Big weekend ahead for Ireland’s two leading women’s tour professionals
Out of Bounds: LPGA Tour is the pro tour which makes it hardest to retain a full card
Stephanie Meadow is 110th on the LPGA Tour order of merit heading into this week’s tournament. Photograph: David Cannon/Getty Images
The Symetra Tour is known in a nice marketing twist as the “Pathway to the LPGA,” its status as the developmental circuit for the main ladies professional tour reflected in the fact that the leading 10 players on the order of merit at season’s end earn a coveted ticket to the big time.
Last year, Stephanie Meadow earned such a ticket - finishing sixth on the Symetra Tour’s Volvik Race to the Card - while, this time round, Leona Maguire is nicely positioned to at least emulate Meadow. Heading into this week’s Symetra Tour Championship at Daytona Beach in Florida, Maguire is in fifth position in the standings.
Getting that golden ticket, however, is only the first part of the journey. Of all the professional tours, men’s or women’s, the LPGA Tour is the one which makes it hardest to retain a full tour card as only the leading 100 players come the end of the regular season retain full tour status for the following season.
This is a big week for players stateside as, apart from Maguire and her ilk who compete in the Symetra Tour’s finale, those - among them Meadow - playing in the Volunteers of America Championship at The Colony in Texas on the LPGA Tour will also discover their fate in whether or not they manage to retain tour cards: Meadow, for example, is 110th on the LPGA Tour order of merit heading into this week’s tournament.
For Maguire et al, the Symetra Tour end game has been reached with the grand prize of a full LPGA Tour card within touching distance. The challenge for each and every one of the 10 players who this week realise their dream of making it onto the LPGA Tour for the 2020 season is to kick on.
But a look at how the 10 graduates from last year’s Symetra Tour performed on the main circuit demonstrates just how tough the next phase of their professional life is likely to be, but also providing encouragement that - even for rookies - the possibility of mixing it with seasoned pros shouldn’t intimate.
While none of the 10 players who earned full LPGA Tour status this time last year managed to actually win (yet!) on the main circuit, there is a 50/50 split in terms of retaining tour cards and those not retaining full status.
Unquestionably the standout player from the Symetra 10 has been England’s Charlotte Thomas, who claimed the eighth card off the developmental tour but - aided by a best finish of runner-up in her debut season - is currently 66th on the LPGA Tour order of merit. The other four players inside that all-important top-100 are Linnea Strom (82nd), Pavarisa Yoktuan (88th), Dana Finkelstein (94th) and Elizabeth Szokol (96th).
What Maguire can take from last year’s graduates is that she will get a good run of tournaments through her new status when that tour card comes her way. Thomas has actually managed to get 21 starts so far this season (and will also get into the elite, big-money end-of-season run around Asia which is open only to the leading 80 on the moneylist) while Liu played the lowest number of events, at 18.
So, for Ireland’s two leading women’s tour professionals, this is a big weekend. Maguire all but knows that the LPGA Tour card is to be placed in her hands; Meadow, forced to withdraw from last week’s tour stop, has one final chance to jump from 110th into the top-100 to retain her full card, with the cushion of advancing to the LPGA Tour’s Q Series as a backup plan.