LPGA Final Qualifying Tournament
LPGA International- Champions & Legends Courses
Daytona Beach, Florida
Final-round Notes and Interviews
December 2, 2012
Rebecca Lee-Bentham sank a 60-foot birdie putt on the final hole of LPGA Final Qualifying to earn co-medalist honors with Thailand’s Moriya Jutanugarn. The Toronto native started the day six strokes off the lead but carded five birdies in her bogey-free round for a share of the top spot with Jutanugarn at 13-under par.
“I wasn’t really thinking about coming in first or anything,” said Lee-Bentham. “I just wanted to play well and focus on striking it well and making putts. I’ve been waiting for this for a while. It’s been a long grind for everybody out here.”
Jutanugarn finished 2-over for the day and had her worst score of the week by four strokes. It was her first round without a birdie and broke a 47-hole bogey-free streak on the par 4 10th. She would also bogey No. 12. The teenager kept things in perspective after a tough round and realized she accomplished her original goal.
“I’m so happy to get my card,” said Jutanugarn. “I got it and that was my goal.”
Ayako Uehara of Japan finished third at 12-under after she carded a final-round 3-under 69.
2012 LPGA Tour rookie Kathleen Ekey saved her best round for last and shot the low round of the week on Sunday with a 7-under 65. She jumped from T14 to sole position in fourth place.
“I knew I needed to play well,” said Ekey. “It’s so easy today to press, press, press so I really tried to stay patient.”
She would card three birdies on the front nine and four on the back in her bogey-free round. The Ohio native said finishing in the top-20 relieves some of the frustration she had through her first year on Tour.
“After I had such a good year in 2011, and then this year, I had really high expectations for myself,” said Ekey. “It was so hard for me. I really struggled and it was really, really hard. I’m just so happy I kept pushing and kept working and am so blessed it worked out this way.”
Rolex Rankings No. 19 Chie Arimura (70) and former University of Southern California standout Lisa McClosky (71) tied for fifth. Arimura said she wasn’t only playing for herself to get her card this week but for all of her fellow JLPGA players back in Japan.
“I wanted to do well for them,” said Arimura. “I didn’t want to come up short and have them think that this will be a tough road for all of us. So that was where the pressure was this week.”
Current LPGA members Laura Diaz (72) and Karlin Beck (70) will improve their status for the 2013 season after finishing the week T8 at 6-under.
Stephanie Sherlock joins Lee-Bentham as the second Canadian to fill a spot in the top-20 this year and finished 10th after a 2-over 74 in the final round.
A group of six players finished T11 including Kayla Mortellaro (67), Kim Welch (68), Brooke Pancake (70), Austin Ernst (70), Caroline Masson (71) and Marina Stuetz (71).
Mortellaro, a University of Idaho grad, said that she kept her nerves in check before and throughout her round. She was T39 to start the final round and put together her best round of the week with a bogey-free 5-under 67.
“I actually wasn’t nervous at all,” said Mortellaro. “I was just concentrated on that cliché of one shot at a time. I had no idea of the scores throughout the day. I just needed to ask where I stood. It’s kind of shocking at the moment.”
Welch also made one of the big jumps of the day when she matched her first-round 68 for her low round of the week. She moved from T30 to a tie for 11th.
A seven-player tie for the final four spots in the top-20 forced a playoff that was pushed to a five-hole sudden death finale. Lauren Doughtie, Taylore Karle, Nicole Jeray, Irene Cho, Kelly Jacques, Breanna Elliot and Jiayun Li battled out in a three-hole aggregate on Nos. 9, 10 and 18. Karle and Doughtie would both birdie the last two holes to finish 2-under to secure their spots.
Jeray, Cho, Jacques and Elliot were faced with sudden death for the two remaining spots, and it took the foursome two holes to close out the tournament. After they each pared the par 4 10th, the group played out the 18th hole where Jeray and Cho both birdied to earn exempt status for 2013. Jeray sank a 20-foot putt on 18 to cap off her 19th appearance at LPGA Q School. Cho overcame a case of shaky hands through a two-foot putt to sink the final putt of the week.
“By far the most nerve racking putt of my life,” said Cho. “I learned a lot about my game this week. About my endurance and patience. But just a lot of emotions right now. I couldn’t be happier.”
Twenty-eight additional players also earned 2013 LPGA membership. Those finishing 21st through 45thgained Category 17 status for next season. For full results, click here.