Spotlight on college stars battling for tour cards at LPGA Q-Series

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LPGA Q-Series is a launching pad to the top of the professional ranks, but college stars are the focus yet again this week.

Stanford senior Andrea Lee, No. 1 in Golfweek’s Women’s Collegiate Rankings, is in the field with fellow senior and teammate Albane Valenzuela, who is No. 4. They are among four of the top nine in the collegiate rankings who will be in Pinehurst, N.C., vying for LPGA tour cards over the next two weeks.

USC junior Jennifer Chang (No. 3) and University of Florida senior Sierra Brooks (No. 9) are also among the 98 players in the field. So is Florida State sophomore Frida Kinhult (No. 35).

A minimum of the top 45 and ties will earn LPGA status, with everyone else at Pinehurst Resort earning Symetra Tour status.

The 144-hole event begins Wednesday at Pinehurst No. 6 and continues next week (Oct. 30-Nov. 2) at Pinehurst No. 9 with $150,000 in total prize money at stake.

For collegians, choices loom that will affect more than their own hopes for 2020.

Will their success this week inspire them to forgo the collegiate spring season and turn pro?

Or will they defer that choice until after the spring season?

And how will those decisions affect the college teams relying upon them?

The LPGA gave collegians the option to defer for the first time last year.

Of the seven collegians who won LPGA status a year ago, Jennifer Kupcho and Maria Fassi were the only players who chose to defer turning pro, opting to complete their collegiate careers. The choice worked out well for both of them. Kupcho won the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur and Fassi won the NCAA Championship. After turning pro, each went on to secure their LPGA status for 2020, despite limited starts in the second half of this year.

Kupcho is 43rd on the LPGA money list with $406,788 in earnings. Fassi just made it inside the top 100 with $129,164 in earnings.

Of the five collegians who chose to forgo the spring collegiate season and turn pro, only two retained their tour status. Kristen Gillman is 38th on the money list with $444,089 in winnings, and Lauren Stephenson is 90th on the money list with $154,628 in earnings.