Wie takes aim at joining LPGA
By STEVE DIMEGLIO
By STEVE DIMEGLIO
One-time teenage phenoms and a former U.S. Amateur champion, grizzled veterans, tournament winners and even two former major championship winners are in school this week — Q School.
That's the better-known name for the qualifying tournaments for the PGA and LPGA tours, the annual pressure-packed get-togethers that decide membership into each tour for the following year.
Stacy Lewis, who nearly won the U.S. Women's Open this year, and Honolulu's Michelle Wie, who nearly won three major championships when she was 16, headline a field of 143 players in the LPGA Final Qualifying Tournament on Wednesday to Sunday on the Legends and Champions courses at LPGA International in Daytona Beach, Fla. Patricia Meunier-Lebouc, winner of the 2003 Kraft Nabisco Championship, is in the field, too, after finishing 155th on the money list in 2008.
Wie, a 19-year-old Stanford student, and Lewis tied for fourth at the LPGA sectional qualifier at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, Calif., in September to advance to the final tournament.
Beginning tomorrow at PGA West in La Quinta, Calif., Mark Brooks, the PGA Championship winner in 1996, and Notah Begay, a four-time Tour winner, are among 163 players who will tackle the TPC Stadium and Jack Nicklaus Tournament courses.
All 306 players will have their eye on earning membership or improving their current membership status for the 2009 season. Twenty players at the LPGA school and the top 25 and ties at the PGA Tour school will earn full-exempt status, otherwise known as a "tour card," meaning they will be able to play in most events without having to qualify.
Thus, over the course of five rounds in the LPGA school and six rounds in the PGA school, golfers are playing for their futures.
The LPGA qualifier, which features players from 20 countries, will have a 72-hole cut to the low 70 and ties. Those players will compete Sunday on the Champions course for the final 18 holes of play.
At PGA West, every player plays six rounds. Among them will be: 2002 U.S. Amateur champion Ricky Barnes; Joe Durant, a four-time Tour winner; Chris Riley, a member of the 2004 Ryder Cup team who partnered with Tiger Woods to win a point; and former Tour winners John Huston, Robert Gamez and Olin Browne.