Monday, December 5, 2016

Hagestad, Harvey invited to U.S. Walker Cup practice session

   Stewart Hagestad and Scott Harvey both made a pretty strong case for their inclusion on the 2017 U.S. Walker Cup team during their epic battle for the U.S. Mid-Amateur championship at Stonewall that Hagestad finally won on the 37th hole, the par-3 ninth hole at Tom Doak’s Old Course in scenic northwest Chester County.
   And the two Mid-Am finalists will at least be considered for the U.S. team, which will take on the Great Britain & Ireland side Sept. 9 and 10 at Los Angeles Country Club, a course at which Hagestad, who resides in New York, grew up playing and maintains a junior membership.
   Hagestad and Harvey are among the 16 amateur players invited to play Dec. 14 to 18 at the Los Angeles Country Club layout in preparation for the biennial competition. Harvey, who won the 2014 U.S. Mid-Amateur title at Saucon Valley Country Club, was a member of the U.S. team that fell to GB&I in the 2015 Walker Cup Match at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, 16.5-9.5. Harvey went 1-2.
   Hagestad, who at 25 was the second youngest winner in the history of the Mid-Am, and the 38-year-old Harvey of Greensboro, N.C. are the only two mid-ams invited to the preliminary practice session. The final 10-man U.S. team won’t be announced until the completion of the 2017 U.S. Amateur, which will also be staged at a Los Angeles classic, Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, Calif., in August. Players not invited to this month’s practice session can still make the team.
   Hagestad and Harvey certainly put on a show at Stonewall. Harvey was a co-medalist in qualifying over the two Doak gems, the Old Course and the North Course, the record fourth time he’s been a Mid-Am qualifying medalist.
   The final also marked the first time the USGA staged a 36-hole final over two different courses with Harvey grabbing a 3-up lead after a morning round over the North Course.
   He stretched his lead to as large as 5-up and was still 4-up with five holes to play when the putts started to fall for Hagestad, who starred collegiately at Southern California. Hagestad drained birdie putts at 14, 15 and 17 and Harvey conceded an eight-footer for birdie to Hagestad on the 18th, the 36th of the match, to enable Hagestad to finally pull even.
   When his 14-foot birdie putt tumbled in on the ninth hole, the 37th of the match, Hagestad led for the first time all day and won the championship. He had made nine birdies in 19 holes on the Old Course, needing birdies at the fourth and fifth holes just to get halves.
   It will be tough for two mid-ams to crack the lineup, but Hagestat and Harvey will have the summer to add to their resumes, but they both certainly displayed some pretty solid match-play credentials at Stonewall.
   The other 14 players invited to the practice session at Los Angeles Country Club are the cream of the current collegiate crop, led by Stanford senior Maverick McNealy, No. 1 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR). McNealy is from Portola Valley, Calif.
   Texas will be represented by junior Scottie Scheffler of Dallas, No. 17 in the WAGR, senior Gavin Hall of Pittsford, N.Y., No. 19 in the WAGR, and junior Doug Ghim of Arlington Heights, Ill. Southern Cal will send junior Sam Crocker of Westlake Village, Calif. and senior Rico Hoey of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.  Another Division I power, Illinois, also will send a pair of players in junior Nick Hardy of Northbrook, Ill. and junior Dylan Meyer of Evansville, Ind.
   Rounding out the talented group of collegians are: Lipscomb junior Dawson Armstrong of Bentwood, Tenn.; Oklahoma sophomore Brad Dalke of Norman, Okla.; California sophomore Collin Marikawa of La Canada, Calif.; UNLV junior John Oda of Honolulu, Hawaii; Virginia senior Jimmy Stanger of Tampa, Fla.; and Wake Forest junior Will Zalatoris of Plano, Texas.
   John “Spider” Miller of Bloomington, Ind. captained the U.S. team at Royal Lytham & St. Anne’s and will return for the U.S. home game. Miller is a two-time U.S. Mid-Amateur champion and a member of the 1999 U.S. Walker Cup team.
