Monday, March 16, 2009

2009 Futures Tour Preview: Mostly Harmless Preseason Top 50

Following up on a great preview by Lisa Mickey, I offer another Mostly Harmless preview of the 2009 Futures Tour season, which kicks off this week in Florida. This time I'm going out on a limb and trying to predict what the top 50 on their money list will look like at the end of the season.

1. Onnarin Sattayabanphot: This member of the LPGA's Class of 2008 will be playing full-time on the FT in 2009. I don't know why I'm so high on her for her to add to her 2007 FT win this season, but I am.
2. Mina Harigae: Having entered this week's event, she probably will be a fixture on the FT this season. Look for her to bounce back from a disappointing college career, but it may take her some time to adjust to professional life.
3. Alison Walshe: Tuned up on the ALPG this winter and had some very good rounds, but could only manage to place 49th on their money list due to playing in only 2 events. Going by her professional record to date, Walshe may find herself struggling to close the deal down the stretch this season like M.J. Hur did last one on the FT, but I'd be shocked if she didn't follow in Hur's footsteps and win high-priority status on the LPGA in '10.
4. Haeji Kang: #230 on the LPGA's priority status list, low among the Category 16 players who just missed the top 20 on the LPGA's Q-School last season, so look for her to rock the FT when she plays, which should be fairly often.
5. Pornanong Phatlum: This 4-time winner on the LAGT has been playing well this winter and practicing hard, so when she doesn't get into LPGA events, expect to see her winning on the FT in '09. Strangely enough, she shows up in neither the alternates list for Mexico nor the field for Florida. I guess that's what happens when you're #319 on the LPGA's priority status list....
6. Song Yi Choi: At the top of the LPGA's Category 17, she's #232 on the priority status list, thanks to her near-miss at a top 5 on the FT last season. I think it's going to be tough for her to avoid the same fate this season, particularly as she's focused on the LPGA so much. (Contrary to her rookie blog, however, she is playing in Florida, not Mexico, this week.)
7. Hannah Jun: The medalist from FT Q-School last season will be playing full-time here this season, so she has a great chance for a top 10.
8. Eunjung Yi: She's the highest-ranked member of the LPGA's Super Sophs on the FT this season, but with Category 15 status on the LPGA and at #152 on the priority status list, she should get into a decent number of events there. Case in point: she's playing in Mexico this week. If she plays as well on the LPGA as I expect her to, she may end up much lower on the FT list than this.
9. Emily Bastel: She's dominated the Futures Tour before, but will find it harder to do it this time around.
10. Sarah Kemp: Like Yi, she has Category 15 status on the LPGA, but will get into fewer events than her due to her #162 placement on the priority status list. Still, as I expect her to do well in those events, she, too, could end up much lower down the FT money list than this.
11. Hannah Yun: I don't think she's as ready for prime time as Harigae, but she's getting closer.
12. Liz Janangelo: She'll be playing full-time on the FT this season, but I just don't see it helping out this 2-time winner on tour all that much in her quest to return to the LPGA.
13. Kristie Smith: That 62 on the ALPG this winter shows what kind of talent she has. A 14th-place finish on their Order of Merit in only 4 events isn't too shabby, either, nor is her 29th-place finish on their overall money list.
14. Sophia Sheridan: At #234 on the LPGA's priority status list, she'll be playing quite often on the Futures Tour.
15. Jessica Shepley: At #233 on the LPGA's priority status list, she, too, will be playing quite often on the Futures Tour.
16. Pernilla Lindberg: After graduating from Oklahoma State, she should do very well on the FT, but will find it hard to make up for her limited schedule.
17. Taylor Leon: Got into the Mexico field this week on the LPGA, thanks to her Category 15 status and #156 placement on the priority status list, which helps explain why I'm not ranking her higher on this list.
18. Gerina Mendoza: Lisa Mickey is higher on her than I am.
19. Briana Vega: Dave Andrews is higher on her than I am.
20. Sara Brown: Golfgal is higher on her than I am.
21. Kate Golden: It'll be interesting to see how this LPGA vet in Category 15 stacks up against the up-and-coming players on the FT in '09.
22. Nontaya Srisawang: At #228 on the LPGA's priority status list in the middle of the Category 16 pack, she'll be spending plenty of time on the FT this season. But she's not starting the season this week in Florida.
