유해란(21)이 미국여자프로골프(LPGA) Q시리즈를 수석으로 통과해 내년 LPGA 투어 출전권을 따냈다.
Q시리즈는 2주 동안 여러 코스에서 4라운드 72홀 경기를 두 번 치른다. 첫 주 경기를 마친 뒤 상위 70위까지 둘째 주 경기에 진출하며, 첫 주 경기 스코어가 최종 스코어와 순위에 반영된다. 최종 결과 상위 20위까지는 내년 시즌 LPGA 투어 출전 자격을 얻고, 21위에서 45위까지는 LPGA 투어 조건부 출전권과 2부 엡손 투어 출전권이 주어진다. 나머지 선수들은 2부 투어에서 뛰게 된다.
유해란은 1997년 박세리(45), 2006년 최혜정(38)과 김인경(34), 2010년 송아리(36), 2018년 이정은(26), 지난해 안나린(26)에 이어 한국 선수로는 7번째 LPGA Q시리즈 수석 합격자가 됐다. 유해란은 2019년부터 올해까지 KLPGA(한국여자프로골프) 투어 통산 5승을 올렸다. 2022시즌 KLPGA 투어 대상 랭킹 2위, 톱텐 피니시율 2위(60.7%), 평균타수 2위(70.57타), 그린 적중률 3위(78.5%), 상금 4위(8억2996만8428원)에 올랐다.
유해란은 “세계 최고의 투어에 합류하게 돼 많은 의미가 있다”며 “한국 선수가 2년 연속 Q시리즈 우승을 했다는 점도 자랑스럽다”고 했다. “KLPGA 투어 루키 시절도 얼마 지나지 않았는데, 다시 한 번 루키가 되어 기분이 새롭다”고 했다. 그는 “한국의 많은 골프 코스들이 미국에 비해 굉장히 폭이 좁기 때문에 높은 샷 정확도가 필요하다”며 “그런 점이 이번 대회에 큰 도움이 됐다”고 했다.
AE RAN RYU EARNS MEDALIST HONORS AT Q-SERIES
Eight rounds and 144 holes later, 46 players walked away from 2022 LPGA Q-Series with 2023 LPGA Tour Membership. For some, Membership came down to their last putt at Highland Oaks in Dothan, Ala. Others, like medalist Hae Ran Ryu, were comfortably inside the cut line heading into the final round. Ryu finished the two-week stretch at -29 total, two strokes ahead of the rest of the field. She took home medalist honors and 2023 LPGA Tour Membership after signing for a final-round, 4-under, 68 that saw her card six birdies and two bogeys throughout the final 18 holes.
“Earning this Tour card means a lot, especially on the number one our in the world. To be the first to finish makes me even prouder. And also to be the second Korean winner in a row,” said Ryu, who shot in the 60s for six of the eight rounds over the last two weeks. “I didn’t think that I could earn the LPGA Tour card so soon. It’s still unreal to me that I could play on the LPGA Tour.”
The 21-year-old held a two-stroke lead after round seven, which sparked some nerves at the beginning of the final day. However, Ryu thinks the overall experience helped her grow as a player and the five-time KLPGA winner is excited to be a rookie once again. “It hasn’t been that long ago since I was a rookie on the KLPGA, so to be a rookie once again feels new,” said Ryu. “I think with more time it would feel more real, and I look forward to playing with some of the best players in the world.”
For Bailey Tardy, LPGA Q-Series was the last place she wanted to be. After being just shy of an LPGA Tour card for three straight years on the Epson Tour, she was done with the heartbreak. Despite four top-10 finishes on the Epson Tour in 2022 – three of which happened consecutively to end the season – the former Georgia Bulldog finished No. 11 on the Official Money List, just $2,303 from avoiding LPGA Q-Series and earning automatic LPGA Tour Membership. The Georgia native didn’t originally sign up for the two-week tournament and made a last-minute decision to do so after her coach told her not to give up. Thankfully she listened, hung on to make the cut after week one and played lights out on Sunday, firing a bogey-free, -7 final round to earn her card.
“I didn’t want to come to Q-School at all. Even at the beginning of the year, I told everyone, I’m not going to Q-School. I’m not doing it. That’s not what I want to do. And I’m so happy I did,” said Tardy.
“I’m ecstatic. Just a lot of hard work and it all paid off the last two weeks. I don’t know, it’s kind of surreal right now. I think it’ll hit me a little bit later. But I can finally say I’m an LPGA (Tour) member.”
Behind Ryu and Tardy, in a share of third, are Colombia’s Valery Plata and Germany’s Aline Krauter at -25. The duo spent time near the top of the leaderboard throughout the week and had some comfort knowing they didn’t have to shoot lights-out for on Sunday in Dothan, Ala. Plata, who turned professional in November after LPGA Qualifying Tournament Stage II in order to compete this week, felt the nerves coming down the stretch, and her scorecard reflected that stress as she made three bogeys in her final nine. Luckily, the 21-year-old had already made five birdies early in the round, ultimately signing for a 3-under, 69. Plata said that she was leaning on the support and wisdom of a friend to finish her round strong.
“One of my really good friends texted me today. She was like, enjoy the walk today, and that’s kind of my thought when I started playing,” said Plata, who only shot one round in the 70s during Q-Series. “I said, all right I’m just going to enjoy this. That’s almost the only thing I have left to do, so that’s what I was trying to do.”
The Michigan State University Spartan says she’s a slow processor when it comes to these monumental moments, which will help her focus on her next big event – college finals. After a long two weeks on the golf course, Plata will try to pass her finals next week and then celebrate moving onto the LPGA Tour.
Krauter called her 2-under, 70, final round a rollercoaster ride but leaned on her 10-under, 62 in round five – the round of the week and the first round of 62 or better shot in LPGA Qualifying since 2013 – to get her across the finish line. Now that she’s got her LPGA Tour card in hand, the former University of Sanford Cardinal can breathe and celebrate. “Finishing top of most of the leaderboards at all of the Q-Schools, all of the stages, yeah, I couldn’t have asked for more,” she said. “It means the world. That’s been the goal for the past couple years I would say. Here I am, so I’m really excited to get the season started.”
Rounding out the top 5 was Japan’s Minami Katsu. Like Tardy, the 24-year-old went bogey-free, signing for a 6-under, 66. Katsu already has a home on the JLPGA Tour next season, allowing her to keep the pressure to a minimum which ultimately helped her in earning an LPGA Tour card. Katsu feels like she has a lot of positive takeaways from the past two weeks, with the only negative being the lack of a hairdryer at her Airbnb. Joining Katsu on the LPGA Tour next year as a rookie is Yuna Nishimura, who finished in a tie for 24th at -15.
At the end of the week, 46 players from 21 different countries took home LPGA Tour status, including Ines Laklalech, who is the first LPGA Tour Member from Morocco as well as North Africa and the Arab region. Including the 2022 Epson Tour graduates, a total of 31 players, should they accept Membership, will make their debut as LPGA Tour rookies in 2023.