   The Walker Cup at Merion Golf Club’s famed East Course in 2009 is among my favorite golf memories. The winning U.S. team was led by Rickie Fowler and a slew of players who you can tee playing on TV in professional tournaments these days.
   But a mid-am standout on captain Buddy Marucci’s U.S. team that year was a Pennsylvania guy, Nathan Smith, who played well that week and went on to add three more U.S. Mid-Amateur titles to the one he won in 2003 and played on two more U.S. Walker Cup teams.
   The USGA might have to give serious consideration to including the two mid-ams who slugged it out at Stonewall to its 2017 U.S. side.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Green's birdie makes her the medalist at LPGA Q-School's Final Stage

   Stage III of the LPGA’s Qualifying School is filled with stories of successes and failures of close calls and near misses of triumph and frustration.
   At the top of that list this week was Jaye Marie Green, a native Floridian who had won this event in wire-to-wire fashion in 2013, but three years later found herself back in the Final Stage, battling for her professional future after finishing 121st on the LPGA Tour money list in 2016.
   But it is a better, more experienced Green than the one who cruised to medalist honors three years ago on talent alone. Sunday, she faced a 20-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole of LPGA International’s Hills Course in Daytona Beach, Fla. that would again give her medalist honors in the Final Stage. And she rolled it right in the hole.
   The putt gave her a final round of 2-over 74 and a 13-under 347 total for the grueling 90-hole test, one shot better than Iceland’s Olafia Kristinsdottir, who hung with Green right to the end with a final-round 73 and a 12-under 348 total.
   “I couldn’t really find the reason why I needed to go back to Q-School,” the 22-year-old Green told the LPGA website. “I know I had to play well to get my card and now I know that I can make a putt to win, so there are a lot of positives to take away.
   “Now I know I can play well under the gun going into next year. I have this experience to draw on.”
Kristinsdottir, a Wake Forest product who played the Ladies European Tour (LET) in 2016, will play the LPGA full-time in 2017. The top 20 finishers Sunday earned full playing privileges on the LPGA Tour in 2017. Those finishing 21st to 45th receive conditional playing privileges.
   Angel Yin, a former American Junior Golf Association phenom from Arcadia, Calif. who abandoned her plan to join the Southern California golf program and turned pro, validated that decision by finishing in a tie for third at 11-under 349. Yin, the runnerup in the 2015 U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship, posted a 1-under 71 in the final round.
   She was joined at 11-under by Sadena Parks, the former Washington standout who became the first African American to play her way onto the LPGA Tour via the developmental Symetra Tour in 2014. The 26-year-old Parks, who appeared in The Golf Channel’s “Big Break Florida,” carded a 1-over 73 to share third with Yin and earn her way back onto the LPGA Tour.
   South Korea’s Jeong Eun Lee posted a 3-under 69 to finish alone in fifth at 10-under 350.
Another teen phenom, Ssu Chia Cheng, a native of Chinese Taipei who won an LET event as a 17-year-old amateur in 2014, finished in a tie for sixth. Cheng had a 1-under 71 in the final round for a 9-under 351 total.
   Cheng was joined at 9-under by Beth Allen, who leads the LET’s Order of Merit. The 34-year-old native of San Diego matched par in the final round with a 72. She indicated this week that she’ll continue to play on the LET, where she blossomed as a professional golfer, as well as the LPGA.
   Another LET standout, England’s Mel Reid, a two-time member of the European Solheim Cup team, headed a group of three players tied for eighth at 8-under 352. Reid, a five-time winner on the LET, had a sizzling 8-under 64 on the Jones Course in the second round of the Final Stage and finished with a steady even-par 72 in the final round.
   The best round of the final day belonged to Therese O’Hara, a native of Denmark known as Therese Koelbaek as a standout at UNLV. The 28-year-old O’Hara, who indicated she might give up the life of a touring pro if she  didn’t make it back to the LPGA Tour, made sure that didn’t happen with a 6-under 66 on the Hills Course, which played the tougher of the two courses all week, to finish at 8-under.