23. Angela Oh: Mired in Category 20 on the LPGA at #323 on the priority status list, she, too, will be spending plenty of time on the FT this season.
24. Garrett Phillips: Just missing Category 20 status on the LPGA for '09 will turn out to be a blessing in disguise for this recent Georgia graduate, as it will allow her to focus completely on the FT this season.
25. Chris Brady: Made the cut in half her starts on her rookie season on the LPGA in '08, not that she had so many of them. I look for her to do much better on the FT this season than last.
26. Jane Chin: Look for her to do well on the FT after she graduates from UC Irvine, but probably won't be able to catch the top players on tour in her limited schedule.
27. Jennie Lee: Look for this former Curtis Cupper to play solidly on the FT after she graduates from Duke this spring, but like Lindberg and Chin, she'll have too much ground to make up to do more than gain some insurance in case LPGA Q-School doesn't go as planned.
28. Samantha Richdale: At #227 on the LPGA's priority status list, she'll be spending plenty of time on the FT this season.
29. Jessica Yadloczky: This Florida sophomore will continue to gain FT experience after the end of the spring NCAA schedule, but will find it hard to move up the "money list" (obviously, as an amateur, her winnings will be purely virtual, but my point is that those ahead of her are very good).
30. Virada Nirapathpongporn: I'm hoping this Senior Standout on the LPGA comes back from her shoulder surgery stronger than ever, but as of the LPGA's Thailand event she couldn't play more than 9 holes at a time.
31. Candy Hannemann: Did fairly well in Brazil this winter, so I'm surprised to see this LPGA vet skipping the FT's kickoff event this season.
32. Sarah Lynn Sargent: Another LPGA vet looking to reset her career on the FT.
33. Lisa Ferrero: She's going to find it difficult to repeat her '08 FT success this season.
34. Mo Martin: Ditto, despite her 2 wins on tour.
35. Kim Welch: Ditto, in part because she'll get into a few LPGA events this season, thanks to her #235 position on their priority status list.
36. Maria Hernandez: Look for this All-American to do pretty well on the FT this season after she graduates from Purdue.
37. Paola Moreno: This USC grad should have a solid season on the FT in '09.
38. Natalie Sheary: Look for this Wake Forest sophomore to gain valuable experience on the FT in '09.
39. Amanda Blumenherst: Just like Stacy Lewis last season, don't expect to see her playing very often on the Futures Tour this one. She'll be focusing on lining up her 6 sponsor exemptions on the LPGA and trying to win or win enough to get into the top 80 of the '09 money list.
40. Tiffany Joh: She should be joining Blumenherst on the LPGA for her full complement of sponsor exemptions, but like her she'll probably play in just enough FT events to qualify for '10 there, having learned from Walshe's struggles in LPGA Q-School last December.
41. Kira Meixner: This Kent State grad is still listed as an amateur for the '09 FT season.
42. Mallory Hetzel: This Georgia grad is also listed as an amateur.
43. Sofie Andersson: Should play a little better, now that she's back on the FT full-time again after not getting into a single event as an LPGA rookie last season.
44. Caroline Larsson: Should improve on her previous 2 FT seasons. But the level of competition on tour will likely improve faster.
45. Nicole Hage: One of the struggling LPGA rookies from last season will play full-time on the FT this season, but I expect it to end up being another tune-up for another run at LPGA Q-School.
46. Su A Kim: Ditto.
47. Violeta Retamoza: Ditto. Will definitely make more FT cuts in '09 than she made on the LPGA in '08.
48. Seo-Jae Lee: Ditto. But she only has Category D status on tour this season.
49. Amie Hartje: Ditto. Look for her to start putting the pieces back together this season on the FT, but it's going to take some time.
50. Victoria Kiser: This young amateur is going to get quite an education on the FT this season.

[Update 1 (3/17/09, 2:06 pm): Kang and Kemp both Monday-qualified for the LPGA event in Mexico! Congrats!]

[Update 2 (3/18/09, 6:18 pm): Too bad the preview didn't take note of Kang's being in Mexico!]

[Update 3 (3/20/09, 2:31 am): Great FT preview by Dave Andrews and great choice by Armchair Golfer to give him a bloggy platform!]

[Update 4 (3/25/09, 12:20 am): Ryan Herrington profiles another amateur you may see applying for A-5 status on the Futures Tour after graduation, Purdue's Maria Hernandez, an 11-time winner on the NCAA.]

[Update 5 (3/27/09, 3:06 am): Beth Ann Baldry gives some of her picks.]

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