Friday, September 5, 2008

Futures Tour Friday: It All Comes Down to This

Even though 10 players from the Futures Tour will get LPGA cards in 2009, the difference between #5 and #6 on their money list after this week's event in Albany, NY, is so great that LPGA Q-School is likely to be in the cards for everyone outside the top 5. We'll know who 3 more members of the Class of 2009 will be by this coming Sunday.

Playing in only her 10th FT event of the season and sitting in 8th place on the FT money list, Sarah-Jane Kenyon just made a huge move to get into that top 5, firing a scintillating 64. The Australian's rookie season on the LPGA came in 2006, but as a non-exempt member of the LPGA this season, she's only gotten into 9 events and made just under $10K less than she has on the FT. But two more good rounds could vault her ahead of current #3 M.J. Hur, who opened with a one-over-par 72. As she's ranked 3rd in scoring average and 2nd in percentage of rounds under par and greens in regulation, she's going to be hard for even #1 Vicky Hurst (68) and #2 Mindy Kim (69) to catch.

But there are some players near the top of the leaderboard with even greater motivation to chase her down. #10 Haeji Kang (68) absolutely needs her 2nd win of the season to have a chance to get to #5, while #4 Jin Young Pak (-2 through 12) needs a good finish to secure her #4 position.

Meanwhile, with #5 Song-Yi Choi +3 with 3 holes on the front left to play, #6 Jessica Shepley opening with a two-over-par 73, and #7 Leah Wigger and #9 Kim Welch +4 through 9, the door is opened for some players to sneak into the top 10 and at least get some kind of guaranteed (low) priority status on the LPGA next season. #12 Sophia Sheridan (69) has put herself into the best position thus far through the 1st round.

More after the round is complete.

[Update 1 (9/6/08, 12:24 am): Jin Young Pak responded to Kenyon's challenge with a fantastic finish to pull within 2 of the leader. Here's the Futures Tour's 1st-round recap that focuses on the pair at the head of the pack. Song-Yi Choi hung in there and finished with a 73, so she's tied with Shepley for 30th right now. Leah Wigger ballooned to a 77 and Kim Welch to an 80, so they'll have the added pressure of just trying to make the cut tomorrow. Fortunately for them, #11 Mo Martin (79) and #13 Lisa Ferrero (74) will also have to be thinking about the cut line tomorrow, and everyone lower on the money list than they are is also over par.

On a side note, it's good to see 16-year-old Hannah Yun deciding to return to college:

Rookie Hannah Yun of Bradenton, Fla., made headlines when she enrolled last year at the University of Florida as a 15-year old freshman. After leaving the Gators to compete on the Duramed FUTURES Tour as an amateur, Yun made headlines again at The Gettysburg Championship after she announced she would be going back to Gainesville for her sophomore season.

Yun returned to the UF campus after The Gettysburg Championship to start classes, but is finishing out the Tour schedule this weekend in Albany.

She took a page from college teammate and Tour member Jessica Yadloczky of Casselberry, Fla. Yun joined the Tour in May for the Aurora Health Care Championship. Yadloczky played the 2007 Tour season as an amateur and became a freshman All-American with Yun at Florida.

“I still have to maintain my focus and play like a pro,” said the 16-year old Yun. “I’ve really watched how the girls have handled themselves this year. It’s so much different out here from junior golf and even college golf.”

While UF is competing in its first tournament of the season this weekend at The Duramed Preview Invitational in Owing Mills, Md., Yun was granted a leave of absence to finish the Tour’s last regular-season event.

Yun said playing on the Duramed FUTURES Tour has helped her game and prepared her for another college season.

“I decided that going back to school for another year was going to help me because there is still a lot to learn,” Yun said. “No matter how mature I think I am, I’m still just 16.”

Smart choice, Hannah!]

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