Notes: Joh surfs on; Feng misses; more
Tiffany Joh watched with “sneaky frustration” during Sunday’s final round of LPGA Q-School as Jaye Marie Green cruised around LPGA International’s Jones Course in what was essentially a victory lap. Green won Q-School by 10 shots over Mi Rim Lee. Joh was the third player in that final group, and at 15-under 345, finished third overall. She was 14 shots behind Green.
After a season in which she made only five cuts in 14 events and finished 117th on the money list, Joh needed to regroup. After missing the cut at the Safeway Classic in September, Joh took a month break from golf, and went on a surf trip to El Salvador to clear her head. It helped put things in perspective.
“It was definitely really encouraging,” she said of this week’s play. “After last season I was a lot more disappointed than I let on.”
With clubs and luggage in tow (her suitcase was weighed down by winter clothes that never saw the light in unseasonably warm winter weather), Joh couldn’t bring her long board, too. With a card safely in hand, she left LPGA International pondering a quick dip in the Atlantic with borrowed board and wet suit. Joh, once again, has a clear head.
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CAREER SWITCH: Like a good piece of Vanderbilt Commodore pasta, Megan Grehan also knows what the real world tastes like. After graduating from Vanderbilt in 2011, Grehan spent nine months doing customer service and marketing for The Pasta Shoppe in Nashville (home of the mascot-shaped noodle). It was good work, but something was missing.
In that time, Grehan picked up the clubs only a handful of times – often out of a feeling of obligation when she visited her family in Mamaroneck, N.Y. Grehan never felt like she played to her full potential at Vanderbilt, and thus was done with the game – until she learned what life was like without it.
“I needed some perspective and a little bit of gratitude of how awesome it is to play golf for a living,” she said. “You kind of lose that in the shuffle of everything sometimes.”
Grehan’s past year has been inspirational. She dabbled around the amateur golf circuit in 2012 before entering Q-School that fall. Rounds of 82-86 left her three spots from dead last at the first stage. More practicing and training followed, and club fitter Tim Sygerch convinced her to put a 12.5 degree driver in the bag to get through LET Q-School last winter in Morocco. Grehan listened, earned conditional status and spent the past year traveling Europe. She played seven events and made three cuts.
“I learned a lot about golf and traveling and professional golf,” she said.
On Sunday, Grehan ended a birdieless round with an eagle at No. 18. A final-round 71 got her to 10 under for the week, which placed her in a tie for seventh. She was practically shaking when she emerged from the scoring tent, still in disbelief at how far she had come.
“I can’t believe I just qualified,” Grehan repeated.
It’s been a journey.
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FOLLOWING SHANSHAN: After Xiyu Lin’s T-9 finish at Q-School, it’s a good time for this side of the world to meet the 17-year-old from China. Lin, who turned professional in September 2011, already has three CLPGA victories in the past two years. Before Q-School, however, her most nerve-wracking experience was trying to qualify for the U.S. Women’s Open last year. Even par through 32 holes, Lin made three bogeys in her final four holes to miss out on a spot.
“After that I told myself, ‘You need to learn how to play golf in that position,’ ” she said.
Thus, Lin felt sure enough in her game to apply a little additional pressure during the final 36 holes in Daytona Beach. Nerves accompanied that determination, but she finished with rounds of 69-70 to secure full status for next year.
Lin, who goes by the American name Janet, was ready to play for the LPGA a year ago. However, when Ariya Jutanugarn, then 16, was denied special permission to qualify for the tour a year ago, Lin figured it wasn’t worth pleading her case. A year later, the Chinese Golf Association helped her secure permission to play Q-School as a 17-year-old. Lin will turn 18 on Feb. 25, which is about a month into the LPGA season.
Lin has played mostly Ladies European Tour event during the past year, but also played the LPGA’s Reignwood LPGA Classic in Beijing (T-23), the Ricoh Women’s British Open (T-17) and the Evian Championship (MC).
You might say Shanshan Feng is directly responsible for this budding Chinese success story. The families are friends, and it was Feng’s dad who first took Lin to the golf course at age 8. Lin adjusted her thinking about playing in the U.S. as she watched Shanshan find success.
Lin was 10 when Feng was playing Q-School, and remembers how hard it seemed. When Feng won her first major, the 2012 Wegmans LPGA Championship, suddenly it made Lin’s dream of playing in the U.S. seem more real. With full status, it’s closer to reality than ever.
“I’m happy the LPGA gave me this chance,” Lin said.
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CLOSE CALL: Cindy Feng’s first Q-School experience was a story of too little, too late. After the first round in Daytona Beach, Feng was tied for 120th. That round of 76 included bogeys on the first two holes. It was understandably frustrating, but Feng was able to regroup. Closing rounds of 68-69 left her one shot out of full LPGA status for 2014. It’s a small margin that has a significant effect.
“It’s a big difference between LPGA and Symetra,” Feng said.
After falling to Emma Talley in the championship match at the U.S. Women’s Amateur in August, Feng entered Q-School as an amateur. It’s how she played the first and second stages. She arrived in Daytona Beach a professional, but still with father Delin Feng on the bag.
“I know a lot of players here so that helps,” Feng said. “It’s not like I’m thrown into a sea of strangers.”
Feng also learned this week that she could compete. Toss out that first-round 76, and Feng is right in the mix. It provided a little perspective for the teen, who isn’t likely to disappear from this arena anytime soon.
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ALSO ON THE BUBBLE: By day’s end, five players joined Feng on the cusp of full status. Alejandra Llaneza, a former Arizona player, shot a final-round 69 to climb from T-34 to T-23. Birdie Kim, who won the 2005 U.S. Women’s Open, also was one shot out, as was Kim Kaufman, a Texas Tech graduate who was Golfweek’s top-ranked collegian at the midway point of the 2012-13 season. Haley Millsap, a former Ole Miss player, and Reilley Rankin, an LPGA player, also were in that group.
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PLAYOFF: Four players tied for 19th at 6-under 354, which forced a playoff for the final two LPGA cards. That group – Haru Nomura, Megan McChrystal, Jenny Suh and Ashleigh Simon – returned to the course to play Nos. 9, 10 and 18 in an aggregate playoff.
Simon finished those holes at 1 under, so the remaining three players returned to the course. Nomura earned the last card when she birdied No. 10.