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Top amateur golf moments of 2018, No. 13: Early decision
09 Dec 2018
by AmateurGolf.com Staff

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AGC photo illustration
AGC photo illustration

At AmateurGolf.com, we admit to loving the amateur sector of this game for the stories, the depth of the players, the remarkable courses, the history of the tournaments and the sheer love of the game displayed by amateur golfers. As 2018 comes to a close, we’ve gathered the year’s best stories for a countdown to the end of the season. Be sure to come back each day to relive the moments that made amateur golf great this year.

Click here to see the whole list as it is revealed

In what has become one of the biggest recurring storylines in women’s college golf, a handful of players are gone come the spring season after earning LPGA status in October. In fact, more high-profile players received their cards and headed for the LPGA than in years past. It hit college golf in a big way.

The LPGA made changes to its qualifying format last year in the name of making Q-School more about consistency than catching lightning in a bottle. Replacing the third stage with an eight-round Q-Series (played as two different tournaments but with scores carrying over) puts a premium on consistency.

The idea was to identify LPGA-ready talent and send newer players up through the Symetra Tour ranks. Still, there was a caveat for the nation’s top college players. The top 5 individuals in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings from the end of the 2017-18 season earned an exemption straight to the Q-Series. (In case you were wondering, all five of those players accepted the offer, even though it meant forking over $5,500 to play in the Q-Series.)

Finally, the LPGA added a deferment option for players who earned a card but wanted to finish out the year with their team. Of the seven collegians who earned a card, only two chose to defer: seniors Jennifer Kupcho of Wake Forest (the defending NCAA champion) and Maria Fassi of Arkansas.

Losing a top player significantly changes the way a team’s season can unfold, and will significantly affect the spring college season. Alabama, which set a new NCAA team scoring record this fall, will play without Kristen Gillman and Lauren Stephenson in the spring. UCLA loses Lilia Vu. And in a recent development, Colorado’s Robyn Choi and Ohio State’s Jaclyn Lee have both decided to take the cards they earned and forfeit their spring college season.

The middle-of-the-season decision isn’t as prevalent in men’s college golf. Florida’s Andy Zhang decided not to return after his sophomore season, turning pro for the final stage of Web.com Qualifying School and earning his card with a T-8 finish on Dec. 9.

Only two other amateurs advanced that far – Min Woo Lee and Braden Thornberry – and only Thornberry is a current collegian. Going into Web.com Tour Qualifying, Thornberry was on the record as saying he would turn professional should he earn full status with a top-40 finish.

Despite an opening 10-under 62, Thornberry went only 4 under over the next three rounds and slipped from the lead to a tie for 74th. Lee was T-67 at 15 under.

Once the new year comes in college golf, at least for the women, it will truly be a new year.

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