DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – They come this week to start their LPGA careers . . . or to resume them.
They’re here for the first time with a big dream, or maybe for the last time, trying to keep a dream alive.
LPGA Q-School can be a launching pad, or a lifeboat, with 157 women arriving with 157 different stories.
There are teen sensations, like Nasa Hataoka, who won the Japan Women’s Open as a 17-year-old last month, and Aditi Ashok, the 18-year-old Olympian from India who is coming off back-to-back victories in her last two starts as a rookie on the Ladies European Tour.
There are college stars, like UCLA’s Bronte Law, the winner of the Annika Award as the top collegian woman in the land last season. She arrives holding on to her amateur status, but that could change by week’s end, when she’ll have the option to turn pro or return to UCLA to complete her senior season.
There are LPGA veterans looking to regain their status, like Jaye Marie Green, who was the Q-School medalist in 2013, and Julieta Granada, who won LPGA ADT Playoffs in 2006 with its $1 million winner’s check, and also Lorie Kane, the four-time LPGA winner who’s keeping her competitive fire burning at 51.
There is England’s Mel Reid, a five-time Ladies European Tour winner and Solheim Cup veteran, who might already be in the LPGA ranks if her management team hadn’t missed the Q-School registration deadline last year.
There is Beth Allen, the 34-year-old looking to become the first American to win the LET’s Order of Merit. She leads that tour’s money list with two events left this season.
There are a lot of first-year pros, like Mariah Stackhouse, who led Stanford to the 2015 NCAA Women’s Championship and played a limited Symetra Tour schedule on sponsor exemptions this year.
Come Sunday, at the end of Q-School’s 90-hole competition, the top 20 players will earn full LPGA status. There will be a playoff, if needed, to determine the top 20. Those finishing 21st to 45th and ties will earn partial LPGA status.
The competition will be staged on LPGA International’s Jones and Hills courses, with a cut to the low 70 scores and ties after the fourth round. Everyone who makes the cut will be assured of at least gaining Symetra Tour status. There’s a $50,000 purse with a $5,000 winner’s check.
The field features players from 33 countries, with the United States featuring the most (78), followed by Canada (9), England (7), Thailand (6) and the Philippines (6). There are just four players from South Korea in the field.