Stefanie Kenoyer’s approach shot to the 18th green Saturday one-hopped on the putting surface before settling in rough directly behind the pin. When she caught the chip shot chunky, she growled in frustration, unusual for the lighthearted young Furman grad.
Welcome to moving day at the final stage of LPGA Q-School, where emotions were high as the field of 119 players scrambled to be among the top 70 and ties. In other words, among those who got to stick around for Sunday’s fifth and final round at LPGA International.
Perhaps Kenoyer, who two-putted the 18th for her lone bogey in a round of 2-under 70, put it best at the end of her round: “My goal coming into the golf tournament was not just to make the cut, it was to win the tournament.”
However, she’ll take it for now.
Kenoyer, from Lighthouse Point, Fla., is among the players who made the biggest, and most crucial, moves on Saturday. She jumped from 83rd to a tie for 68th with her fourth-round 70, her best of the week. She’s among four players in the final spot above the cutline.
“I knew all the elements were there, it was just a matter of putting it all together,” she said.
Kenoyer was able to return to the course on Saturday more relaxed than she had been all week, but credit part of that to her general disposition. Kenoyer said she knew she’d need to shoot under par on Saturday to hang around. She had easily advanced through stage one, held at LPGA International in September, and finished 54 holes under par two years ago when she played the NCAA East Regional here. Still, Kenoyer’s “aha” moment Saturday came when a fellow competitor made this statement: “We are so much better than this.”
Like Kenoyer, Giulia Molinaro made a similar dramatic leaderboard leap on Saturday. The Italian, and former Arizona State All-American, returned a 5-under 67 after opening rounds of 72-71-76. It moved her from a tie for 49th to a tie for 19th, and effectively change the game for Molinaro. If she maintains her position, she’ll earn one of 20 tour cards on the table Sunday evening.
“I was very fired up today because yesterday I didn’t play well and I knew that the game was there, I felt it yesterday even though the score was really bad,” she said. “I really started the day trying to give myself as many birdie putts as I can, and it really worked.”
Molinaro, who finished tied for eighth at last spring’s NCAA Championship, is thriving this week with supporting messages from her fans back home. Arizona State head coach Melissa Luellen and assistant coach Missy Farr-Kaye have been texting her daily. Don Bocchi, senior associate athletic director, sends what Molinaro calls essay texts — long messages of encouragement that require extensive scrolling.
Molinaro played each of the first two stages of Q-School, and has been interning in the athletic department back at Arizona State in the meantime, doing whatever odds and ends she can to help out. Molinaro, a tourism management major, will don her cap and gown later this month to receive her diploma. But there’s something else to accomplish before that happens.
“I want to go in (to tomorrow) with the exact same mentality as today,” she said. “Just going and giving myself as many opportunities as I can, and that’s all I can ask myself.”
For all the shuffling on Saturday, no player could make a move substantial enough to catch Moriya Jutanugarn, who has held at least a share of the lead after each of four rounds. Jutanugarn shot 2-under 70 on Saturday to build a six-shot lead at 15-under 273. It was the first time she had failed to break 70 all week, and she walked out of the scoring tent with mixed feelings about her play.
“I wanted to cry today,” she said immediately, referencing too many missed putts. Jutanugarn counted five missed greens on Saturday, and had 29 putts. She had 32 putts in a third-round 69 but hit 17 greens.
Jutanugarn is perfectionist who says “I try to challenge myself, low number every day.”
“I’m pretty surprised because last week was terrible for me,” she said of her substantial lead.
She’s among the few players, spectators and scribes at LPGA International who feel that way.