That Jackie Stoelting is in contention is more than she bargained for this week at the Kia Classic. Just playing on the weekend at Aviara Golf Club in Carlsbad, Calif., sounded good to the 30-year-old from Vero Beach, Fla.
In three starts since earning back her LPGA card off the Symetra Tour money list last fall, Stoelting hadn’t made a cut. This after missing 16 cuts in 18 starts the last time she had full LPGA status in 2015.
Yet after opening with a 69-69, Stoelting, a four-time winner on the Symetra Tour and a former champion on Golf Channel’s “Big Break,” jumped into a share of the lead during Saturday’s third round with back-to-back birdies to make the turn. A double bogey on the 13th hole and a miss on a short par putt on the 18th left her with a two-under 70 on the day, and dropped her five shots off the lead of Mirim Lee at eight-under 208. Still, Stoelting is in a spot she hasn’t been before in an LPGA Tour event.
“I feel great. I mean, I had a few hiccups at the end, but this is what I’ve been working on, being in this position,” said Stoelting, who turned pro in 2008 and spent her first seven years playing the Symetra Tour. “Going from several missed cuts to finally being here feels really great. I feel very positive about my game.”
Tied for eighth entering the final round, where she’ll play with Mo Martin. In her entire LPGA career, Stoelting has earned $10,398. With a finish of 37th or better on Sunday, she will at least double that.
Stoelting hopes perspective will provide inspiration—as well as give her a momentum boost for the remainder of the 2017 season.
“Two years ago I was so close and got my card and then I felt like a failure in a way,” she said. “I really didn’t want to end my career like that. I wanted to give myself one more opportunity out here.”