LPGA Q-Series forces choice between magnolias and meritocracy

Q-Series lured 3 of the top 4 female amateurs to the pro stage and delivered a blow to next spring’s debut rite, the Augusta National Women’s Am Championship

The LPGA’s new Q-Series format and schedule changes have had controversial repercussions throughout women’s golf, particularly in collegiate and elite amateur competition.

I’m adding my voice to the conversation that’s ensued, although the subtitle of Golf Digest’s latest Golf Interrupted article says it all:

Golf should be a meritocracy, but it’s hard not to feel like certain kids are granted a head start

Q-Schools: The route to the pro stage

For many years, qualifying schools for tours have provided provide the predominant way to obtain or reclaim playing status.

On Friday, one week after leading through 36 holes of a PGA TOUR event, Norman Xiong shot a third round 74 followed by bogeys on the 70th and 71st holes of the Web.com Tour’s second stage; thus he needed to birdie the 72nd just to avoid a blow up.  Last year, Xiong provided sweeping blows at the Western Amateur (Since Tiger Woods turned pro, no U.S., Western, or NCAA individual champ has gone on to win a men’s pro major).

This year, the LPGA, which maintains a calendar year format, decided to expand its 3rd and final qualifying stage to two weeks called Q-Series and staged at Pinehurst’s No 6 & 7. (LPGA International in Daytona Beach still hosted the Symetra Tour Championship.)

The two main reasons for this format and scheduling change were to better recognize college golf by cherry-picking Golfweek’s top players and to upgrade the Symetra Tour.

Only seven players (3 Americans, including Annie Park and Nelly Korda this year) have won on both the Symetra and LPGA Tours in this decade.  Furthermore, the last four Rookies of the Year previously won multiple times on the Korean LPGA. Most recently, 2018 ROY Jin Young Ko decided to blow off the UL International Crown by competing in a KLPGA major the same week.

Augusta National Women’s Am Championship

Unfortunately, of the eight amateurs (seven student-athletes) who finished in the top 48 spots in Category 14 of the next priority list, three of the top four ranked in the World Amateur Golf Rankings have decided not to defer until the middle of next spring.

One of those three is Kristen Gillman, who along with Yealimi Noh, qualified for the first Augusta National Women’s Amateur.

Bear in mind, at least thirty of the next sixty players to receive invites will be Americans.  Ironically, Kaylee Benton, who clinched Arkansas’ SEC Match Play title before T3s at the US Women’s Am and her last fall event, might not be on that list due to deficiencies in the divisors.



Going up against the ANA Inspiration next April won’t be the only blow to this new ‘grow-the-game’ endeavor.  The ANWA serves an extension to Drive, Chip, and Putt for the forty girls who qualify each prior summer.

Despite the uptick in girls’ junior golf, challenges still remain.  Carey Foster, who married a Jamaican-born mon (my parents were also born down there), recently wrote about their daughter Hannah, who overcome several medical setbacks and her mon’s bankruptcy because she didn’t want to disappoint herself by loving golf (amateur is the Latin term).

Another, Hannah O’Sullivan, made an adverse adjustment after winning a Symetra Tour event then the 2015 US Women’s Am.  Michelle Wie and Alison Lee, the latter just made it past Q-Series, also have had problems balancing pro golf with college courses.

New LPGA Brand Officer Roberta Bowman’s challenges include possible Hall of Fame changes as well as continuing to prioritize older over younger players so the LPGA can continue to overcome more blows.

Follow us on Twitter @ForeGals and @pgclare and like the ForeGals Facebook page so you can join our conversation about the tension between women’s golf at the elite amateur and pro levels of competition.