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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Dambaugh fires 67, shares lead after Day 1 of LPGA Q-School Final Stage

   Katelyn Dambaugh, the talented left-hander from Goose Creek, S.C., isn’t saying if she’ll turn pro if she finishes in the top 20 in Stage III of the LPGA Qualifying School this week at LPGA International in Daytona Beach, Fla. or return to South Carolina to finish her senior season of college golf with the Gamecocks.
   But she’s not saying she won’t either. She just wants to see how this turns out first.
   Dambaugh was answering questions about her future Wednesday after she took a giant step toward possibly earning an LPGA Tour card when she fired a 5-under 67 on LPGA International’s Jones Course  to share the opening-round lead with Thailand teen-ager Pannarat Thanapolboonyaras, who also had a 67 at the Jones course.
   “I was just focusing on having fun out there,” Dambaugh, runnerup to UCLA’s Bronte Law for the Annika Award last spring, told the LPGA website. “My coach from home was on the bag and we were just out there goofing off and having fun like we always do.
   “I’m just trying to take it one shot at a time and not put pressure on myself and letting the results take care of themselves.”
   In between “goofing off” with her caddy, Dambaugh managed to hole out for an eagle and make five birdies to offset two bogeys.
   Thanapolboonyaras earned an LPGA Tour card at last year’s Q-School, but finds herself back in the Final Stage again this year.
   The top 20 finishers in Stage III earn LPGA Tour cards for 2017, but an amateur has to turn pro to accept the playing privileges.
   I had a sneaking suspicion when I was watching Japanese teen Nasa Hataoka outduel Dambaugh in a crackling round-of-16 match at last summer’s U.S. Women’s Amateur at Rolling Green Golf Club that I was looking at a couple of future LPGA players.
   So I am not surprised in the least that Hataoka, the youngest player in the field at 17, is part of a group tied for third, a shot back of Dambaugh and Thanapolboonyaras at 4-under 68. Hataoka, who also played the Jones Course, won the Japanese Women’s Open Championship, a major on the JLPGA Tour, as an amateur in October, but has since turned pro.
   Joining Hataoka in the tie for third at 4-under are Jaye Marie Green, the medalist in this event in 2013, and Min-G Kim of Chula Vista, Calif. They also played the Jones Course.
   You’ve figured out by now that the Jones Course played a little easier than the Hills Course. The best scores at the Hills Course were a trio of 3-under 69s by Mel Reid, the English woman who has twice been a member of the European Solheim Cup team, South Korean Jeong Eun Lee and French woman Celine Boutier, who helped Duke win the 2014 NCAA championship as a sophomore.
   Five other players who carded 3-under 69s at the Jones Course joined Reid, Lee and Boutier in the group tied for sixth. Among them were a couple of Big Breakers, Sadena Parks, the first African American player to earn an LPGA Tour card through the Symetra Tour, and Krista Puisite, a native of Latvia. Parks competed on The Golf Channel’s “Big Break Florida” while Puisite teed it up in “Big Break Myrtle Beach.”
   Also going 3-under at the Jones Course were Lauren Kim, a member of Stanford’s 2015 NCAA championship team, Karen Chung of Livingston, N.J. who is a senior on the Southern California team that is ranked No. 2 in the country by Golfstat, and Denmark’s Nicole Broch Larsen, No. 91 in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Ranking.
   Chung, like Dambaugh, will have a tough decision to make should she finish in the top 20 at the end of the 90-hole marathon: Turn pro or return for the second half of her senior season.
   Another collegiate standout sitting in the top 20 after Day 1 is Furman senior Taylor Totland of Tinton Falls, N.J. Totland is one of eight players tied for 14th after she posted a 2-under 70 at the Jones Course.
   Daniela Darquea, a senior at Miami from Ecuador, is tied for 72nd after a 2-over 74 at the Hills Course. England’s Law, a senior at UCLA and the reigning Annika Award winner, is tied for 92nd after a 3-over 75 at the Hills Course.
   Reigning Big Ten champion August Kim, a senior at Purdue from St. Augustine, Fla., is tied for 111th after a 4-over 76 at the Hills Course.
   Also posting a 4-over 76 at the Hills Course was Emma Talley, the 2013 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion. Talley has turned professional following an outstanding career at Alabama that included an NCAA individual crown in 2015.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Maguire withdraws from LPGA Q-School, will stay at Duke

   Stage III of the LPGA Qualifying School tees off Wednesday at LPGA International’s Jones and Hills courses in Daytona Beach, Fla., although the big news is about a player who won’t be there.
