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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.

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