Michaels eyes LPGA status at Futures Tour finale

Sydnee Michaels during the second round of the 2010 Women's NCAA Championship.

For Sydnee Michaels, timing is everything. The former UCLA player, whose looks befit the Hollywood campus, barreled up the Futures Tour money list with her victory in Georgia two weeks ago. Michaels, a rookie on the developmental circuit, moved from 13th to fifth on the money list, an envious but precarious position going into this week’s season-ender.

If Michaels feels an immense amount of pressure at the water-logged Price Chopper Tour Championship, she hides it well. The 23-year-old sits on the cutoff point for Category 9 status on the LPGA (i.e. the golden ticket). Nos. 6-10 earn Category 17 status, meaning it’s more difficult to get into full-field LPGA events.

“I know just as much as everyone else does what this week means,” said Michaels, who opened with a 1-under 69 Sept. 9 over Capital Hills at Albany. “Like in Georgia, you’re either going to bring it or you’re not.”

Since Michaels hired a full-time caddie in late July, she’s gone T-25, T-2, T-11, 1st. The sociology major jokingly called herself dyslexic because of her propensity to miscalculate yardage and airmail greens. Her caddie’s simple math skills cut down on the unforced errors.

All jokes aside, Michaels has “found her groove” and can thank the "Three Toms" for helping her get to this point. PGA Tour player Tom Pernice Jr. helped Michaels get started financially and also gives technical advice when the pair are together in Murrieta, Calif. Tom Skinner helped Michaels get an honorary membership at Bear Creek Golf Club and her boyfriend’s father, Tom Alford, helped cover her expenses. Even two of her older sisters – she’s the youngest of eight – put her through Futures Q-School last fall.

Michaels said she can’t pinpoint one thing in particular she has struggled with in her first full year as a professional. She’s simply having a good time. The most difficult thing might be to look at the discrepancy between what a strong finish on the LPGA would mean to her wallet compared to the Futures Tour. But that’s also what motivates her to graduate this weekend. The Futures Tour is like a masters program for golfers, a continuing education for those who have the money to invest.

“I’ve been on a mission to get that card, and I haven’t looked back,” Michaels said. “I’m 100 percent here.”

Play on Friday in Albany took an extra dose of concentration as the field trudged through soaked fairways and even greens. Michaels said she had to putt through standing water on the 10th green. The par-4 fifth was converted to a par 3 because the entire hole was under 8 feet of water 10 days ago, according to Michaels. Today’s temporary tee box was a muddied mess.

“I don’t know how much more water this course can take,” said Michaels, who wasn’t able to play a practice round but did walk the course with her caddie Thursday evening. Maintenance crews were unable to mow all the greens and fairways, resulting in inconsistent conditions.

Michaels’ get-it-done attitude is reminiscent of several of her Bruin teammates, who have enjoyed their share of success of late. After her victory in Georgia, Michaels flew to Calgary to visit her boyfriend, Jordan, a former pro hockey player who greeted her with a bottle of Dom Perignon.

“I’ve been having fun,” Michaels said. Imagine the party her seven siblings will throw if she gets her card.

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