   It had to be a tough call for Duke junior Leona Maguire, the No. 1 player in the World Amateur Golf Ranking from Ireland, but she decided on the eve of Stage III not to compete and remain at Duke. That sound you heard was a sigh of relief from Duke women’s golf coach Dan Brooks.
   Seriously though, Brooks would never stand in the way of a player as talented as Maguire if she wanted to turn pro. A couple of the factors in Maguire’s decision probably don’t have a whole lot to do with golf. One is that one of her Duke teammates is twin sister Lisa. While Leona’s game has flourished in college, Lisa has struggled while rebuilding her swing. With family, it’s complicated, but this sister act is sticking together for a little while longer.
   One other factor might be that we’re talking about Duke. That diploma might be a nice little fallback if the golf thing doesn’t work out, or even if it does.
   “Upon considerable deliberation, I have decided to withdraw from Stage III of LPGA Q-School and not pursue LPGA membership for 2017,” Leona Maguire told the Duke website. “This is not a decision that I have taken lightly, but one that I feel is best for me in the pursuit of my long-term aspirations.
   “I am thankful for the continuous support of my parents, friends, teammates, coach Shane O’Grady, ILGU (the Irish Ladies Golf Union) and everyone at Duke and for their guidance in helping me to reach my decision.”
   O’Grady is the teaching pro in Ireland who has helped develop Maguire into one of the most talented young players in the planet.
   Maguire was the low amateur at this summer’s RICOH Women’s British Open, finishing in a tie for 25th at 4-under 284 at Woburn Golf Club. She represented Ireland in the Summer Olympics in Brazil and finished tied for 21st at 2-under 282. She fired a 3-under 67 in the final round of the Women’s World Amateur Team Championship in Mexico to help Ireland capture the bronze medal, the first medal won by her homeland at the event.
   Oh yeah, and last spring Maguire helped Great Britain & Ireland defeat the United States in the Curtis Cup Match, played before a raucous crowd on Maguire’s home soil at Dun Laoghaire Golf Club in suburban Dublin.
   “I am fortunate to have had some incredible experiences this past summer competing at the Olympics and in the British and U.S. Opens that reinforced my desire to play professional golf,” Maguire told Duke’s website. “My dream is and always has been to compete alongside the world’s best on the LPGA Tour and this remains resolutely unchanged.
   “It is my intention to turn professional after graduation in May 2018 and I look forward to enjoying many more unforgettable experiences representing Duke, Ireland and myself as an amateur golfer until then.”
   Only the top 20 finishers from the 157-player field for the Stage III tourney will earn unconditional playing privileges on the LPGA Tour in 2017. Those finishing between 21st and 45th earn conditional status and anyone who completes 72 holes, but doesn’t qualify for the LPGA Tour is eligible to compete in the Symetra Tour, the LPGA’s developmental circuit. If an amateur finishes in the top 20, she has to declare that she is turning professional to get her tour card.
   It is a big week for the pros vying for a ticket to play in professional golf’s big league, but it can also change the landscape for the second half of the NCAA Division I season. A year ago, Arkansas’ Gaby Lopez qualified for the tour at the Stage III tourney and the Razorbacks lost one of their top players. Fortunately for Arkansas, Lopez’s fellow Mexican, Maria Fassi, showed up as a freshman and had an immediate impact, softening the blow of Lopez’s departure a little.
   UCLA, for instance, may lose one of its top players as senior Bronte Law of England is in the field. Law was a teammate of Leona Maguire’s on the winning GB&I Curtis Cup team and is the reigning Annika Award winner, which goes to the top player in Division I women’s golf. Law also made the cut at the RICOH Women’s British Open, finishing in a tie for 50th at 2-over 290.
   The runnerup in Annika Award voting, South Carolina senior Katelyn Dambaugh of Goose Creek, S.C., is also in the field. Big Ten champion August Kim, a senior at Purdue from St. Augustine, Fla., is another player who might heed the call of professional golf if she has a good week at LPGA International.
   There are also some players who teed it up at last summer’s U.S. Women’s Amateur at Rolling Green Golf Club and have since turned pro who will be trying to earn their way onto the LPGA Tour.
Chief among them is Japan’s Nasa Hataoka, who recently made history by becoming the youngest player to win a JLPGA major championship when she captured the Japan Women’s Open Championship. She was still an amateur when she won the Japan Women’s Open Championship in October, but I’m pretty sure the plan is for her to turn pro.
   One of the best matches I saw at Rolling Green was a third-round battle between the 17-year-old Hataoka and Dambaugh. Hataoka pulled out a 2 and 1 victory, but there were a lot of quality golf shots from both players.
