Erina Hara birdied her last hole of the Final Qualifying Tournament at JLPGA Q-School to salvage an even-par 72 at the Yamana Katsuragi Golf Club in Shizuoka and secure a 2-shot victory over veteran Chie Sakai and youngster Harukyo Nomura.
With the top 30-40 golfers in the field getting into most 2012 JLPGA events, seasoned veterans Ikuyo Shiotani (96th) and Kaori Harada (92nd) will have to decide whether to retire and mid-career players like Yoshimi Koda (55th) and Julie Lu (64th) will have to decide whether to join youngsters Aoi Nagata (69th), Hiroko Ayada (72nd), Aiko Ueno (79th), and Sakurako Mori (80th) on the JLPGA's Step-Up Tour, LAGT, and perhaps other developmental tours. Meanwhile, Ya-Huei Lu (50th), Mizuho Ozawa (48th), Erina Yamato (47th), Mie Nakata (46th), and Satsuki Oshiro (45th) will be hoping they get into a decent number of JLPGA events in 2012.
So who dodged the Q-School bullet and assured themselves full membership (or close to it) for next season? Here are the lucky few:
1st/-12 Erina Hara
T2/-10 Chie Sakai, Harukyo Nomura
4th/-9 Shiho Toyonaga
5th/-6 Orie Fujino
6th/-4 Yuki Ichinose
T7/-3 Ming-Yen Chen, Hiromi Takesue
T9/-2 Mayumi Shimomura, Megumi Shimokawa
T11/-1 Tomoko Takahashi, Lala Anai, Nana Akahori, Porani Chutichai
T15/E Ikue Asama, Yuko Saitoh, Yui Kawahara
T18/+1 Erika Kikuchi, Eriko Sonada, Kaori Yamamoto
T21/+2 Miki Sakai, Ayako Okazaki, Yuko Fukuda, Hiroko Fukushima, Hiroko Takahama, Misuzu Narita, Onnarin Sattayabanphot
T28/+3 Mikiko Nishi, Da E Na, Rie Murata, Airi Saitoh, Sae Yamamura
T33/+4 Tao-Li Yang, Kotono Kozuma, Aiko Kaneda, Toshimi Kimura, Tomoko Kusakabe
T38/+5 Keiko Sasaki, Yeo-Jin Kang, Yoko Inoue, Natsu Nagai, Kaori Nakamura
There are a few teen sensations who will be JLPGA members in 2012; Mizusu Narita turned 19 in early October, preceding Mostly Harmless regular Harukyo Nomura by almost 2 months, while Sae Yamamura has almost a half-year and Kotono Kozuma almost 3/4 of a year on the player who won the 1st JLPGA event she entered as a professional. But there are also portraits in perseverance who will be playing on the big tour in 2012, like 39-year-old Ayako Okazaki, who's earned less than 2 million yen in her much-interrupted 5-year career on tour that dates back to 2001 and has been on hold since 2009, and 34-year-old Hiroko Fukushima, who's now made it 6 years in a row on a tour whose top 100 on the money list she has never yet cracked.
While there's a good mix of newcomers to the tour (Da E Na and Porani Chutichai join the Japanese teenagers), young guns whose careers so far have mostly misfired (Ichinose, Anai, Kikuchi, Miki Sakai, Sattayabanphot, Yang, Kang), and vets (pretty much everyone else), probably the only really exciting ones for sure are Hara and Nomura. Both have won once on tour and have the capacity to be top 10 players in 2012. But they, like everyone else, have an uphill battle to prove themselves against those who made the top 50 on the money list in 2011. It'll be interesting to see next year who can do it!