Meet the Symetra Tour graduates
1. Esther Choe, 23, Scottsdale, Ariz.: Choe made history by becoming the first player to top the money list playing in only six events. After winning her first two starts in April, Choe left for the Ladies European Tour, where she spent most of the year. Arriving at the top wasn’t easy for this former top-ranked junior. There were times the Promised Land seemed nothing but a distant mirage.
“When you get in a bad cycle, it can be hard to get out,” Choe said. “(This year) I snowballed in a good direction.”
2. Paolo Moreno, 27, Cali, Colombia: Led Symetra money list heading into the final event but dropped down to third after a T-42 in Daytona Beach. Had three top-3 finishes in 12 events, including a victory at the Eagle Classic in Richmond, Va. The USC grad played full-time on the LPGA in 2011 but made only two cuts in 10 events to land back on the Symetra Tour in 2012.
3. Victoria Elizabeth, 20, Dayton, Ohio: Missed the cut in the first event of the season but picked up a sponsor for the season at a pro-am party that lifted a huge financial burden. Won in Syracuse, N.Y., and finished runner-up twice. Competed as Victoria Kiser as a junior, joining the tour as a professional in 2010 at age 17. Accuracy is hallmark of her game.
4. Thidapa Suwannapura, 19, Bangkok, Thailand: Symetra rookie had the most top 10s (six) and top 20s (eight) out of all the players who earned their cards. Only win came last week in Georgia, a prime time to break through. Had rookie status on the LPGA this year but got into only one event because of limited status.
5. Daniela Iacobelli, 24, Viera, Fla.: Iacobelli won the season-ending event in Daytona to vault into the top 10 of the money list. A tour throwback, Iacobelli was the head pro of a club in Melbourne, Fla., last year when she decided to quit her job and play golf on the Symetra Tour, which she calls “summer camp.” If there were a “social chair” on the Symetra Tour, Iacobelli would be that woman. Played college golf at the Florida Institute of Technology, winning the 2007 NCAA DII Women’s Championship.
6. Mi Hyang Lee, 19, Incheon, South Korea: Came through late in the season with a victory in Charlotte to put her into the top 5. LPGA rookie played both tours in an effort to improve status for 2013 season. Turned professional in 2011.
7. Jenny Gleason, 32, Clearwater Fla.: A veteran of the developmental ranks, Gleason had a host of LPGA players pulling for her to “graduate” with fully-exempt status. Good friends Angela Stanford and Kristy McPherson made the trip to Daytona to cheer for Gleason, who turned pro in 2003. Gleason, known for a dynamite short game, finally got it done.
8. Julia Boland, 26, Tamworth, Australia: Former Texas A&M standout breaks through in her rookie year on Symetra Tour. Posted six top-20 finishes and one victory, in South Bend, Ind. Won the 2009 Australian Stroke Play.
9. Nicole Smith, 25, Riverside, Calif.: Tennessee grad said she planned to buy a new road bike as a present to herself for a great year. Smith never missed a cut this season. This marked her third full season on the Symetra Tour, and by far her most consistent. Smith didn’t win, but she had four top 10s.
10. Sara Maude-Juneau, 24, Quebec City, Quebec: Squeaked by with the last card thanks to a T-4 finish in Daytona and a third-place finish last week in Georgia. Recorded five victories while at playing Louisville and was the 2010 Big East Player of the Year. Made 13 of 15 cuts this season. Turned professional in 2011.