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Puerto Rico's Torres claims last of 20 LPGA cards

By Randall MellDecember 3, 2017, 10:45 pm

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – There’s no setting in golf as emotional as the final day of the final stage of Q-School.

There’s more joy in the player ranks than you’ll see in a major championship, because it is spread so much deeper in the field.

Maria Torres finished 20th Sunday at LPGA International and couldn’t have been more thrilled if she won the event.

“I am kind of in shock,” Torres said. “I feel like I am in a dream or something.”

Everyone among the top 20 at Sunday’s end walked away a winner, with each of them claiming full membership to play the LPGA next season.

Torres survived a three-way playoff to claim that last spot, but it is what she survived almost three months ago that made it so much more satisfying.

Torres huddled with her family in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in September as Hurricane Maria’s 155 mph winds thrashed their second-floor apartment. There was no running water for two days after, no air conditioning for a week.

A University of Florida graduate last spring, Torres shed her amateur status before Sunday’s playoff, turning pro so she could accept tour membership after signing her scorecard. She is the first player from Puerto Rico to earn an LPGA tour card.

Torres called home to Puerto Rico after defeating Daniela Darquea and Mind Muangkhumsakul in the playoff.

“I won the tournament, Mommy,” Torres said.

There was a pause, while Torres’ mother, Lisandra, relayed the news to Maria’s father, Jose.

“And then they were screaming,” Torres said.

With Puerto Rico on her mind, with a chance to make her commonwealth proud, Torres said the final round was especially challenging. She started the day tied for ninth and then five-putted the third hole, turning a birdie chance there into a triple bogey. She persevered, making birdies at three of the next five holes and shooting 74.

“You have all these emotions, and sometimes you don’t know how to control them, but, thankfully, it worked out,” Torres said.

For every player who claimed full or conditional LPGA status this week, there were almost three who didn’t.

That makes for more tears at the final stage of Q-School than any other tournament.

One player after another left the scoring tent late Sunday afternoon wiping their eyes.

Failure at the final stage of Q-School can feel like the weight of a lost year, because that’s how long it will likely take players to get another chance to make it to the LPGA.

There was extra weight to this year’s Q-School failure, because final stage is being overhauled. It will be so much more difficult for some of these players to work their way back to final stage next year.

This year, 82 players advanced to final stage from second stage. Next year, only 20 to 30 will advance, with a new Q-Series in effect as the final stage. Next year, players who finish 101st-150th on the LPGA money list, 11th-30th on the Symetra Tour money list and 1st-5th on the Golfweek Sagarin/college rankings will join as many as 10 players from the top 75 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings at second stage. They’ll play for 40 to 50 tour cards over eight rounds.

Count Nasa Hataoka, Georgia Hall and Rebecca Artis among the happiest here Sunday.

Hataoka won the Q-School finals, closing with a 71 on the Hills Course to finish at 12-under overall, one shot better than Hong Kong’s Tiffany Chan (71) and three better than South Africa’s Paula Reto (71).

Hall, 21, the Ladies European Tour Order of Merit leader this season, dug herself out of a big hole after opening the week with a 77. The Englishwoman rallied with rounds of 69-67-69-72 to tie for seventh.

“It was a horrendous start, but I’m very glad I came back,” Hall, 21, said. “It was definitely under pressure. I don’t want to do tour school again. Once is enough.”

Artis, 29, a two-time Ladies European Tour winner, reveled in making it through Q-School in her fifth attempt. She closed with a 71 to finish solo fourth.

“Q-School is always such a hard week,” Artis said. “Being here five times, of course it makes it much sweeter.”

Artis’ husband, Geoff, is also her caddie. He has been on her bag for seven of the last eight years.

“In the third or fourth year, we decided I would get another full-time caddie and he would get another full-time bag,” Artis said. “But I hated every bit of it.”

Artis’ father, Keith, made the trip from their home in Coonabarabran in Australia and walked with her this week. Her mother, Roslyn, followed online back home, where she kept the family bakery up and running.

Gavin Coles, a family friend and former PGA Tour pro who shares a teacher with Artis  (Gary Edwin), helped her on the range all week.

“Gavin is Gary’s eyes when I’m over here,” Artis said.

Artis said all the hard work she and Geoff put into getting ready for the week would require a couple celebrations, one in Florida, and another when they return to Coonbarabran, where she also has four brothers waiting for her.

“We will all celebrate when we get home, don’t you worry about that,” Artis said.

Q-School can be the kind of long week that requires more than one celebration.

Final scoreboard

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PGA Tour, LPGA react to video review rules changes

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 11, 2017, 1:32 pm

The USGA and R&A announced on Monday updates to the Rules of Golf, including no longer accepting call-ins relating to violations. The PGA Tour and LPGA, which were both part of a working group of entities who voted on the changes, issued the following statements:

PGA Tour:

The PGA Tour has worked closely with the USGA and R&A on this issue in recent years, and today's announcement is another positive step to ensure the Rules of Golf align with how the game is presented and viewed globally. The PGA Tour will adopt the new Local Rule beginning January 1, 2018 and evolve our protocols for reviewing video evidence as outlined.

LPGA:

We are encouraged by the willingness of the governing bodies to fully vet the issues and implement real change at a pace much quicker than the sport has seen previously. These new adaptations, coupled with changes announced earlier this year, are true and meaningful advances for the game. The LPGA plans to adopt fully the protocols and new Local Rule as outlined.

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Sharma closes on Monday, wins Joburg Open

By Associated PressDecember 11, 2017, 12:43 pm

JOHANNESBURG – Shubhankar Sharma won his first European Tour title by a shooting 3-under 69 Monday in the final round of the weather-delayed Joburg Open.

The 21-year-old Indian resumed his round on the eighth green after play was halted early Sunday afternoon because of storms. He parred that hole, birdied No. 9 and made par on every hole on the back nine.


Full-field scores from the Joburg Open


Sharma finished at 23-under 264, three strokes ahead of the pack, and qualified for next year's British Open, too.

''I actually wasn't going to come here about a week ago ... so I'm really happy that I came,'' said Sharma, who shot 61 in the second round. ''I don't think I'm ever going forget my first time in South Africa.''

Erik van Rooyen (66) was second, three strokes ahead of Shaun Norris (65) and Tapio Pulkkanen (68).

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 11, 2017, 12:30 pm

Sharma among three Open qualifiers at Joburg Open

By Will GrayDecember 11, 2017, 12:16 pm

Shubhankar Sharma earned his first career European Tour win at the rain-delayed Joburg Open and punched his ticket to The Open in the process.

Sharma returned to Randpark Golf Club Monday morning after storms washed out much of the scheduled final day of play. Beginning the re-start with a four-shot lead, he hung on to win by three over South Africa's Erik Van Rooyen.

Both men can make travel plans for Carnoustie next summer, as this was the second event in the Open Qualifying Series with three spots available for players not otherwise exempt who finished inside the top 10. The final spot went to Shaun Norris, who tied for third with Finland's Tapio Pulkkanen but had a higher world ranking (No. 192) than Pulkkanen (No. 197) entering the week.

The Joburg Open was the final official European Tour event of the year. The next tournament in the Open Qualifying Series will be the SMBC Singapore Open in January, where four spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs.