Five Things from the LPGA Tour qualifying tournament on Thursday:
1. Kim in contention
The most well-known player this week at LPGA Q-School is Christina Kim, a two-time winner on tour and a Solheim Cup star. The Q-School rookie shot 5-under-par 67 Thursday on the Legends Course to take a firm grip on getting back her tour card. She sits in third place, five strokes behind 18-year-old Moriya Jutanugarn of Thailand.
Kim’s back nine, the Legends’ front nine, consisted of birdies on four of her first six holes, the longest from 15 feet on No. 6.
Kim’s season ended after the LPGA event in Prattville last September. She didn’t touch a club for 2-1/2 weeks, letting her body heal and refreshing her mind. Although Kim put in plenty of practice leading up to this week, it wasn’t until Tuesday (as in two days ago) that she was satisfied with her ball-striking.
“I was a little worried,” Kim said. “I’m not gonna lie.”
This week, Kim said, plenty of well-meaning volunteers have said, “Didn’t expect to see you here.”
Replied Kim, “I didn’t expect to see me here either.”
Either way, it looks like she won’t be coming back.
2. Making a name for themselves
Lisa McCloskey and Austin Ernst, both of whom represented the United States at the Women’s World Amateur Team Championship and Curtis Cup, have turned pro, but that doesn’t mean things have completely changed.
“Worst case scenario is I’ll have to play on the Symetra Tour for a year,” Ernst said about deciding to turn professional after the second stage of Q-School.
For McCloskey, it was just a little box.
“All I did was I checked a box on my application that said ‘I’m a professional now,’” said McCloskey. “That’s about it. I really haven’t done anything else yet.”
Even though they are in good shape to earn LPGA tour cards, (McCloskey is tied for 17th at 1 under, Ernst is tied for sixth at 3 under), it doesn’t mean they don’t want to win the title of LPGA Q-School champion this week.
“I can win all the money this week,” said Ernst, who is seven strokes behind Jutanugarn. “I shot decent both days, but if I start making putts, watch out.”
Both McCloskey and Ernst had outstanding college careers. McCloskey was a four-time All-American at Pepperdine then USC. Ernst had a breakout freshman season at LSU, where she won the individual title at the 2011 NCAA Championship.
Other notable 2012 college graduates playing this week include Alabama’s Brooke Pancake (tied for 13th), Vanderbilt’s Marina Alex (tied for 17th), South Carolina’s Katie Burnett (tied for 23rd) and UCLA’s Brianna Do (tied for 58th).
3. Amateurs represent
Marita Engzelius of Norway is still an amateur. She will graduate from the University of Tulsa in December.
“I got to play on Team Norway at the World Amateur Team Championship because I was on the Norway National Team. So there were some perks to staying amateur.”
Two of the five amateurs, Engzelius and Marina Stuetz of Austria, are inside the top 40. Engzelius shot 72-71 and is in a tie for 17th, while Stuetz is tied for 32nd, which would earn her some status on the LPGA.
If Engzelius were to earn her card, she would stay in the United States and play on the LPGA Tour. If not, she will return to Norway until the end of January or the midle of February and wait for the Symetra Tour season to start. She could also play on any sponsor exemptions she gets in Europe on the Ladies European Tour.
Therefore, she will turn professional no matter what.
Engzelius said her goal is to play in the Olympics in 2016 with fellow Norwegian Suzann Pettersen.
Victoria Tanco, who was the 2008 and 2009 AJGA Rolex Player of the Year, is not sitting pretty at the end of the second round of LPGA Q-School. With rounds of 81-83, Tanco is in last place.
In her rookie year on tour, Tanco made six of 15 cuts and finished no higher than a tie for 17th.
Before she turned pro last December, Tanco had an outstanding junior career. She had moved to Bradenton, Fla., to attend IMG Academies and compete at the highest level of junior golf. Tanco won four AJGA invitational titles. Since 2008, she has appeared in all five US Women’s Opens.
5. Short shots
• Birdie Kim, the 2005 US Women’s Open champion, is 104th after two rounds.
• Reilley Rankin is just barely inside the top 40 to earn LPGA status. She is in 39th at 2 over.
• Chie Arimura of Japan, the highest ranked player in the field at No. 19 in the Rolex Rankings, shot a 1-under 71 on Thursday and is tied for sxith.
• Jutanugarn had the low round of the day, again, this time on the Champions Course with a 6-under 66. She leads by three over American Lacey Agnew.
• Ashleigh Simon of South Africa, who suffered from vertigo in the second stage of Q-School, is tied for sixth.