College golfers who competed in LPGA Q-Series face tough decisions on turning pro
Nearly two weeks after the completion of LPGA Q-Series, formerly known as Q school, amateur participants who earned some status in 2020 are still deciding when they'll begin to play on the LPGA Tour (or in some cases the Symetra Tour) and whether they'll do so as amateurs or professionals.
Previously in Q school, any college players who earned LPGA membership had to decide immediately whether they would turn pro and play the next season, forgoing any remaining collegiate eligibility. Starting last year with the launch of the Q-Series, collegiate players could turn pro right away and start the LPGA season with the rest of the Q-Series graduates, or defer their status until the end of May and the completion of their collegiate spring season.
While more flexible than the old rules, the current choice remains difficult. Turn pro right away, and you leave your college team mid-season and miss out on the chance to play in the NCAA Championship (or the newly created Augusta National Women's Amateur if you've qualified). But wait to start your the LPGA season in June, and you leave yourself fewer events to earn enough to be among the top 100 on the money list at season's end and keep your status for the next year. Failure to finish in the top 100 then puts those players right back where they started: Q-Series.
In 2018, the first year of the new deferral option, two collegiate players made the choice of skipping the early LPGA events to stay in school: Jennifer Kupcho and Maria Fassi. Both enjoyed the benefits of remaining amateur; Kupcho won the inaugural ANWA and Fassi claimed the NCAA individual title. And then both also retained their LPGA cards after turning pro in June. Kupcho's rookie season was highlighted by a T-2 at the Evian Championship, helping her finish No. 38 on the money list. Fassi played in 11 events and earned $129,164, good enough to finish No. 98.
Of the six college players in 2019 Q-Series, four have decided to turn professional for the start of 2020. The most recent was Stanford senior Albane Valenzuela, who formalized her decision on Tuesday. In a post on Instagram, the 21-year-old native of Switzerland, a finalist in the 2019 U.S. Women's Amateur wrote: "My decision to leave the Stanford golf team has been one the most difficult I have had to make in my career.
"The decision to pursue professional golf is not abandoning what I was fortunate enough to experience at Stanford University," she continued. "Instead, it is precisely what I have learned at Stanford in the past three years that have convinced me to embrace this moment."
The other three players who have decided to turn pro instead of finishing their college seasons are Jennifer Chang, who played at USC, Frida Kinhult who played at Florida State, and Sierra Brooks who played at the University of Florida. Valenzuela was the highest finisher at Q-Series, finishing T-6. Chang finished T-9, Brooks T-62, and Kinhult T-67. The top 45 and ties earn full status on the LPGA Tour. Brooks and Kinhult's finishes mean they will play on the Symetra Tour.
One of Valenzuela's teammates, fellow Cardinal senior Andrea Lee, hasn't decided if she's going to accept LPGA membership immediately or defer. Lee, who is ranked the No. 1 amateur in the world, finished T-30 at Q-Series.