Monday, November 28, 2011

JLPGA and LPGA Q-School Previews

With the Final Qualifying Tournaments for both the JLPGA and LPGA starting this week, I thought it would be interesting to compare and contrast the fields for the last stage of Q-School on each tour.

I'll begin with the big news from the JLPGA:  Ai Miyazato (who was just profiled by Lisa Mickey on, Hee Young Park, Meena Lee, and Harukyo Nomura finished outside the top 50 on the 2011 money list but are not playing this week, which most likely means that they will not be dual LPGA-JLPGA members in 2012--unless the JLPGA makes some kind of exception for Miyazato (who after all has 15 career wins on tour) and/or Nomura (who won as a non-member this year in her 1st start on tour as a professional).  I'm guessing that with Miho Koga retiring, #51 on the money list Midori Yoneyama will take her spot, but it's possible she's also retiring, as she isn't playing this week, either.  (In fact, nobody between #51 and #54 is playing--not quite sure what that means.)  It doesn't appear that any big stars from the LPGA, KLPGA, or LET will be trying to join the JLPGA for the 1st time in 2012, either.

OK, enough about who won't be playing in Shizuoka this week.  Who will?  Probably the biggest names in the field belong to Mie Nakata and Erina Hara.  Nakata's been on tour for over a decade but finished this season by making only 2 cuts in her last 16 starts; Hara was one of the young stars of the JLPGA when she joined the tour at age 19 in 2007 and continued to shine brightly in her next 2 seasons, but this is now the 2nd year in a row she has to go to Q-School to try to keep her card.  Nakata and Hara will be joined by fellow veterans Yuko Saitoh, Ikuyo Shiotani, Chie Sakai, Toshimi Kimura, Rie Murata, Mayumi Shimomura, Megumi Shimokawa, Julie Lu, Ya-Huei Lu, Nana Akahori, Kaori Harada, Yuko Fukuda, and Yoshimi Koda, among the many others fighting to rejoin the tour in 2012.  But I'm more interested in the new talent trying to make it on tour for the 1st time--like Aoi Nagata, Porani Chutichai, Da E Na, and a host of Chinese youngsters--or give themselves another chance to get their fledgling careers off the ground--like Yuki Ichinose, Onnarin Sattayabanphot, Erika Kikuchi, Satsuki Oshiro, Tao-Li Yang, Sakurako Mori, Miki Sakai, and Aiko Ueno.

How does LPGA Q-School stack up?  Pretty darn good.  There's a broader range of Asian players in the field, including Mitsuki Katahira, Junko Nakada, and Ayako Kaneko from Japan (Samantha Richdale and Shayna Miyajima are of Japanese descent, as well), Jean Chua from Malaysia, Junthima Gulyanamitta, Patcharajutar Kongkraphan, and Thidapa Suwannapura from Thailand, Yu-Ling Hsieh, Tzu-Chi Lin, and Peiyun Chien from Taiwan, Vietnamese-America Brianna Do, and of course a host of Koreans and Korean-Americans, headed by Danielle Kang, Christine Song, Birdie Kim, Stephanie Kono, Jimin Jeong, Hannah Yun, Hannah Jun, Angela Oh, Kimberly Kim, Esther Choe, Stephanie Kim, Misun Cho, Hanna Kang, Jenny Suh, and Jennie Lee.  There are several good Australians and New Zealanders, from Kristie Smith to Stephanie Na to Julia Boland to Emma De Groot to Cathryn Bristow.  There are a lot of impressive Spanish speakers, from Carlota Ciganda and Mariajo Uribe to Sophia Sheridan and Lili Alvarez, from Paola Moreno and Juliana Murcia Ortiz to Lizette Salas and Victoria Tanco, from Veronica Felibert and Alejandra Llaneza to Macarena Silva and Anya Sarai Alvarez (just to name a few).  Europe is well represented not only by Ciganda and countrywoman Elisa Serramia, but also Minea Blomqvist, Jodi Ewart, Benedikte Grotvedt, Valentine Derrey, and Camilla Lennarth.  Closer to home, Richdale is joined by many other Canadians, including Maude-Aimee Leblanc, Izzy Beisiegel, Rebecca Lee-Bentham, Angela Buzminski, Lisa Meldrum, Adrienne White, Stephanie Sherlock, and Sue Kim.  And of course there are a bunch more Americans than the ones I've already listed who have a chance to win this thing, including Alison Fouch (now Duncan), Nicole Hage, Meredith Duncan, Sara Brown, Cydney Clanton, Natalie Sheary, Jaclyn Sweeney, Mallory Blackwelder, Ginger Howard, Jacqui Concolino, Leah Wigger, Jean Reynolds, and Dori Carter.

Bottom line is, when you look at the long list of developmental tour winners this year, LPGA Q-School has JLPGA Q-School beat, hands-down.  If I had to pick a handful or 2 of favorites in Florida, I'd say to look out for Minea Blomqvist, Kristie Smith, Carlota Ciganda, Mariajo Uribe, Mitsuki Katahira, Junthima Gulyanamitta, Danielle Kang, Christine Song, Victoria Tanco, and Hannah Yun, but there are so many players in their league or close to it coming in with pretty hot hands that I frankly don't see any of them as real locks.  All I can say is it's a good thing LET Q-School comes so late (January 2012!), as there's going to be a large number of very good golfers who won't get LPGA membership come Sunday.

[Update 1 (11/29/11, 12:36 am):  Looking back over my final LPGA Q-School stage 2 post, I was surprised to see that Carlota Ciganda and several others who are in the field this week were originally slated as missing the cut.  Suggests to me that a good number of LPGAers who didn't make the top 100 on the money list elected not to enter the Final Qualifying Tournament.  I knew Moira Dunn was among them, but now I'm wondering how many and who joined her....]

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