Late Birdies in Round 7, Early Birdies in Round 8 Secure LPGA Status for Burnham
November 5, 2018
PINEHURST, N.C. -- For anyone who thought the old six-day, 108-hole Final Stage of PGA Tour Q-School was cruel and unusual punishment for the players who had to endure it, the LPGA Tour has come up with an even more excruciating form of psychological torture. It's called the LPGA Q-Series, the Final Stage of the women's version of Q-School -- and it's 144 holes (eight rounds), spread out over a week and a half.
Basically, the 102 women who were in it were playing for a year of their lives. If they finished among the top 45 and ties, they achieved their dream -- the right to play on the LPGA Tour in 2019. Those who didn't make the top 45 will be relegated to the Symetra Tour next year. The Symetra Tour is the highest minor league in women's golf, but it's not the LPGA Tour.
The 2018 LPGA Tour season isn't over yet, but Ariya Jutanugarn is the leading money winner, and with two big-money events remaining, she has made $2,475,880. Lydia Ko is No. 10 on the money list with $1,042,214. More than 100 LPGA players have made more than $100,000. By comparison, the leading money winner on the Symetra Tour this year made $124,839, and she was the only one to crack the $100,000 barrier.
That was what was at stake during the last two weeks, and Sarah Burnham, the former Wayzata High School star and three-time MGA Women's Player of the Year, made it successfully through the Q-Series. The last four rounds (Oct. 30-Nov. 2) were played at Pinehurst No. 7. She birdied the last two holes of Round 7 Thursday afternoon on the way to a 2-under-par 70, then birdied three of the first four holes of Round 8 on Friday morning, and cruised from there to a valedictory 72, which gave her a 144-hole total of 581 (5 over).
That was five strokes clear of the four-way tie for 45th place -- and put her in a tie for 27th. So she will be on the LPGA Tour in 2019.
"Q-Series was an experience that I will never forget," Burnham said. "It was a marathon and mentally draining, but I powered through. I couldn't sleep the night before the final round as I was right on the cut line and I knew I had no room for errors.
"I don't really know what happens next--I have a lot of decisions to make these next two months, but I'm very excited to officially be a member of the LPGA. I finally get to have a big pro bag I've always dreamed about."
Jeongeun Lee6 was the medalist. The South Korean may have a weird name, but she can really play, and she was never over par in any round. She shot 70 in each of the first three, and went 68-67-70 in the last three on the way to an aggregate of 558 (18 under). Jennifer Kupcho, an amateur who now has the option of turning pro, finished one behind Lee6 at 559. Sarah Schmelzel, the 126-hole leader (how strange does that sound?), shot 76 on the last day and ended up third with a 562.
Burnham didn't exactly get off to a great start in this 11-day ordeal. The first four rounds (Oct. 24-27) were played at Pinehurst No. 6, and she made a triple-bogey 8 on the first hole she played there (No. 10) on Day 1. She also made a double bogey on her 10th hole (actually No. 1) in that first round on the way to a 5-over-par 77. She made two more doubles plus a bogey in the first 11 holes in the second round and was 8 over through 29 holes at that point. But she salvaged a 74, and followed it with a 71 and a 70 in the other two rounds at Pinehurst No. 6. That got her into the top 30 at the halfway point.
In her first round at Pinehurst No. 7, last Tuesday, she got around in 72, which meant she was 4 over through five rounds, and tied for 28th place. She got off to another rough start in Round 6, however, with a bogey on the fourth hole and a double at the seventh, which led to a 39 on the front nine. Suddenly, she was plus 7 overall -- and back on the bubble. Burnham offset two bogeys on the back nine with two birdies and posted a 75. At that point she was tied for 42nd with a six-round total of 439. There were only two strokes between her and the dreaded 46th place.
She started Round 7 on the back nine and birdied three of her first six holes -- but then bogeyed the next three in a row. Once again, she found herself with virtually no margin for error. A birdie at No. 1 (her 10th hole) helped, but she gave that one back with a bogey at No. 3. Having made only four pars in her first 12 holes that day, she settled down and parred the next four holes, and then birdied the last two.
Those two late birdies in the penultimate round plus the three early birdies in Round 8 on Friday got her all the way back to 2 over for 130 holes. Finally, she was out of the danger zone, and she coasted in from there.
"My seventh round I was not able to finish and only got 14 holes in due to darkness. I completed the final four holes the next morning with two birdies, which gave me a little breathing room," said Burnham, "I was able to go into my final round relaxed on the eighth day of competition after successfully playing those four holes in the morning."
LPGA Q-Series (144 holes)
First 4 rounds (Oct. 24-27) at Pinehurst No. 6 (par 72)
Last 4 rounds (Oct. 30-Nov. 2) at Pinehurst No. 7 (par 72)
Final results (the top 45 finishers and ties earn LPGA status for 2019)
1. Jeongeun Lee6, South Korea 70-70-70-72-71-68-67-70--558
2. Jennifer Kupcho (A), United States 73-72-68-67-71-69-69-70--559
3. Sarah Schmelzel, United States 74-70-68-68-70-68-68-76--562
4. Klara Spilkova, Czech Republic 70-66-69-70-72-71-71-74--565
5. Mel Reid, England 75-69-69-67-72-71-71-74--568
6. Jaclyn Lee (A), Canada 68-70-70-71-76-70-74-70--569
7. Jackie Stoelting, United States 72-67-68-76-71-76-70-70--570
T8. Anne-Catherine Tanguay, Canada 73-70-69-72-74-72-69-73--572
T8. Lauren Stephenson (A), United States 72-73-68-67-69-71-75-77--572
10. Becca Huffer, United States 77-76-70-70-68-72-67-73--573
T27. Sarah Burnham, United States 77-74-71-70-72-75-70-72--581
What it took: 586 (4-way tie for 45th)