20 players will leave Sunday with full LPGA status.

But Coe, who turned professional in May after completing her senior year at Rollins College in Winter Park, Fla., has endured this qualifying process since July, when she skated through the first stage of qualifying school. This is the first year a new Q-School format has been in place, which lumps together qualifying for the LPGA and Symetra tours (formerly known as the Futures Tour).

“I have the opportunity to be on the LPGA tour in a week, so it’s just a dream come true that I’m even at this spot,” Coe said.

Group No. 15 on the Q-School tee sheet speaks to the depth of the field, as Coe, who won the 2008 NCAA Division II National Championship as a freshman, is paired with two-time NJCAA National Champion Mitsuki Katahira. Both are unheralded players on the grander scale but accomplished in their own right and noteworthy as they begin professional careers.

They’ll be immediately followed off the first tee by 2005 U.S. Women’s Open champion Birdie Kim, which further proves the diversity of experience this week.

“You have pretty much the best girls from Division II here, the best girls from D-1, D-3, former LPGA stars and people from Korea,” Coe said.

Coe figures she has an advantage, too, by just being around Katahira, who played for Daytona State College and practiced at LPGA International for the past two years.

She also has a close friendship with a player who’s very familiar with how this whole Q-School thing works, especially as a young player. Naree Song, sister to last year’s Q-School winner Aree Song, has been an assistant coach at Rollins since spring 2010. The two play together often, and Naree was the last person from whom Coe sought advice before arriving at LPGA International.

“(Aree and Naree) have a bunch of experience under their belt for being so young,” Coe said.

Compared to much of the rest of the field, Coe is lacking in experience. It’s why her distraction by impatience might be a good thing this week. The 22-year-old isn’t immune to nerves, particularly those that come on the course, after making her professional debut June 3 at the ShopRite LPGA Classic, played near her home in Mays Landing, N.J. Coe played on a sponsor exemption in front of a home crowd that week and hadn’t had as much time to practice as she would have liked after finishing her college career. She shot 86-79 and missed the cut.

“That was pretty much the most nerve-wracking experience of my life,” she remembers.

The Shoprite and the U.S. Women’s Open (later in the summer), where she also missed the cut, represent the only LPGA events on the 2011 schedule in which Coe played.

“I’m in a much better place with my golf game right now,” Coe said. “I’m excited to be playing in tournaments right now because it kind of stinks to go back and forth, not having time off and then playing again.”

• • •

Other players to know this week at LPGA International:

Ginger Howard: The 17-year-old won the second stage of Q-School in September, validating her decision to turn professional before finishing high school.

Alison Whitaker: Former Duke standout with character to burn. She turned professional after representing Australia at the Women’s World Amateur Team Championship last October, finished T-22 at the final stage of Q-School a year ago but failed to make the cut in seven LPGA tour starts.

Birdie Kim: Won the 2005 U.S. Women’s Open at Cherry Hills Golf Club after holing out from a fairway bunker at the final hole. Made only two cuts this year in 11 starts.

Izzy Beisiegel: Made headlines on the Canadian Tour in May as she became the first female player to qualify for a professional men’s tour through Qualifying School. Spot Beisiegel by the flower she wears behind her ear at each tournament – it’s from a bouquet sent from her husband.

Carlota Ciganda: Former Arizona State standout from Spain who became the first player in history to win back-to-back Pac-10 Championships. Also won the 2007 Women’s British Amateur.

Danielle Kang: Two-time U.S. Women’s Amateur champion and former Pepperdine player. Just beginning her professional career after trading in amateur status following this year’s Women’s Am.

Stephanie Kono: A veteran of the 2010 Curtis Cup and one of two seniors on the top-ranked UCLA women’s golf team.

Brianna Do: The other UCLA senior, and also the winner of the 2011 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links.

Meredith Duncan: One of the veterans in the field. A rookie in 2004 who has recorded two career top 10s in LPGA events.

Nicole Jeray: This week marks the 17th trip to Q-School for Jeray, who turned professional in 1993.

Kimberly Kim: Former amateur standout (2006 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion) who turned professional in 2010 after a year at Denver. She earned full status at Q-School last year but missed the cut in all seven starts.

Victoria Tanco: A 17-year-old amateur from Argentina who won the Women’s Western Amateur in June, then made the cut at the U.S. Women’s Open the following month.

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