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Ladies Tour trio close in on LPGA Tour slots
- Updated: August 30, 2016
Sunshine Ladies Tour campaigners Carrie Park and Nobuhle Dlamini and Ekurhuleni amateur Lora Assad have both crossed the first hurdle in qualifying for the 2017 LPGA Tour.
Park sealed a top 20 finish at one-under-par 287, Dlamini grabbed a share of 58th at four over 294 and Assad finished the gruelling four day test in a tie for 78th at six-over-par 294 in the group that closed out the top 92 competitors that advanced out of the Stage I Qualifying Tournament at Mission Hills Country Club to make the field for the Stage II Qualifier in October.
When South Africa’s former number one ranked amateur Park made her debut in the pro ranks in the SA Women’s Open last November, she surprised a number of seasoned professionals with her mental strength under pressure.
Her accuracy off the tee, solid short game and big match temperament saw Park perform well throughout the 2016 season and she easily qualified for the season-ending Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies Final.
She spent the last five months preparing for Qualifying School on the IGT Tour and a handful of top five finishes saw her arrive in Florida with her game on.
‘I had some good results on the Sunshine Ladies Tour and I made great starts at Millvale and later in Hong Kong in an Asian Ladies Tour co-sanctioned event, but I always seem to let myself down in the final round,’ Park said.
‘I don’t stick to my processes on the last day and then I get in my own way, so it was really important to learn to close out tournaments. This is something I worked on really hard with my coach (Graeme Francis at the GFG Academy) on the IGT Tour.
‘Before I left South Africa, Graeme said that I should focus on the excitement of Qualifying School and not think about the fear of failure. Our goal on the IGT Tour was to get my stroke average down to 70 and we did that.
‘We prepared really well and he wanted to me think about the positive aspects of coming out here. He told me to forget that it’s a qualifying school and to treat it as I would handle any old tournament and taking that mindset to California really worked for me.’
Park followed a bogey-free 72 at the Gary Player Course with a 75 at the tough Dinah Shore Course and produced a flawless 67 at the Arnold Palmer Course to make the first cut to 130 and ties with ease.
Buoyed by the strong performance in the third round, Park closed with a 75 at the Dinah Shore Course to achieve her goal for the tournament.
‘Graeme and I set a goal of finishing in the top 20 and I felt I could do it after the third round,’ said the petite South Korean. ‘I didn’t drop a shot on the front nine and made five birdies on the back nine and going bogey-free like that really gave me the courage to start the final round with no fear.’
Dlamini, who also used the country’s premier development Tour to prepare for her campaign at Mission Hills, looked in danger after an opening 78 at the Gary Player Course.
However, the big-hitting Swazi pro carded 74 at the Dinah Shore Course and then fired a blistering 66 that featured four birdies and an eagle at the Arnold Palmer Course that safely put her in the line-up for the final round.
Dlamini offset four bogeys with a pair of birdies at the Dinah Shore Course for a 74 to guarantee her start in Florida.
Assad began her campaign with a 73 at Dinah Shore and followed with rounds of 73 and 72 at the Arnold Palmer and Gary Player Courses. The final year Texas State University student closed with a 75 at Dinah Shore ro secure a spot in the Stage II Qualifier at the Plantation Golf and Country Club from 17-23 October.
Unfortunately, former Sunshine Ladies Tour champion Nicole Garcia missed the top 130 mark in the third round, having finished at 12 over with rounds of 77, 73 and 77.
Picture of Dlamini courtesy of Sunshine Ladies Tour