   The third member of the trio tied for eighth at 352 was Canadian Jennifer Ha, a former Kent State standout. Ha matched par in the final round  with a 72.
   Two amateurs finished in the top 20 and immediately turned pro and accepted their LPGA Tour cards.
   Ryan De Guzman of the Philippines, who completed a four-year career at San Jose State in the spring, had an even-par 72 in the final round to finish in a tie for 14th at 5-under 355.
   Southern Cal, No. 2 in the latest Golfstat rankings, will lose senior Karen Chung of Livingston, N.J. to the LPGA Tour as Chung matched par with a 72 to finish in a tie for 19th at 4-under 356. The Trojans still have a ton of talent, despite losing players like Yin and 2015 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion Hannah O’Sullivan, talented juniors who committed to USC only to reconsider and bypass college golf.
   Japanese phenom Nasa Hataoka, at 17 the youngest player in the field, struggled in the final two days of the Final Stage with a 75 Saturday and a final-round 78, but still earned her LPGA Tour card. Hataoka, a quarterfinalist at last summer’s U.S. Women’s Amateur at Rolling Green Golf Club, was one of five players, along with De Guzman, who finished tied for 14th at 355.
   Two other college programs will be losing top senior players between the fall and spring parts of the season.
   UCLA’s Bronte Law, winner of the Annika Award last spring, earned conditional LPGA status as she finished tied for 24th at 2-under 358. Law is from England and played on Great Britain & Ireland’s winning Curtis Cup team earlier this year.
   Miami’s Daniela Darquea of Ecuador had a 73 in the final round to finish tied for 29th at even-par 360 and, like Law, will turn pro and try to make the most of the LPGA opportunities she gets.
One collegiate standout, South Carolina’s Katelyn Dambaugh, runnerup to Law for the Annika Award, will return for the second half of her senior season. The talented left-hander from Goose Creek, S.C. had a final-round 75 to finish tied for 35th at 1-over 361.
   Even when she grabbed a share of the opening-round lead with a 5-under 67 at the Jones Course, Dambaugh indicated she just wanted to earn some status for the Symetra Tour and would head for the developmental tour after she graduates next spring. A top-20 finish and the LPGA Tour card that would have come with it might have altered that game plan.
   Furman senior Taylor Totland of Tinton Falls, N.J. finished tied for 55th at 4-over 364 and appears headed back to college.
   Kristinsdottir, Yin, Ha, Reid, De Guzman, Hataoka, Chung, Law and Darquea are among the 31 players who will comprise the rookie class on the LPGA Tour. Also in that group are Mariah Stackhouse (tied for 21st at 3-under 357) of Riverdale, Ga. and Lauren Kim (tied for 29th at even-par 360) of Los Altos, Calif., teammates on Stanford teams that won the 2015 NCAA title and reached the final in 2016. Both earned conditional status on the LPGA Tour for 2017.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Green the leader of the pack at LPGA Q-Shool Final Stage

   Jaye Marie Green seems to thrive in the pressure-cooker that is Stage III of the LPGA’s Qualifying School.
   The Floridian rebounded from a slow start Saturday to card a 2-under-par 70 over the Hills Course at LPGA International in Daytona Beach, Fla. to sit atop the leaderboard at 15-under 273 heading into the final round of Q-School’s Final Stage.
   Green was the wire-to-wire winner of the Final Stage three years ago and struggled enough this year to end up back trying to regain her playing privileges for the 2017 season. The top 20 finishers following Sunday’s final round of the grueling 90-hole test earn an unconditional Tour card.
   “I was 2-over through seven and I was like ‘oh gosh,’ and I started thinking about the top 20 and thinking what is going on here,” the 22-year-old native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. told the LPGA website. “It is so good to be able to pull it back. To finish 2-under par after a bad start definitely helps the confidence.”