   One of Duke's top players the last four years turned pro not long after the Women’s Amateur at Rolling Green. French woman Celine Boutier was a sophomore and a key contributor on Duke’s 2014 NCAA championship team.
   Boutier played on some Symetra Tour events this summer following her senior season at Duke. Boutier will be joined in the field at LPGA International by her opponent in a third-round match at Rolling Green, 19-year-old Australian Hannah Green. Boutier fell to Green, 4 and 3.
   Green reached the quarterfinals of the U.S. Women’s Amateur before falling in 19 holes to another French woman, Mathilda Cappeliez, who is a freshman on the Wake Forest golf team.
   Wake Forest senior Sierra Sims, who had a strong fall portion of the season for the Demon Deacons, is another college player who will give it a shot at LPGA International this week. Sims of Austin, Texas was a first-round casualty at Rolling Green, suffering a 2 and 1 setback at the hands of Sirene Blair of South Jordan, Utah, a senior at San Diego State.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Episcopal, Haverford School put three players each on All-Inter-Ac first team

   Inter-Ac League champion Episcopal Academy placed three players on the All-Inter-Ac first team while runnerup Haverford School, led by Bert Linton Invitational winner Davis Rosato, was also represented by three players on the first team.
   The Inter-Ac’s six regular-season invitationals that determine the league champion was an incredibly tight battle in which any of four teams – Episcopal, Haverford School, Malvern Prep and Penn Charter – could have claimed the title in the final mini-tournament hosted by the Fords at Gulph Mills Golf Club.
   The Churchmen edged Haverford School by a shot to claim their first Inter-Ac crown since 1999. Representing Episcopal Academy on the first team are juniors Jon Nolan Perry and Cole Kemmerer and freshman Jacob Zeng.
   Perry was consistent throughout the regular-season campaign, ending up second in the points standings with a record of 222-37-23 against the rest of the league. He also had a 39 in the clincher at Gulph Mills. Kemmerer fired a 3-over 73 at Aronimink Golf Club to finish third in the Bert Linton. He was one of three players tied for second, but the ties were broken with a match of cards.
   Jacob Zeng was a standout freshman on a young Episcopal team, coming on strong when the Churchmen surged ahead in the final three invitationals.
   Rosato was brilliant in bringing the Inter-Ac individual title to Lancaster Avenue as the Haverford School senior had six birdies and a back-nine 31 over the Donald Ross classic at Aronimink. His 2-under 68 gave him a runaway five-shot victory.
   Rosato was joined on the first team by fellow Fords Sam Walker and David Hurly.
   Walker, a sophomore, was the Fords’ most consistent player throughout the regular season and finished fourth in the points standings with a record of 218-43-21. He was the medalist in each of the final two invitationals as Haverford School came up just short in its bid for the league title. He was one of the three players to finish tied for second at Aronimink with a 3-over 73, but ended up fourth in the match of cards.
   Malvern Prep is represented on the first team by sophomore John Updike and junior Matt Davis.
   Updike, the reigning Pennsylvania Boys’ Junior champion, was third in the regular-season points standings with a record of 219-50-13. He was the runnerup to Rosato on his home course at Aronimink in the Bert Linton, matching the 73s posted by Kemmerer and Walker, but taking second on the match of cards.
   Davis, a junior who is also an Aronimink member, finished alone in fifth in the Bert Linton with a 4-over 74 on his home course.
   Rounding out the first-team selections were a pair of Penn Charter juniors, Brian Isztwan and Noah Schwartz.
   Isztwan was easily the best player in the Inter-Ac throughout the six invitationals, compiling a record of 248-24-10. Schwartz finished fifth in the points standings with a 213-54-18 mark. Together they led the Quakers to a pair of outright firsts in two of the six invitationals and kept them in contention right to the final mini-tournament.
   Three more Episcopal players – senior Matt Marino, sophomore Michael Zeng and junior Ashton Dunn -- head the All-Inter-Ac second team. When the Churchmen needed a clutch performance, they turned to their senior captain Marino. When he holed a birdie putt on the last hole at Gulph Mills, it gave Marino medalist honors for the day with a 38 and helped them edge Haverford School by a shot.
Haverford School had three players – Peter Garno, Mac Costin and Cal Buonocore – on the second team.
   Malvern Prep was also represented by three players – senior Gavin Sims, sophomore Andrew Curran and sophomore Matt Civitella – on the second team.
   Rounding out the second team was Penn Charter’s Joey Centeno.