Postcards from LPGA Q-School Stage II
A snapshot of the collegiate highs and lows midway through a three-month interview
By Jordan Perez
VENICE, Fla.—Greetings from Plantation Golf & Country Club, where the wildlife is ubiquitous on a pair of feisty feline courses—the Panther and the Bobcat—that would chart the career paths of LPGA hopefuls.
Q-School is kinda wild. You’re not there to win; it’s all about survival. What everyone really wanted last week was to finish inside the top 45 (and ties), earning the chance to advance to the grueling two-week bender in Alabama that is Q-Series, the final stage to securing LPGA membership (although making it to Stage II guarantees some type of Symetra Tour status for next year). This brutal process shines a light on a glaring disparity between men’s and women’s golf. Elite amateur men who enter the college pipeline are incentivized to remain in school and can have good play rewarded with Korn Ferry Tour or international tour status upon graduation. Meanwhile, elite amateur women don’t have the same luxury: they fixate on four months of preparation and tournament play just to have some semblance of security.
Nevertheless, there was no shortage of friendship, warm smiles and familiar faces from the world of college golf on display at Plantation. This year’s Stage II field boasted 14 collegians, with seven advancing to December’s Q-series. All competitors, including those who do not advance, are eligible to maintain their amateur status throughout Q-School.
Others took the pro leap this summer. That group includes medalist Pauline Roussin-Bouchard (67-70-67-65), who turned pro after completing her sophomore year at South Carolina. “We want to beat each other in a nice way,” says Roussin-Bouchard (above). A five-shot victory was far too kind.
U.S. Women’s Amateur finalist Vivian Hou and her sister, Yu-Sang, are trying their damndest to lock up their jobs ahead of graduation. Vivian caddied for Yu-Sang in Stage I. (Vivian had earned an exemption for being inside the top 400 Rolex rankings by the entry deadline). They played alongside each other in Stage II, and both finished comfortably inside the top 45. Still, Vivian (below right, with Yu-Sang) felt the weight of both of their fates. “I was so stressed the whole round,” she said. “To be honest, the whole week, because it’s one of my goals to make it to the LPGA Tour. My sister, too.”
Some see trying to qualify for the LPGA as an internship of sorts. Gina Kim, a levelheaded Duke senior, is basking in the four-month process. Kim (below) medaled at Stage I and held on strong (69-73-68-72) to advance to Q-series. “Just another day at the office,” Kim said. “I chose this because I love it so much to the point where I want it to be my job, so I’m just trying not to be too serious.”
For the final round, the Bobcat Course was softened by sprinkles and drenched in humidity. Florida State’s Beatrice Wallin entered the day hovering around the cut line at T25, but she jumped inside the top 20 with a 2-under round. However, there was time to celebrate advancing to Q-Series and her Symetra Tour status—she had schoolwork that was due by 11:59 p.m. Sunday. “It’s been a little stressful thinking about that and then performing as well,” Wallin said. This is the balancing act of college golfers who are striving to reach the next level.
Some didn’t pass the test. Recent college grads Kennedy Swann and Katherine Smith arrived with strong resumes: Swann led Ole Miss to the national championship last spring while Smith was the Big Ten champion at Nebraska. But they failed to crack the top 45. Smith was undone by a double bogey on the 7th hole on Sunday as she experienced the challenge of walking the tightrope at Q School. “You can go wrong a lot of times, so trying to play smart and aggressive at the same time is hard,” she said.
So many lessons to learn. Now 45 of the 179 women who ventured to Stage II can mark their calendars for the ultimate examination: December’s Q-Series.
With love from Q-school,