   Green is two shots ahead of Iceland’s Olafie Krstinsdottir, a former Wake Forest standout who played on the Ladies European Tour (LET) this year. Kristinsdottir fired a 4-under 68 at the Jones Course, which has played the easier of the two course this week, and stands at 13-under 275.
   Former Washington standout Sadena Parks, who became the first African American player to graduate from the Symetra Tour to the LPGA in 2014, is alone in third place. The 26-year-old Parks, who appeared in The Golf Channel’s “Big Break Florida,” had a 4-under 68 on the Hills Course and is at 12-under 276.
   Japan’s Nasa Hataoka, at 17 the youngest player in the field, cooled off a little after grabbing the lead after three rounds with a 3-over 75 at the Hills Course and is alone in fourth place at 11-under 277. Hataoka, a quarterfinalist at the U.S. Women’s Amateur at Rolling Green Golf Club this summer, won the Japan Women’s Open Championship as an amateur in October before turning pro.
   A shot behind Hataoka is another teen phenom, Angel Yin of Arcadia, Calif. Yin was an American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) standout and the runnerup in the U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship two summers ago. She was going to join the powerhouse Southern California program, but decided to turn pro. She had a 4-under 68 on the Jones Course and is in fifth place at 10-under 278.
   Beth Allen, a San Diego native whose professional career has flourished on the LET, is alone in sixth place at 9-under 279 after a 4-under 68 on the Jones Course.
   Another LET standout and a two-time European Solheim Cup team member, Mel Reid of England, heads a group of three players tied for seventh at 8-under 280. Reid, a five-time winner on the LET, matched par with a 72 at the Jones Course.
   Joining Reid at 280 are Jennifer Ha, a former Kent State standout from Canada, and Ssu Chia Cheng, a native of Chinese Taipei. Ha moved up the leaderboard with a 5-under 67 at the Hills Course while Cheng, who won an LET event as a 17-year-old amateur two years ago, matched par with a 72 at the Hills Course.
   Dori Carter, a native of Valdosta, Ga. and a five-year veteran of the LPGA Tour, had the round of the day, a brilliant 9-under 63 at the Jones Course that featured a hole-out from the fairway for an eagle at the 10th. The round landed her in a three-way tie for 10th at 7-under 281.
   Joining her at that figure were Israel’s Laetitia Beck, who helped Duke win the 2014 NCAA title as a senior, and South Korea’s Jeong Eun Lee. Beck had a 4-under 68 at the Jones Course and Lee had a 3-under 69 at the Jones Course.
   Only one of the current collegians in the field, Southern Cal’s Karen Chung of Livingston, N.J., is still in the top 20 heading into the final round. Chung is tied for 19th at 4-under 284 after a 1-under 71 at the Hills Course.
   Any amateur finishing in the top 20 has to turn professional to receive an unconditional LPGA Tour card. Those finishing between 21st and 45th earn conditional LPGA Tour status. The 70 players who made the cut for Sunday’s final round are eligible to play on the developmental Symetra Tour next year.
   The 1-2 finishers in voting for the Annika Award last spring, UCLA senior Bronte Law of England and South Carolina senior Katelyn Dambaugh of Goose Creek, S.C., are in a group tied for 30th at 2-under 286.
   Law, a member of the winning Great Britain & Ireland team in the Curtis Cup Match earlier this year, had a 2-under 70 at the Jones Course while Dambaugh, who had a share of the lead after an opening-round 67 at the Jones Course, had a 3-over 75 at the Hills Course.
   Miami senior Daniela Darquea of Ecuador is another shot back in a tie for 37th at 1-under 287 after a 2-under 70 at the Jones Course.
   Mariah Stackhouse of Riverdale, Ga. and Lauren Kim of Los Altos, Calif., standouts on a Stanford team that won the 2015 NCAA title and reached the final earlier this year, are both in the hunt for an LPGA Tour card in their first try at Q-School.
   They are tied for 23rd at 3-under 295 after each posted a 2-under 70 at the Hills Course.
   The survivors of Saturday’s cut to the low 70 players and ties will all play the Hills Course Sunday.