It’s been seven years since they celebrated an NCAA championship for Purdue at The Country Club of Landfall in Wilmington, N.C.
But after two rounds of Stage III of the LPGA Qualifying School, the Final Stage, Thursday, there the two ’Boilers stood, tied for fourth at 3-under-par 141, three shots out of the lead at LPGA International in Daytona Beach, Fla. Paula Reto, the South African who was just a freshman on that 2010 Purdue team, and Maude-Aimee Leblanc, the Canadian who was a junior and probably the best player for the Boilermakers that spring, together again.
Both have had their moments as professional golfers, but if you’re at Q-School that means you didn’t have a good year. The 27-year-old Reto has won more than $500K on the LPGA Tour in her four years as a pro. The 28-year-old Leblanc has banked more than $300K in LPGA earnings in six years as a pro, including more than $173,000 in 2016.
All you can do is put your head down and keep playing, advice they probably heard more than a few times from legendary ’Boiler boss Devon Brouse back in the day.
Leblanc fired a 3-under-par 69 over the 6,443-yard, par-72 Jones Course Thursday after opening with an even-par 72 at the 6,566-yard, par-72 Hills Course Wednesday to join the foursome tied for fourth at 3-under 141. Reto matched par with a 72 at the Hills Course Thursday after opening with a 3-under 69 at the Jones Course Wednesday.
There’s a long way to go in this 90-hole marathon, but the ultimate goal is to finish in the top 20 and secure full-time status on the LPGA Tour in 2018. A finish between 21st and 45th gives a player conditional status on the LPGA Tour next year. Through two rounds, they’re both playing well and they’re experienced professionals now. They’ve played under pressure before.
“If I just kind of keep it simple for me and not worry about scoring and all that and just think about my pre-shot routine, it kind of takes care of the result,” Reto told the LPGA website. “Three more days, so it’s still a marathon.”
Marissa Stein, a third-year pro from West Chester, Ohio, grabbed the lead with a 5-under 67 at the Jones Course Thursday that gave her a 6-under 138 total. The former Memphis standout is one of 72 players in the field who held some kind of LPGA status in 2017. Steen won $91,223 on the LPGA Tour this year.
Right on her heels is Nasa Hataoka, the talented 18-year-old from Japan who led Q-School Final Stage after three rounds a year ago. Hataoka, a quarterfinalist in the U.S. Women’s Amateur two summers ago at Rolling Green Golf Club as a 17-year-old, carded a 1-under 71 at the Hills Course after opening with a 4-under 68 at the Jones Course Wednesday.
Hataoka was one of five co-leaders after the opening round. The only other player from among that five still in the top 15 is South Korea’s Hyemin Kim, who joined Reto, LeBlanc and Australian Rebecca Artis in the group tied for fourth at 3-under 141.
Kim posted a 1-over 73 at the Jones Course after her opening-round 68 at the Hills Course. Artis matched par with a 72 at the Hills Course after opening with a 3-under 69 at the Jones Course.
Leticia Ras-Anderica of Spain is alone in third place at 4-under 140 after adding a 2-under 70 at the Jones Course to her opening-round 70 at the Hills Course. The 23-year-old, who played collegiately at Miami, has two top-10 finishes in 34 Ladies European Tour starts.
Heading the group of eight players tied for eighth at 2-under 142 is Vicky Hurst, who had a 1-under 71 at the Hills Course after opening with a 71 at the Jones Course. Hurst was a rising star when she turned pro out of high school in Melbourne, Fla. a decade ago and she’s still only 27.
Hurst has won $1.6 million on the LPGA Tour. She was a member of the U.S. Solheim Cup team in 2011. There are a lot of people rooting for Hurst to be a regular on the LPGA Tour again.
There are two other veterans in that group at 2-under 142, Alison Walshe, in her ninth year, and 30-year-old Cindy LaCrosse, a former Louisville standout. Walshe’s 71 at the Hills Course matched the 71 she opened with at the Jones Course. LaCrosse had a 2-under 70 at the Hills Course Thursday after opening with an even-par 72 at the Jones Course.
Walshe, who won 10 tournaments as a collegiate standout at Airzona, has banked nearly $1 million and has five top-10 finishes in 135 LPGA starts.
One other player matched Steen’s 5-under 67 at the Jones Course and that was Laetitia Beck, a native of Israel who was one of the leaders on Duke’s 2014 NCAA championship team. Beck had opened with a 3-over 75 at the Hills Course and her 5-under round Thursday vaulted her into the group at 2-under 142.
Former North Carolina standout Lori Beth Adams of Burlington, N.C. is also in the group at 142 after adding a 1-under 71 at the Jones Course to her opening-round 71 at the Hills Course. Former Southern California star Tiffany Chan of Hong Kong matched par with a 72 at the Jones Course after opening with a 2-under 70 at the Hills Course and is also in the group tied for eighth.
Rounding out that group at 2-under are a couple of current collegians and, for now, still amateurs, Oklahoma State’s Maddie McCrary, a senior from Wylie, Texas, and Georgia’s Jillian Hollis, a junior from Rocky River, Ohio.
McCrary, a three-time all-Big 12 selection, fired a 2-under 70 at the Jones Course after opening with an even-par 72 at the Hills Course. Hollis matched the 71 she shot Wednesday at the Hills Course with a 1-under 71 at the Jones Course in the second round.
If they finish in the top 20, they must turn pro to be eligible to accept the LPGA Tour card that goes with the top-20 finish.
Rachel Rohanna, the 2007 PIAA champion as a junior at Waynesburg, fell back a little with a 2-over 74 at the Hills Course Thursday after opening with a 1-under 71 at the Jones Course. The former Ohio State standout is still in good striking distance in a tie for 28th at 1-over 145.