College golf's best set for LPGA Q-Series, where tough decisions await

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College golf's best set for LPGA Q-Series, where tough decisions await

LPGA Tour

College golf's best set for LPGA Q-Series, where tough decisions await

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The LPGA’s Q-Series at Pinehurst brings back fond memories for Sierra Brooks, who competed at the resort for the U.S. Kids World Championship from ages 8-12. It was a simpler time back then.

Now Brooks is one of several college hotshots on hand for the eight-round event where one big question looms: Will they go pro?

“I’m kind of taking everything step by step,” said Brooks of whether she will return to compete for Florida should she earn an LPGA card. The senior co-medaled at the second stage of Q-School to advance to the final stage.

“I really want to be able to compete for the spring,” said Brooks, “(the LPGA) is also my dream as well. I’m just going to consider all the factors.”

There are 98 players in the field at Q-Series vying for LPGA status and a $150,000 purse. The event takes place Oct. 23-Nov. 2. Among those 98 players are five college players, four of whom are inside the top 10 of the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings.

Andrea Lee, the winningest player in Stanford history and the current No. 1, is joined by teammate Albane Valenzuela, an Olympian and two-time finalist at the U.S. Women’s Amateur who is ranked fourth.

USC’s Jennifer Chang, No. 3, and Frida Kinhult of Florida State round out the college players in the field.

Lee also tops the World Amateur Golf Ranking. She’s followed by Valenzuela (No. 3) and Kinhult (No. 4).

Andrea Lee on the second hole during the final round of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur at Augusta National GC. (Photo: Michael Madrid/USA TODAY Sports)

“I’m just going to wait and see after these two weeks,” said Lee of her future plans.

The first 72 holes will be held on Pinehurst No. 6 and the second week will be staged on No. 9. Scores are cumulative over the two weeks and there will be a cut after the sixth round.

“They have the talent to match anyone in that field,” said Stanford coach Anne Walker of her two players.

At a minimum, players in the top 45 and ties at the end of Q-Series will receive LPGA membership in Category 14 on the 2020 LPGA Priority List.

“Before it’s a lot of ifs and up in the air,” said Valenzuela. “I’m just trying to see how it goes.”

Lee and Valenzuela have a mid-term exam on Wednesday in their communications class on virtual reality. They’ll do what they can onsite to keep up with studies.

“It’s tricky,” said Valenzuela of the amount of school they’re missing, “but after these two weeks we are in the offseason.”

Last year the LPGA introduced the opportunity for amateurs to defer their tour status until after the NCAA Championship. Jennifer Kupcho and Maria Fassi chose to defer and watched their stock skyrocket after breakout performances at the Augusta National Women’s Amateur. Kupcho won the inaugural ANWA, and Fassi won the NCAA Championship for Arkansas.

Both made their professional debuts at the U.S. Women’s Open. Kupcho, who made a run at the Evian Championship, is currently 43rd on the money list with $406,778 after 15 starts while Fassi is 98th ($129,164, 11 starts). The top 100 secure their full cards for 2020.

Alabama’s Kristen Gillman and Lauren Stephenson, however, were among those who decided to skip their last semester of college to play a full rookie season on the LPGA. After a top-3 finish last week in Shanghai, Gillman is now 39th on the money list ($444,089, 22 starts) and Stephenson is 90th ($145,628, 20 starts).

In all, seven college players earned their LPGA cards last year at Q-Series. Not all of them found immediate success. Robyn Choi made 12 starts this season on the LPGA and only $10,007. Jaclyn Lee did only slightly better, earning $27,396 in 13 starts before halting her season due to a wrist injury. Lilia Vu made nine starts and $3,830.

Choi and Vu failed to advance to Q-Series this year.

While Lee, Valenzuela and Kinhult all enjoyed a pass into the second stage via their college ranking from last season, Chang and Brooks had to compete from the first stage back in August.

That happened to coincide with Florida’s first week of classes. Brooks will miss one month of school going through LPGA qualifying. She has an exam on Wednesday in her Sports, Media and Society class. It’s been a juggling act, but she’s as confident as ever heading into the longest tournament in golf.

“It’s something you dream about as a young junior golfer,” said Brooks, “getting to play professional golf, and now that opportunity is there.”

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