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20 Players Graduate from LPGA Tour Q-School
Canada's Rebecca Lee-Bentham and Thailand's Moriya Jutanugarn are the co-medalists in the LPGA Tour's 2012 qualifying tournament. On Sunday the two finished the five-round event at 13-under 347 at LPGA International in Daytona Beach, Fla., leading a total of 20 players who qualified for unconditional LPGA status in 2013. They each earned $4,750.
"I wasn't really thinking about coming in first or anything," said Lee-Bentham, who birdied four of the last seven holes en route to closing with a 5-under 67. "I just wanted to play well and focus on striking it well and making putts. I've been waiting for this for a while. It's been a long grind for everybody out here."
Despite closing with a 74, the 18-year-old Jutanugarn had a six-stroke advantage heading into the final round and cruised home. "I'm so happy to get my card," Jutanugarn said. "I got it and that was my goal."
Japan's Ayako Uehara (69) was third at 12-under, while Akron's Kathleen Ekey (65) followed at 10-under and Lisa McCloskey (71) of Houston and Japan's Chie Arimura (70) were 8-under.
Two-time LPGA winner Laura Diaz (72) of New York tied for eighth with Alabama's Karlin Beck (70) at 6-under. Also earning full status for next season are Stephanie Sherlock, Kayla Mortellaro, Kim Welch, Brooke Pancake, Austin Ernst, Caroline Masson, Austrian amateur Marina Stuetz, Lauren Doughtie, Nicole Jeray, Taylore Karle and Irene Cho.
Doughtie, Jeray, Karle and Cho qualified after surviving a seven-player playoff for the final spots. Cho needed to make a 2-foot birdie putt on the last hole of the playoff to get her card. "By far the most nerve-racking putt of my life," said the La Habra, Calif., native and former USC player.
"I learned a lot about my game this week. About my endurance and patience. But just a lot of emotions right now. I couldn't be happier."
Steutz was thrilled to become a touring pro. "I'm just overwhelmed," said the native of Kitzbuhel. "I can't describe how I feel at the moment. I'm so happy. I made my dream come true. I'm super-excited. I told myself I would stay amateur to keep off the pressure, but that I actually made it in the top 20, of course, I will turn pro."
Among the players who didn't qualify was Christina Kim, a two-time winner, who ended up sharing 39th at 1-over. The 28-year-old Californian, who joined the Ladies European Tour in 2010, failed to improve her LPGA status.
For full scoring details, visit http://www.lpga.com/golf/news/2012/12/qschool-stage-iii-final-results.aspx.