It is finally official, the LPGA Q-School is ready for its makeover. Stages one and two will remain the same and be played as separate four-tournament rounds, however, the 90-hole final stage of Q-school has been replaced by what is referred to as the Q-Series.
The top collegiate players will no longer have to choose between going pro or playing for their schools in the postseason. https://t.co/iTDoFOeCIl
— Golf Digest (@GolfDigest) April 12, 2018
So, what is the Q-Series?
Golfers will play two 72-hole events on back-to-back weekends (October 24th-27th & October 31st-3rd) at Pinehurst No.6. The field will be comprised of LPGA players who ranked 101st-150th (including ties) on the money list. Additionally, players who finished 11th-30th on the Symetra Tour (the developmental golf tour which is opened to professional women’s golfers as well as qualified amateurs money list) will also be invited to play. And lastly, the top-5 collegiate players in the country are exempt, in addition to the top 75 players in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings. The rest of the field will be comprised of those players who qualified from stage two of Q-school.
So, what does this all mean?
In the past, if a collegiate golfer made it through the second stage of Q-school they were faced with a huge dilemma. Choice No.1 is turn professional immediately which means you would be leaving your team mid-season as well as the opportunity to play in the NCAA Championships in May. Or choice No.2 is leaving Q-school to maintain your amateur status and play on the Symetra Tour over the summer. After the summer, players would once again have to go back to Q-school in the fall in hopes of making it on the tour.
The new system will allow the college players who qualify to defer their start date to July 1st, allowing them to play in the NCAA championship as well as the Solheim Cup.
Leona Maguire, a college golfer from Duke, was faced with this exact dilemma after the 2017 Q-School and ultimately decided to go back and finish her career at Duke.
“I would’ve loved to have been able to have an LPGA card right now instead of a Symetra card,” McGuire told Golf World. “It’s a good option to have for seniors so they can finish their degree. It was important to me to get my degree and honor the commitment to my team and to have another chance. It’s a good thing that seniors are going to have the opportunity to do that.”
As always, change of any kind will have some critics, including Duke Coach Dan Brooks. While he believes the deferral option is a good one for some players, namely seniors, he does not believe it is right for all players. Especially those in their freshman, sophomore or junior years. The change will most likely tempt those players who otherwise would have waited, to go after the exemption to Q-Series given to the Top-5 collegiate players.
This forces athletes to choose whether to play their collegiate schedule or skip those events to try and obtain their card. And, depending on how many players on an individual team choose to skip their college tournaments, will most definitely affect team rankings heading into the spring and Nationals. College tournaments allow five players on a team at any given tournament and the Top-4 scores count towards the team total. So having your roster be different in the fall due to the dates of Stage two and the Q-Series could have a serious impact on any given team each week.
“Considering the dates of Stage 2 and Q-Series, much of the college fall season is taken up,” Brooks told Golf Digest. “Fall and spring could consist of a different array of players, in the top events especially.”
Therefore, this new format, while working to alleviate the stress of having to commit ASAP, it still does force players to choose between their team or their possible future career.
“Encouraging sophomores and juniors to go and try to get their card — that’s unfortunate,” Brooks added. “I’m not in favor of anything that doesn’t encourage people to finish their degrees.”
At the end of the Q-Series, a minimum of 45 players will earn a LPGA card. This change moves players who finish 21-45th up 25 spots on the priority list and the remaining places will earn a spot on the Symetra Tour.
“What I like most about the Q-Series is that it will be a true test for how players will qualify for the LPGA Tour,” LPGA Tour Commissioner Mike Whan said. “The playing status earned by competitors at Q-Series will be a direct reflection of eight rounds of head-to-head competition on a demanding test of golf at Pinehurst Resort.”
— Mark Lamport-Stokes (@MarkLamport) April 11, 2018