Sierra Brooks (ANWA photo)
Not surprisingly, Sierra Brooks was the star of the day at LPGA Qualifying School. In the final round at Plantation Golf & Country Club in Venice, Fla., roughly 200 miles from the University of Florida campus in Gainesville, Brooks threw out six birdies in a 4-under 68 that moved her into a share of the top spot in this Stage II qualifier. Now it’s on to the eight-round marathon that is the Q-Series.
Brooks, 21, is so deeply embedded in her senior year at Florida that she told an LPGA official she brought notecards to the course to study for a history exam looming on Friday (how’s that for multi-tasking?). Still, it isn’t all that surprising to see her not just in Q-School, but at the top of the leaderboard.
After her freshman season at Wake Forest, Brooks entered 2016 LPGA Qualifying School. At the time, she was battling a serious wrist injury. She bowed out in the first stage, rehabbed her wrist and enrolled at Florida in January of 2018.
In the three years since, Brooks has returned to the top of amateur golf. She played in the next-to-last group for the final round of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur, finishing an eventual 10th. At the NCAA Championship in Fayetteville, Ark., last spring, Brooks finished second to hometown kid Maria Fassi.
“It was definitely a fun week and I’m happy with my golf game, the way everything turned out,” Brooks told the LPGA in Venice. “The goal for every tournament is to go in with a mindset to win, but controlling what I can and just playing my game. I’m happy with where that is, and I’m ready to ride that momentum into next week.”
Brooks, the low amateur, tied German Olivia Cowan at 13 under for co-medalist honors.
Korea’s Yae Eun Hong was the next highest amateur after finishing in a tie for fourth. Due to age regulations on the LPGA, Hong cannot continue into the Q-Series to compete for LPGA membership but has obtained her Symetra membership for 2020.
Bianca Pagdanganan, the former Arizona star who remains an amateur despite having finished her college eligibility, had a lights-out round of 64 on Thursday to reach 9 under, good for a tie with fellow amateur Albane Valenzuela, a Stanford senior and the U.S. Women’s Amateur runner-up.
Valenzuela’s Stanford teammate Andrea Lee was 7 under and part of a tie for 10th.
Other amateur performances to note include USC junior Jennifer Chang in a tie for 19th, Florida State sophomore Frida Kinhult – a player of the year candidate as a freshman – in a tie for 24th, and Kum-kang Park in a tie for 36th, which put her in a group of five players right above the cutline. That group also included Anna Redding (now a pro), who hit the first official tee shot in the final round of the Augusta National Women’s Amateur, and Haley Moore (also now pro), the Arizona player who holed the winning putt for the Wildcats in their 2018 national title run.
Lucy Li, 17, was among the amateurs who didn’t advance to the Q-School, but she did leave the experience with Symetra Tour status.